She’s sobbing uncontrollably. In a raw scene from her 2012 documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me, Katy Perry breaks down backstage in São Paulo, Brazil, on December 31, 2011 — moments after receiving a text from her then-husband, Russell Brand, saying he was divorcing her. At the time, she blamed her grueling tour schedule for the failure of the marriage. “I felt a lot of responsibility for it ending,” Katy told Vogue a year later before hinting at the shocking truth about their divorce. “But then I found out the real truth, which I can’t necessarily disclose because I keep it locked in my safe for a rainy day.”

Others haven’t guarded what they allegedly know about Russell so closely. On September 16, four women accused the comedian of sexually assaulting and abusing them between 2006 and 2013 — including the 14 months he was married to Katy, 38. “It’s far worse than anyone knows,” an insider says of the women’s claims. “Katy has no idea what really happened, but she knows how Russell treated her — and she’s telling friends he was a monster.” The comedian vehemently denies the four women’s allegations, but he acknowledges he was “very, very promiscuous.”

And though Russell, 48, has now been dropped by his management and is facing serious consequences from his employers (see next page), he’s made a career out of his lecherous persona. In 2007, he offered to send his assistant, naked, to visit British TV personality Jimmy Savile (who was later posthumously exposed as a pedophile, accused of assaulting dozens of children). In 2008, a lewd prank call he made to British actor Andrew Sachs resulted in a fine for his broadcaster, BBC. Russell has also made light of pedophilia in ancient Greece, encouraged a 15-year-old fan to have a sex-themed birthday party, and in 2013 he blurted, “Oh, I’ve raped someone once … and killed her after.”

In his 2007 memoir, My Booky Wook, Russell confessed he went to rehab for sex addiction because his behavior threatened his job prospects. “Had to write a victims’ list,” he wrote. “A litany of the women I’ve wronged as a result of my sexual addiction.” Those include some very famous people. A few A-listers have “slammed him privately,” says the source, while others have shared their horror stories in public. “He’s a bit of a vile predator. I certainly don’t think he has cured his sex addiction,” Dannii Minogue says, noting that when he interviewed her for MTV, he “wouldn’t take no for an answer” and “kept making shocking remarks that I can’t even repeat.” British TV host Vanessa Feltz had a similar experience, admitting she was “deeply offended” when he asked if he could “have it off” with her or her daughters during an interview. And MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski says she was “embarrassed” by his antics when he was a guest on her show.

By the time Kristen Bell began filming Forgetting Sarah Marshall with Russell in 2009 — on the same set where he met Katy — she was well aware of his reputation. “I made it really clear from the beginning that I would sock him in the balls if he tried anything,” she says.

Katy knew about Russell’s sexual addiction. “Of course they talked about his issues,” says the source, noting that the pop star famously imposed a “sex ban” in the months leading up to their wedding.

Russell has insisted he was faithful to her, but “Katy and her friends assumed he cheated,” says the source. “And based on the timing, if these allegations are true, he was having at least one bombshell affair.”

Their relationship had other problems, as well. “The reality of making it work is not like the movies,” Katy has admitted, revealing that Russell was “controlling.” In 2010, he tweeted a “cruel” shot of her without makeup, notes the source, and “he always treated her like she was young and stupid.” But she still protected him. “We didn’t realize what was going on in her personal life,” her manager, Bradford Cobb, has said. “I think Katy shielded most of us from the reality of what was happening.”

Katy Perry Telling Friends Ex Russell Brand Is a ‘Monster’ Amid Sexual Assault Scandal
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Now Katy — who was herself accused of sexual harassment by her “Teenage Dream” video co-star Josh Kloss in 2019 and faced backlash for siding with producer Dr. Luke when he denied Kesha’s rape allegations — is being pressured to denounce her ex. It’s a difficult situation, says the source. “She’s moved on and doesn’t want to be dragged into Russell’s scandal. She made peace with their split a long time ago. His disastrous PR mess could easily become her mess, too.”

If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.

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