There are many women in Hollywood who have been brave enough to share harrowing stories of sexual abuse when they were young or even underage. Actress Mena Suvari is opening up about the abuse she encountered when she was just a teenager.
Last year, Mena released a memoir called The Great Peace, in which she shared details of rape, addiction, and abuse. She endured much of this during the tender years of her youth, even as young as 12 years old. She opened up to the Guardian in a recent interview about how she was exploited from a young age.
Mena Suvari Shares Harrowing Details about Being Sexually Exploited When She Was Only 15 Years Old
When she was only 12 years old, Mena was repeatedly raped by her older brother's friend. He wrote love letters to her and gave her words of encouragement to lure her in, then after her sexually assaulted her multiple times, he called her a "whore" at school. She visited a doctor when she suffered a bladder infection as a result of the rape, and the doctor simply prescribed her contraceptives and sent her away without asking any questions about the abuse.
“That sucked the life out of me. I think that was just excessive confirmation that no one was going to save me, no one was going to do anything for me," Mena said.
Mena said she got into acting and modeling at a young age because it gave her a boost of confidence and made her feel like she could express herself. “Everyone was raving about how I looked 18. But I was 12," she said. “What was communicated to me was that I was an adult, therefore I can act like an adult.”
When she was 15 years old, a photographer in his 20s groomed her and took nude photos of her at his home. Her business adviser, who was in his 30s, lured her into having sex with him when she was 16. Around this time, her mother left the family, and she was left taking care of her elderly father. She started taking drugs like crystal meth.
“I didn’t have anyone telling me, ‘That’s not right, that person shouldn’t be doing that with you’,” she said.
Things only got worse when she met a lighting engineer with whom she entered a relationship. He also was abusive. He raped her repeatedly to the point where she needed medical attention due to rough anal sex. He would coerce her into having threesomes with women he picked up, even women she worked with on set. She talks about how humiliating and degrading the whole relationship was.
“I was not being loved. I was just a body, a receptacle for his desires,” she wrote in her book. She came home to "the worst relationship" of her life after being on set for American Beauty, a film that romanticized pedophilia and turned her high-school character into a sex object for a middle-aged man.
“Where I was being extremely abused,” she said. “It was very dark for me at the time, [and the movie] felt like a respite because I could go to work and be important there. I wasn’t called a ‘retard’ and an ‘idiot.’”
“I identified with Angela [her American Beauty character],” says Suvari. “I knew how to play that role, because I was so schooled in it. ‘Oh, you want me to be sexually attractive?’ Done. I felt unavailable in a million other ways, but I knew how to play that card.”
Mena has been married to Michael Hope, a prop master, since 2018, and they have a son together. She's still acting and is happy that her teenage objectification years are behind her.
“I never really wanted it. I feel like I can do my work more honestly,” she concluded. "I feel a lot freer. Just more sure of myself.”