CONTENT WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and exploitation.
By all accounts, David Dobrik is one of the most successful YouTubers in the world. A year ago, The Wall Street Journal even crowned Dobrik "Gen Z's Jimmy Fallon". (Whatever that means.) At the time of writing, the 24-year-old boasts almost 19 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, and is famously known for 'The Vlog Squad': a gaggle of close friends Dobrik enlisted to create content with. There are no set members, but the group usually includes the likes of Dom Zeglaitis, Jason Nash, Todd Smith, Jeff Wittek, Nick Antonyan and Brandon Calvillo. (Mostly men, though women like Trisha Paytas have been involved in the past – we'll come back to her later).
But an exposé published this very morning by Insider has reported some unsettling allegations as to what could be going on behind the group's "no-holds-barred, clicks-and-cash-fueled lifestyle". A woman referred to in the article by the pseudonym 'Hannah' told the publication that Vlog Squad member Dominykas Zeglaitis (who also goes by the name Durte Dom) sexually attacked her after she filmed a YouTube video at the squad's house in 2018. At the time of the alleged assault, Hannah was a 20-year-old LA uni student. Here's what we know so far.
"It was high pressure from the moment we walked in"
Hannah told Insider that in 2018 she became embroiled in a blog after some of her friends started chatting with Zeglaitis on Instagram. Zeglaitis said he wanted to "hook up" with them, which piqued some of her friend's interest. (Zeglaitis was allegedly looking to have a 'fivesome', as David Dobrik appears to confirm in an interview.) "The students who had watched Dobrik's videos knew Zeglaitis played a character in the vlogs who was a sex addict. They didn't know where the character started and ended, and weren't sure whether they were actually supposed to be having sex with him that night," reports Insider. In a DM to Dom, they reportedly asked: "The sexy stuff won't be in the vlog, right?" to which Zeglaitis apparently replied "might need to take a pic just to show dave so he believes me haha." (Probably referring to David Dobrik.)
Hannah didn't really know what to expect, but allegedly joined six other young women to visit the group at their home. Insider reports that Hannah had no idea the night would play out in the way that it did and leave her with trauma that would last for years to come.
Hannah allegedly spoke of being uncomfortable as soon as she walked through the squad's door. At one point, when admitting she didn't know anyone in the Vlog Squad member Nash responded: "Get the fuck out!" to raucous laughter from other members of the group including Dobrik.
"I immediately felt really uncomfortable because I was under the impression that we were going to meet these cool creators, we were going to hang out, maybe film something," Hannah told Insider. "It was high pressure from the moment we walked in."
"An environment where it felt like saying 'no' was not OK"
Hannah and her friend who apparently drove her to Dobrik's home, Sarah, said that from the beginning, they never wanted to have group sex with Zeglaitis. "It was very much an environment where it felt like saying 'no' was not OK," Hannah said. "It felt like from the moment we came there was an expectation that they were doing us a favor and we had to give them content. They were verbally, like, 'Why aren't you guys being fun? Do something sort of sexy.'"
Hannah reportedly felt objectified by the environment, reporting that Zeglaitis asked if she wanted to be his "Instagram girlfriend" and said she could make $10k USD a week. She apparently declined the offer.
"I was getting really scared"
Insider reports that Zeglaitis became increasingly aggressive as the night went on, and that some members of the squad bought alcohol for the women, who were under California's legal drinking age of 21.
At one point, Zeglaitis said he wanted to talk to Hannah. When she agreed, he led her into a pitch-dark bedroom where Zeglaitis questioned her as to why she didn't like him. Zeglaitis reportedly asked Hannah if they could "hook up" to which she said "no". Hannah said she tried to leave the room, and Zeglaitis blocked her exit with his body, stating: "You at least have to give me a kiss."
"I was getting really scared because he wasn't letting me leave, my friends were in a totally different part of the house," Hannah told Insider. I was, like, 'What happens if I keep saying no?' So I just gave him a kiss."
"Not a good situation"
Former Vlog Squad member Trisha Paytas, who would have been around 30 at the time, apparently made an appearance during the night. She told Insider that she left after about 45 minutes because of all the underage drinking, which "felt insane" to her. She reportedly told Insider that the young women had made it clear they didn't want to have sex with Zeglaitis.
"They were, like, 'Oh shit: We're here, but we don't want to have sex,'" she allegedly said.
