Trigger Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering for some. Please read with caution and exercise self-care.
At the peak of her career, Mena Suvari was one of the most celebrated actresses in Hollywood, effortlessly shuttling between the sweet love interest for Chris Klein in American Pie and the doe-eyed ingenue in the Academy Award-winning American Beauty.
While, on the surface, it appeared that the actress had it all, she has since revealed that it was a period of extreme trauma and turmoil in her life. It’s a period she has documented in her memoir, The Great Peace: A Memoir.
“Between the ages of twelve and twenty, I was the victim of repeated sexual abuse,” she writes, recounting how, at the age of 12 she was raped by a 16-year-old boy, and then again by one of her acting reps when she was 16 and he was in his thirties. At 17, she embarked on a relationship with a man nine years her senior, revealing that he pressured her to perform sexual acts and verbally abused her over the course of three years.
“Little by little he whittled away the thin layer of self-worth I had left,” she writes.
The pain of experiencing such trauma led the talented actress down a path of drug dependence, which she says she formed as a coping mechanism. “I took drugs to numb myself from the pain,” Suvari writes. “Alcohol. Pot. Coke. Crystal meth. Acid. Ecstasy. Mushrooms. Mescaline. It was my way of detaching from the hell of my existence—and surviving.”
Happily, Suvari has since found peace with her past, telling The New York Times, “I spent almost my entire life feeling disgusted, ashamed, and in denial about what happened to me and what I had allowed myself to do and be a part of.
“Then one day, I stopped. I stopped running away and I looked at myself. I looked into the pain and what I saw was that I was ready to leave it all behind and heal.”
Interestingly, Suvari’s co-star in American Beauty—Kevin Spacey—was one of the earliest examples of the power of the movement, with the Oscar-winning actor largely disappearing from public life after being accused by multiple men of sexual misconduct.
Suvari explained that, while Spacey never made any sexual advances toward her, he did initiate an unconventional acting exercise in order for them to prepare for one of their more intimate scenes.
Suvari writes that Spacey took her into a room and lay down with her on a bed and just held her.
“Whatever it was, it worked,” she writes. “Lying there with Kevin was strange and eerie but also calm and peaceful, and as for his gentle caresses, I was so used to being open and eager for affection that it felt good to just be touched.”
Spacey, who came out as gay following the allegations made against him in 2017, recently appeared in an Italian indie film, sparking conversation and criticism about whether he should be able to make a comeback.
The two-time Oscar-winner was dropped from his hit Netflix series House of Cards when the allegations first surfaced and in 2018, he pled not guilty to an indecent assault charge involving a teenage boy on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts with the charge being dropped after the alleged victim also withdrew a civil lawsuit.
He is still potentially facing criminal charges in the UK where he stands accused of perpetrating “inappropriate behaviour” over an 11-year period during which he served as artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources.