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LAS VEGAS from www.courthousenews.com – – The married founder of the Erotic Heritage Museum blackballed, defamed and banned a curator who broke up with him, the woman claims in court.
Laura Henkel [pictured], an erotologist, curator and clinical sexologist, says the affair began a year into her doctoral studies at the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
Robert Theodore McIlvenna, the institute’s founder, allegedly “exploited the position of power he held over Ms. Henkel and initiated a sexual relationship with her in 2004.”
Henkel says the relationship continued as she worked with the institute to develop an affiliated Erotic Heritage Museum.
After finding that the relationship had become “abusive and unhealthy,” Henkel allegedly broke up with McIlvenna in 2007 and began dating another man.
Henkel says McIlvenna became obsessive and groped her butt, kissed her on the mouth against her will and demanded time alone with her.
Winnie McIlvenna, the professor’s wife, “became increasingly jealous,” according to the complaint.
The professor meanwhile became obsessive and “treated Laura as his child and demanded sex with her,” the complaint states. Henkel says he also threatened to hurt anyone with whom she became romantically and sexually involved.
The McIlvennas “created a toxic and stressful environment for Ms. Henkel at the museum and the institute’s satellite campus there, and made her consulting difficult,” according to the lawsuit.
Henkel says she had an anxiety attack in 2009 and was hospitalized. The museum allegedly fired her on Sept. 24, 2010, and barred her from coming back.
The McIlvennas then launched a campaign to defame Henkel “in the national human sexuality field, and with erotic artists and art buyers, and attempted to strip Ms. Henkel of her degrees from the institute,” the lawsuit states.
They falsely told a local newspaper that Henkel stole funds and mismanaged the museum, and that she had “entered into an illegal conspiracy with ‘Germans,'” the lawsuit states.
Henkel says they even claimed that the FBI was investigating her for involvement in an unspecified foreign conspiracy.
Artists who worked with Henkel or her companies – Laura Henkel Fine Art, Henkel Enterprises and Sin City Gallery – also received threats to sever all ties if they wanted to be displayed in the museum, according to the complaint.
Henkel says the harassment forced her into a second hospitalization in October 2010.
She also claims that she hasn’t been paid for her work at the museum.
McIlvenna’s family allegedly controls the museum, the institute and the Exocus Archives, which owns one of the world’s largest collections of erotic ephemera.
Since the professor “controlled almost every aspect of Ms. Henkel’s life,” Henkel says the value of her degrees and future job opportunities are at his mercy.
In addition to the McIlvennnas and their companies, Henkel’s complaint names as defendants: Amanda Morgan, Laura Palsen aka Dorian Gomez, and Victoria Austin, who she says also studied at the institute and worked at the museum.
Henkel seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, defamation, business disparagement and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Margaret McLetchie.