Trigger warning: Sexual assault, child abuse
Ashton and Mila,
I am a survivor of sexual violence, a survivor of child sexual abuse by an immediate family member.
And I am not here to reprimand, to judge, or in any way negatively comment on your decision to write character letters for Danny Masterson.
In fact, I actually understand.
For over 20 years, nobody knew that my first sexual experience was in the shower, against my will. With other people in the room.
I was nothing older than 10 years old.
Not one single soul knew that I hated going to sleep for fear I would be woken up and used and abused again.
Nobody knew the disgusting acts I was forced to do in my primary school uniform, the use of Vaseline rubbed on parts of me that most adults wouldn’t even feel comfortable with. How I would run out of the shop whenever I saw this tub of petroleum jelly because I would burst into tears at the sight of the Vaseline again.
Nobody knew how much I hated Pearl Jam’s song “Better Man” because he played it loudly so nobody could hear when he was raping me.
Nobody knew that watching movies with him was his way of tricking me to do things to him.
For over 20 years, I lived with the secret alone. I was told if I told anyone, nobody would believe me. I was so terrified of him that I did it, I kept the secret to myself.
Until I broke down so hard one day I couldn’t do it anymore. Until I could no longer pretend.
What followed – Ashton and Mila – was many, many people who didn’t believe me. Who said they were on the fence. Who found it hard to believe that someone who comforted our Auntie at our Grandma’s funeral, who was now a family man, who had turned his life around – was capable of doing what I told them he had done to me.
Since I was an innocent child.
I felt so alone, utterly alone. It was hard enough that the police turned me away and said they couldn’t help me. That I would have to accept that the person who aggressively raped me as a child would be able to continue to walk free. It was hard enough when my own flesh and blood accused me of making it up, of being crazy, and tried to shut me up with threats of legal action.
It was hard enough when lies were spread about me and my character in an attempt to sweep my trauma, my pain under the rug.
But, I understand. I understand why you both, Ashton and Mila, did what you did. Why you wrote those letters in support of your friend.
When my cousin said she didn’t know what to believe – I was so taken back. I remember asking her, “Do you think I’d lie?” She went quiet and said, “I don’t know.”
But then I realised, believing me and what I went through meant believing that someone you respected, that you spent lots of time with, that you thought highly of – was capable of committing such a perverted crime.
That isn’t easy for anyone to fathom.
For 20 years, I’d been living with the reality that people are not always as they seem.
But this isn’t something everyone lives with and is even awake to. Luckily for some, this is something they will never know.
Knowing that Danny Masterson has been convicted makes me feel so relieved, so happy for the victims. I may not have gotten my justice – my abuser is still walking free and living life like nothing happened. But Mr. Masterson’s sentencing tells me that there are survivors out there who have gotten the closure they deserved. And that’s enough for me. It’s enough for me to still believe in the judicial system. It’s enough for me to believe that me accepting my reality many years ago can only be seen as a positive. I know what he did to me, I don’t need the judical system or even my own flesh and blood to believe me. I found my closure by accepting, processing and not letting my abuse define me. By continuing to love people and my life. By removing the toxic people from my life.
The survivors of Mr. Masteron’s crimes have every right to feel angry, hurt, invalidated by your joint decision to write the character letters. I was so deeply saddened to hear about the horrific crimes committed against these women. Their pain is theirs. And they have every right to feel what they feel, to process, to grieve in the way they need to.
However, in the 6 years since I disclosed my abuse for the first time in 2016, I have learnt that living with anger does not erase the pain of what has happened to you. It can poison you and it can poison your perception of how beautiful the world still is and how beautiful people can still be.
I had to let go of the anger towards the family member who sexually abused me. I had to let go of the anger towards the family members who didn’t believe me, who still don’t believe me to this day.
I had to look really deep within myself and understand that any act of sexual violence is so hard to believe because we WANT to believe the best of our family and friends. Because we love them, we want to believe that they wouldn’t commit these absolutely horrific crimes.
It’s a horrible reality to believe that someone we thought we knew so well is actually capable of hurting another human being so disgustingly.
But seemingly “good” people do. They may be fantastic at their jobs, hard working, even volunteer and give to charities, even have a Safety sticker on their home like my abuser did – but this does not make them immune to committing horrible crimes.
So, Ashton and Mila, I understand. I understand why, prior to your friend’s sentencing – you wrote what you did.
But please, for the sake of survivors of sexual violence – use this experience as a learning opportunity. Your friendship with him was just like you remembered and I don’t want to invalidate that – but it is only a snapshot of who he is as a person.
Sexual violence is pervasive, it does not exist in isolation. You cannot justify sexual violence with how someone behaves with their family and friends, how they behave at work.
Sexual violence is sexual violence.
And just like these women, I have had to live with what was done to me. I may be recovered from the abuse, I may have overcome it with extensive counselling.
But it’s a reality that will be forever be part of my story and these women, after everything they have experienced – they deserve to be believed.
They deserve to have their pain validated.
Believing them doesn’t erase their experience. But it tells them:
“What you went through was absolutely horrible. I know I can’t change it. But I am here for you. I believe you.”
Being silenced by an abuser is the greatest pain. Being able to speak up and feel heard is the first step to true recovery.
Ashton and Mila, you have done great work for survivors of child sexual abuse previously. You are only human. But please move forward from this, learn and grow. Not only for these women, not only for me – but for all survivors of sexual violence.