'American Beauty' star Mena Suvari reveals sexual abuse horror when she was just 12
TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains information about sexual assault that could be traumatic for some readers. Discretion is advised.
Mena Suvari found fame at a very young age and has been a part of several movies like 'American Pie', 'American Beauty', and more. After years of struggling, the actress spoke about her demons in her memoir titled 'The Great Peace: A Memoir'. When it came out, Suvari's son was only a few months old, and she was suffering from postnatal depression. It was not easy for her to talk about the trauma she mentioned in the book.
The 43-year-old award-winning actress gathered the courage to talk about her past when she was put through hell. The actress revealed in the memoir that she was raped when she was merely 12 years old, was thrown as bait to predatory older men, coped with drug addiction, and had a terrifying and abusive relationship where she was manipulated into maintaining a sexual relationship with other people as well. Suvari said that she doesn't care about the sales of the memoir as writing her ordeal was the most important part. She told The Guardian, 'I needed to express myself. I needed to purge this in order to move on … I very much wanted to let it go."
In her memoir, the 43-year-old actress mentioned that she believed her worth was not just in what she looked like but how sexy she was, subtly referring to her role as virginal Heather in 'American Pie' and Angela in 'American Beauty' that established her as a teenage sex object. Previously, she has talked about her unusual experience with Kevin Costner as well. She said that before filming an intimate scene, Costner invited her to a small room and asked her to lay down on the bed next to him. He held her tightly, and a young Mena Suvari did not know if it was an instruction from the director at that time or not. Her memoir also talks about the incident where she was sexually abused at the mere age of 12 by someone close.
Who raped Mena Suvari at the age of 12?
Suvari shared that her earlier childhood was happy, but it soon turned upside down when she moved in with her mother and one of her brothers to the Virgin Islands. Soon enough, the whole family moved to South Carolina. She says, "I struggled to be seen and heard, engaged with. But I didn’t feel such a loss of sense of self until I was 12. When I was raped." She revealed how a friend of one of her brothers would give her a lot of attention, write her love letters, and encourage her into sexual activity before raping her several times at his house. She was further tormented by this "friend" after he told everyone in her school that Suvari was a "whore". She said, "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.”
Another major reason why something like this could prevail so easily was that everyone treated Suvari as an adult when she was not even a teen. The doctors, being mandated reporters did not pay any attention to detail. When Suvari was being treated for bladder infections as a result of the rapes, she was simply given contraception. No adults -- her parents or the doctor --managed to figure it out.
Seeing the world at 13
Suvari explains that around the time of these rapes, she was signed by a modeling agency in their children's division, and by the next summer, she was already answering casting calls in New York. She was later suggested to move to LA permanently which she did, along with her parents. For her, modeling was a getaway drug. But it also altered her opinion of herself. She started believing that the only thing that mattered was the way she looked. Moreover, if you're "sexy," it's everything. She shared, "Everyone was raving about how I looked 18. But I was 12. What was communicated to me was that I was an adult, therefore I can act like an adult."
The actress revealed horrifying details of how she was used to luring older men while being asked to return sexual favors. She recalled an incident when a 20-something photographer, took pictures of her Suvari naked when she was 15, alone at his home. Then another incident when one of her business advisers, in his mid-30s, started having sex with her when she was 16. She said, "I didn’t have anyone telling me, ‘That’s not right, that person shouldn’t be doing that with you.’” The actress said that she was good with her grades, succeeding overall, and was generally clever so people did not notice. She continued, "To my own detriment, no one noticed.”
After Suvari's mother walked out on the family, she was the only one left to look after her father. This was the exact time she started indulging in drugs, including crystal meth. However, it was about to get worse, as this was the time that she met a lighting engineer who would ruin her life for many years to come. The relationship was instantly abusive and he would call her names. But Suvari, on the other hand, would crave his affection and validation.
The book also reveals instances of horrific use of sex toys which would often leave Suvari on medical treatment. She said, "I was not being loved. I was just a body, a receptacle for his desires." She even revealed that this not-so-better half manipulated her for years into threesomes, even with people she met on set. Years later when she ran into some of the same people, she confronted them. Suvari continues, "I said, ‘I want you to know that I never wanted to do any of those things’. She was surprised. She said, ‘Oh, he told me you wanted to do that’. It was a huge eye-opener for me, how I was being manipulated and I had no idea. The circumstances had been created for me, and I was just swallowed up by it."
Right now, Suvari is feeling proud that she wrote her memoir as people are all over her Instagram, thanking her as they can relate to the abuse. Speaking about this, she said, "It was bittersweet because it felt beautiful to feel seen and heard, but it was heartbreaking to hear that others had identified in similar ways."
If you or anyone you know suspects child abuse, you are urged to immediately call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential and the hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.