On February 25 and 26, 2001, the Backstreet Boys performed at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. On one of those days, after the concert ended, Shannon “Shay” Ruth waited for the band in the autograph line. She has autism and mild cerebral palsy, and at the time she was 17 years old. Nick Carter, the youngest member of the generation-defining group, invited her onto the tour bus. There, he forced her to drink alcohol and raped her. Now 39, Ruth told her story on Thursday after filing a lawsuit against Carter, which includes similar accusations from three other anonymous women who were also minors when the alleged sexual assaults took place.
“After he raped me, I remember him calling me a ‘retarded bitch’ and grabbing me and leaving bruises on my arm. [He told me that] he turned people against me, because he was Nick Carter and he had the power to wreck my life,” Shay recalled. She and her lawyer, Mark Boskovich, explained the events of February 2001 at a press conference after they filed the lawsuit in a Nevada state court, where both Shay and Carter live.
Ruth said that “the last 21 years have been filled with pain, confusion, frustration, shame and self-harm that are a direct result of Nick Carter raping me.” A virgin at the time of the alleged sexual assault, Ruth was infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV); the other three women in the suit also said that they had contracted HPV.
Boskovich, Ruth’s attorney, explained that the sexual assault began as soon as she got on the bus. On the vehicle, “he gave her a funny-tasting beverage that he called VIP juice. After Shay drank the juice, Carter took her to the bus’s bathroom and told her to get on her knees. Then, he pulled down his pants and exposed his genitals, ordering Shay to perform sexual acts on him.” Shay did as she was told and “cried throughout the ordeal. But that didn’t stop him. Next, Carter took Shay to a bed in the back of the bus. He pushed her onto the bed and proceeded to rape her despite her pleas over and over again that he stop. But every time Shay said ‘no’ and tried to get away from Carter, he’d get angry and push her back down on that bed.”
With her mother by her side at the press conference, Shay wept as Boskovich told her story. “Even though I’m autistic and live with cerebral palsy, I believe nothing has affected me more […] than what Nick Carter did to me.” Since then, she has “truly believed if I told anyone, I would go to jail.” She cut herself because she “couldn’t” find any other way to express how she felt; to this day, she still suffers from self-esteem and confidence issues. She also feels guilty “for getting on that bus with Nick.”
Ruth explained that she did not report the assault earlier “for fear of retaliation.” She is suing the musician because she wants to “stop [him from] assaulting more teens and women.” Ruth says that she now knows that she is not “the only one he did this to”; she hopes that by going public, “many other women will find the courage” to come forward and “hold Nick Carter accountable” for his actions.
Carter has faced similar accusations of sexual assault in the past. In 2017, Melissa Schuman, a former member of the pop music group Dream, accused the Backstreet Boys singer of raping her in 2002, when she was 18 years old. According to Schuman’s account, Carter invited her to spend a day with a friend at an apartment in Santa Monica, California, and Schuman went along with her roommate.
At some point that day, Schuman and Carter began kissing. She told him that she did not want to go any further because she intended to remain a virgin until she got married based on her religious convictions. Despite her telling him to stop, Carter unbuttoned her pants and performed oral sex on her. He then removed his own pants and asked her to do the same, but she refused. According to Schuman, Carter then put her hand on his penis. She says that she eventually complied out of fear. Afterward, the musician took her to his bed, lay on top of her and, despite her refusals, raped her. Carter responded to Schuman’s allegations in a statement that appeared in People magazine. In it, the musician said that he was “shocked and saddened by [her] accusations.” Carter added that “this is the first that I am hearing about these accusations, nearly two decades later. It is contrary to my nature and everything I hold dear to intentionally cause someone discomfort or harm.”
A year later, in 2018, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office investigated another rape allegation against Carter; the name of the woman who accused him is unknown.
In a statement published by Rolling Stone and several other outlets, Carter’s attorney Michael Holtz responded to the lawsuit, calling the case “legally meritless” and “entirely untrue.” He added that, “unfortunately, for several years now, Ms. Ruth has been manipulated into making false allegations about Nick – and those allegations have changed repeatedly and materially over time. No one should be fooled by a press stunt orchestrated by an opportunistic lawyer – there is nothing to this claim whatsoever, which we have no doubt the courts will quickly realize.”
Following the accusations, ABC axed The Backstreet Boys’ Christmas special, A Very Backstreet Holiday, which was set to air on December 14.