Amber Dixon Brenner, the woman who has accused producer Salim Akil of sexual and physical abuse, has said in a new statement OWN made the right decision to cancel Akil's drama series Love Is___.
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"I did feel a sense of this is the right thing, this is the correct response from the OWN network," she said exclusively to Deadline. "This is the correct response to Salim and Mara, and it felt like a bit of an acknowledgment of what I had gone through."
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Brenner had recently filed separate lawsuits against Akil alleging domestic abuse, breach of contract and copyright infringement. The copyright infringement suit was dismissed, but the domestic violence and breach of contract suit include harrowing details of demeaning sexual acts and physicality. Brenner also asserts the Akils stole her 2015 screenplay Luv & Perversity in the East Village to create Love Is___. Since the show's inception, Akil and his wife/producing partner, Mara Brock Akil, have stated the series is based on their love story. The show has been terminated in light of the Brenner's accusations.
Brenner told Deadline she wanted to go public with her story of abuse after "Mara was on the cover of some magazine, and she stood along with other women in the industry talking about #MeToo or Time's Up." She said Mara was aware of the affair.
"I read it, and I was appalled, and I felt disregarded and that the issues from the relationship that in the past I had tried to resolve or discuss regarding violence she was very silent about," she said. "Like not responding to texts earlier on in the relationship."
Brenner said when she tried to reach out to the Akils about the abuse, Salim blocked her phone number. She also said when she tried to connect with Mara first in an email, "I wrote her an email saying how it is that you come forward now when in your private life you knew that your husband had a habit of hitting me?" she said. "I came to know it was reflective of the definition of abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and the abuse of power also based upon their stature in the industry and otherwise."
Salim and Brenner's physical relationship ended in 2017, but since then, Brenner told Deadline she tried to confront Salim about the abuse over the phone, which he denied.
"..He was in full denial and sort of gaslighting me. Saying I had a break with reality, etcetera, etcetera," she said, adding she told Salim she had been in therapy for 10 years and has people who believe her assertion of abuse, including "two doctors, a psychiatrist and a psychologist as well as all of my friends who've been on this journey with me as well as my husband who stuck by me at times we were co-parenting, separate."
She also verified her claim of Salim stealing her intellectual property with a "celebrated scholar in film who taught at UCLA," citing she didn't want her assertion to come from "some emotional place."
"I wanted to be honest and clear and so, therefore, I needed my work to be tested through a means of scholarly consideration for things like tone, plot, etcetera," she said. After the report was done on her work and Love Is___, she said she texted Salim to ask why he would steal from her.
A representative for the Akils told Deadline they have no comment on Brenner's accusations or if Mara knew about the affair.