Mena Suvari Details Years of Sexual Abuse: 'It Was a Process of Destruction'
The “American Beauty” star also opened up about her past struggles with drug addiction.
Mena Suvari has revealed she endured years of sexual abuse when she was younger.
According to excerpts obtained by PEOPLE, in her new book “The Great Peace: A Memoir,” the actress detailed her past traumatic experiences in which she was sexually abused for years, beginning with being raped at the age of 12.
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“Between the ages of twelve and twenty, I was the victim of repeated sexual abuse,” Suvari, 42, wrote in her book.
As she explained in her book, per PEOPLE, it began when she was 12 and in the sixth grade. Suvari and her family had moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where she said she was “the new girl” in town and “was just trying to fit in.”
Then, a friend of one of her older brothers, whom she called “KJ” in her memoir, pursued her and pressured her into having sex, but she told him that she didn’t “want to do that.” However, just a month before her 13th birthday, Suvari claims KJ took her into a room in his family’s home and raped her.
“Part of me died that day,” Suvari recalled. “He used me, had fun with me and then disposed of me. He called me a whore. I never got to have a healthy expression of [sex]. My choice was lost. And that, compiled with already not feeling seen and heard, established a concept that I would have of myself. That that was my value.”
Suvari admitted that she felt ashamed and blamed herself for “allow[ing] it to happen,” with PEOPLE noting that a “pattern began to set in: Make it work; just survive.”
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Meanwhile, when she was 15, Suvari moved to Hollywood to pursue acting. According to PEOPLE, her manager at the time, whom she believed to be her friend and protector, wanted to have a sexual relationship with her.
“By this time my family had pretty much fallen apart,” Suvari explained. “My mother had moved out and wanted to find herself and my father [who was much older] was in decline mentally and physically. I didn’t feel like I had any other options or was worthy of a life that was any different.”
Suvari then began partying and got into drugs.
“I turned to any form of self-medicating I could find, just to get by,” she recalled. “I was just trying to survive.”
Then, when Suvari was almost 17, she met a man, whom she referred to as “Tyler.” Throughout their three-year relationship, Suvari claims she was sexually and emotionally abused by him. In the relationship, Suvari said she was pressured by Tyler to have threesomes and pick up women to bring home for him.
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“I remember thinking maybe this is how relationships are: the screaming, the name calling, the abuse,” she said. “I felt like I had brought it all on in some way.”
“From KJ to Tyler, it was a process of destruction.”
Fortunately, Suvari’s career began to take off following her role in the 1999 comedy, “American Pie.” She then went on to star as cheerleader Angela in “American Beauty,” the role of which she received widespread praise, including a BAFTA nomination.
“It was a beautiful experience, being given the opportunity to work and express myself right when I needed I to save me,” she said, reflecting on that time.
However, she said was “living a double life” at the time.
“Every time I would go on a set. Every time I was interviewed, I was acting the whole time. It was another role for me to play. That I was okay,” she explained, adding that she was “functioning on the outside and on the inside, desperately trying to heal.”
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Suvari said she broke up with “Tyler” and quit using drugs. After going to therapy and through the support of her friends, she ultimately realized she deserved better.
Suvari went on to meet Mike Hope on the set of the 2016 Hallmark movie, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The two tied the knot in 2018 and in October 2020, announced they were expecting their first child.
Although Suvari had been married and divorced twice before, she said with Hope, “it was the first time I felt I wanted to have a family with someone.”
“I found out I was pregnant when I finished writing the memoir,” she said.
Suvari and Hope welcomed their son, whom they named Christopher, in April.
Meanwhile, Suvari — who works with disadvantaged youth — said she decided to share her story “in hopes to always shine light and inspire.”
“This is my truth. This is my voice,” she explained. “I was so tired of fighting and hiding my whole life. I hope I can help someone else see their value. If I can lessen the pain for someone else, then I want to do it, because I didn’t have that person.”
“This is what I have learned about myself. And for the first time I’m giving myself permission and finding the voice I wished I’d had.”
“The Great Peace: A Memoir” is set to be released on July 27.
The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline — 800.656.HOPE (4673) — provides free, 24/7 support for those in need.
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