Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher Face Backlash for Support of Actor, Scientologist & Convicted Rapist Danny Masterson
Recently, That 70s Show actor and Scientologist Danny Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for drugging and raping two women between 2001 and 2003, when he was at the height of his fame. He is also accused, but was not convicted, of raping a third woman.
Hollywood’s Role in Minimizing Abuse
Masterson’s celebrity friends, including former co-stars Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, stirred up controversy with letters they wrote the court asking that Masterson receive a lighter sentence.
The fact that Kutcher and Kunis wrote a letter is not the controversial part. As a part of the sentencing process for most major crimes, the court will solicit character references for individuals who have been convicted of crimes. This helps the judge paint a complete picture of the convicted and consider as much as possible (positive and negative) about the convicted person before delivering a sentence.
The problem for Kutcher and Kunis, however, was the content of the letter—including minimizing Masterson’s crimes and illustrating a lack of understanding of the pain that his survivors endured … for years. Kutcher and Kunis are well aware that Masterson’s survivors were sexually assaulted. They also know that the women were further victimized and traumatized by Scientology officials, who used intimidation, coercion, and church-sanctioned “ethics” classes to silence and shame the women. Yet, their letter did not focus on accountability with mercy. It instead portrayed Masterson and his daughter as the “victims” who are in need of leniency.
The controversy surrounding this minimalization of the crimes is compounded with the fact that Kutcher, until recently, was a co-founder of Thorn, a non-profit that focuses solely on developing new technologies to combat online child sexual abuse. The public bristled at the hypocrisy.
While no one is faulting Kutcher and Kunis for writing a letter on behalf of their friend, there are ways they could have done so to incorporate the gravity of the crime and the effect of these crimes on the victims. They could have done better for all survivors.
When anyone in a position of power, authority, or fame minimizes sex crimes or paints convicted rapists as “victims,” survivors are silenced. It is possible to support a loved one or friend who is convicted of a crime by stressing the importance of accountability and rehabilitation for the harm that was caused. When we support crime victims, we support the most vulnerable among us – stopping the cycle of abuse, assault, and shame.