The real reason Thomas Ravenel quit Southern Charm

Since 2014, Thomas Ravenel has been a key cast member of Southern Charm, Bravo's reality show about the well-heeled cocktails-and-mansions crowd of Charleston, S.C., one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in America. 

Among standout Southern Charm-ers like grande dame Patricia Altschul, wry voice of reason Cameran Eubanks, and everybody's best friend Shep Rose, there was Thomas Ravenel. A former politician whose family had been involved in politics for more than 200 years, Ravenel kept Bravo viewers transfixed with his wild partying ways and complicated romantic entanglements, particularly his relationships with former model Kathryn Dennis, with whom he has two kids, and pot-stirring Charleston transplant Ashley Jacobs. But then, just after the conclusion of the very dramatic fifth season of Southern Charm, Ravenel dropped the news on social media that he was leaving the show. Now, why would he go and do something like that?

A surprising decision

On Aug. 14, 2018, Ravenel announced that he was leaving the cast of Southern Charm, effective immediately. "I'm not doing the show anymore," Ravenel declared on Twitter (via People). "In the contract they have the right to fictionalize your story. They took advantage of me. I decided I've got too much to lose and informed them I'm not coming back." He then made his Twitter page private likely in an effort to avoid any questions, commentary, and trolling. 

Ravenel's announcement is a lot to unpack. First, he claimed that, in his contract, producers, editors, and all the others who assemble hours of raw footage into a delectable episode of reality television reserve the right to manipulate footage as they see fit, so as to create a compelling narrative. Ravenel called this very common (but not necessarily ethically sound) reality TV practice "the right to fictionalize." So, it'd appear that Ravenel didn't think he was being portrayed fairly on Southern Charm, as he implied that what hit the air was straight up untrue.

Ravenel also claimed that the show "took advantage of him." There's no telling what exactly he meant by that, other than how the show used his rocky relationship with Ashley Jacobs as a central storyline to make compelling TV and increase viewership. But that's kind of the job of a reality show's creative team, isn't it?

The big split

The prevailing plot line for Southern Charm's fifth season was the volatile relationship between Thomas Ravenel and his girlfriend, a nurse from California named Ashley Jacobs. Jacobs quickly became the show's villain after her frequent, unprovoked verbal attacks on Southern Charm cast member Kathryn Dennis, the mother of her boyfriend's two young children. And Jacobs and Ravenel fought almost as often as Jacobs and Dennis did.

As dramatic relationships often do, the one between Ravenel and Jacobs eventually ended. The two called it quits in the summer of 2018 — apparently for good. Shortly after, fans noticed that their breakup had become Instagram unofficial (both parties deleted all photos of the other from their IG accounts), Jacobs confirmed the news via a tear-soaked Instagram Live video. "I don't want to comment but there are just some things I'm trying to handle privately," she said (via People). "I'm still trying to work it out, not work out getting back together, but I'm still trying to figure it out."

With Jacobs out of the picture, why would Ravenel even need to come back to Southern Charm?

Accusations of sexual assault

Ravenel is an old-fashioned playboy, which, as demonstrated on Southern Charm, means he loves to drink a lot, party a lot, and pursue attractive women who are often much younger than he is (like fellow cast members Kathryn Dennis, Landon Clements, and Ashley Jacobs). But in May 2018, a woman came forward with news that Ravenel may have crossed the line. 

Ashley Perkins spoke with Fox News and accused the Southern Charm star of assaulting her mother, Debbie Holloway Perkins. The elder Perkins and Ravenel had reportedly met on Tinder in October 2015 and had gotten together that Christmas. It was during their night on the town that Ashley Perkins claims Ravenel "grabbed [Debbie Perkins] by her wrist and held her down," and then exposed his genitals and digitally violated her, finally stopping when Debbie Perkins screamed, "You're a rapist!" Ashley Perkins provided Fox News with photos of her mother's bruised wrists. 

The Perkins family then sued Ravenel and negotiated a settlement in June 2016.

More allegations surface

That's not the only time Thomas Ravenel was accused of such a shocking crime. In May 2018, the Charleston City Paper published a police report filed by a woman who alleged that Ravenel had sexually assaulted her in his home back in January 2015. Should Ravenel be formally indicted, it would be for a charge of "sex offense/forcible rape." The woman came forward to People, choosing to be referred to only as "Dawn." However, Southern Charm fans will recognize her as "Nanny Dawn," as she used to appear on screen as the childcare provider for Ravenel's kids. 

According to Dawn, on the night in question, she was making baby food in the kitchen when Ravenel came home after a night out with friends and tried to kiss her. She said Ravenel wanted more, suggesting they take things to another level and attempting to use force to make it happen. "I was corralled into the master bedroom and he shut the door behind me. I turned around and he had his pants dropped, not wearing underwear," she said. Ravenel then allegedly blocked the door and "proceeded to rip [Dawn's] clothes off." Fortunately, Nanny Dawn said she was able to escape.

Under investigation

A few weeks after those sexual assault allegations against Ravenel came to light, Bravo chose to wait until all the facts were in before deciding if the network should fire Ravenel from the hit reality show. Bravo did, however, tell media outlets, such as Decider, that Ravenel would not appear at the Southern Charm season five reunion special. This backed up news from Radar, in which a source close to the show said, "Thomas is not invited to the reunion. With everything going on, it seemed better to the execs to not have him here."

Rather than just getting him out of their sight, Bravo and production company Haymaker announced an internal investigation into Ravenel's alleged behavior to get to the bottom of the matter. "Haymaker, the production company for Southern Charm, and Bravo take allegations like these very seriously," Bravo said in a statement (via Us Weekly). "Haymaker is conducting an investigation, and once all the information is gathered and carefully reviewed, appropriate action will be taken." 

So perhaps Ravenel quitting the show was a matter of "You can't fire me, I quit!"

Friends or frenemies?

At its core, Southern Charm is a show about a small, tight-knit group of mostly rich, highly privileged friends living, drinking, and not working very hard in the beautiful coastal city of Charleston, S.C. When the show began, Thomas Ravenel was probably the most famous person in the cast — he once served as state treasurer for the state of South Carolina until a cocaine possession charge led to his resignation. 

Viewers came to love the other stars of Southern Charm, who are Ravenel's real-life friends. But those same friends said some really troubling things about Ravenel at the two-part Southern Charm season five reunion special, hosted by Bravo's Andy Cohen. Filmed after sexual assault charges against Ravenel went public, Shep Rose said that there is "90 percent of Thomas" that he loves, but "10 percent that he hates." Cameran Eubanks added that she thought it was "the right decision for him not to be here." 

With friends like these, who needs enemies?