Trisha Paytas has previously spoken about the group's alleged predilection for preying on underage girls.
"She did not consent to the act itself, but she especially did not consent to having multiple men peek their heads in"
By all accounts, it appears that members of the squad (some of whom were in their 40s) tried to get a group of underage women drunk. Hannah's friend Sarah reported that she saw a lot of alcohol being exchanged and "nudged toward" Hannah. "There were definitely times she was drinking it of her own volition, but there were also times where he was clearly trying to get her to drink more," Sarah reportedly said.
Hannah told Insider that she drank so much she "blacked out". Insider alleges she and another young woman, Audrey, ended up having a threesome with Zeglaitis, but Hannah was too intoxicated to consent to the sexual acts that took place. Hannah told Insider that she doesn't remember the alleged rape. However, she said that Audrey had told her that Zeglaitis did not stop raping her when Hannah showed signs of losing consciousness, at which point Audrey "took over" to get him to stop.
During all of this, members of the 'Squad' reportedly peeked their heads into the bedroom to see what was going on; David Dobrik included. "I'm kinda getting horny just listening to this" Todd Smith allegedly quipped in the now-deleted vlog. "Obviously she did not consent to the act itself, but she especially did not consent to having multiple men peek their heads in to confirm what was happening," Sarah allegedly pointed out.
"Millions of strangers have seen a video of me in a night that traumatised me"
Hannah was reportedly in shock in the days after the incident and still couldn't remember what had happened that night. Sarah reportedly told her about the assault more than once before Hannah had begun to come to terms with what had happened. ""I don't want that to be my identity. It's not my identity. I can comfortably say I was the victim of rape, but I don't identify as a victim," Hannah said. "That's just something that happened to me. And so that's why I didn't speak to anyone about it for a long time."
Insider reports that when the Vlog came out on November 28, 2018, Hannah struggled to process the footage (which was viewed by over 800k people on the day it came out). She told Insider said the video misconstrued the gravity of what had happened.
"It's difficult to describe how it feels knowing that millions of strangers have seen a video of me in a night that affected me and traumatized me in nearly incomprehensible ways, not knowing that anything was wrong," she reportedly said.
"Looking back on the experience, I feel taken advantage of"
A few months after the alleged assault in February 2019, Hannah allegedly sent a long, vulnerable text to Zeglaitis expressing she was obviously struggling with what had occurred. "It's incredibly disturbing to me to have a video online that documents an entire night that I have no recollection of, and have everyone around me view that as a reflection of my character, especially considering the mature content," she reportedly wrote in the text. "Looking back on the experience, I feel taken advantage of," adding: "I did NOT want to participate in sexual contact with any of the men in the room."
Zeglaitis responded to the message, simply stating "Okay, I respect your wishes. The videos down."
In reference to the exchange, Hannah told Insider: "It took me two weeks to muster up the courage to essentially reach out to him and tell him how I perceived and felt about the situation. It's not a place for me to say whether or not he should say sorry, and I don't expect that from him, but to not even have these things that were obviously deeply vulnerable for me to say acknowledged whatsoever was, quite frankly, mean."
Hannah is reportedly still dealing with the trauma of the alleged sexual assault.
The Insider article notes that Hannah was not comfortable reporting the incident to the police and Zelgaitis has not been charged. She reportedly told Insider that she does not expect there to be a "process of accountability".
The disturbing rape allegations are just the latest in what appear to be a pattern of YouTube creators using their power to sexually exploit young fans, raising urgent questions about the power imbalance between successful YouTubers and an often young, devastatingly vulnerable fan base. This is not the first time David Dobrik, or members of his 'Vlog Squad', have been accused of abuse.
UPDATE: A few hours ago, David Dobrik uploaded a video entitled 'Let's Talk'. In what seems to be an oblique response to Hannah's accusations, Dobrik declares "consent is something that's super, super important to me". He also added that he has distanced himself from Zeglaitis. "With people in my life that I don't film with anymore, like Dom... I chose to distance myself, because I don't align with some of the actions, and I don't stand for any kind of misconduct. I've been really disappointed by some of my friends," he said.
If you have experienced any kind of sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia (1800 respect) or Lifeline Australia (13 11 14).
Written by Reena Gupta, a Melbourne-based writer for MTV Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @purpletank.
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