Mena Suvari was a rising star in the late ’90s, but behind her success, she quietly struggled with years of repeated sexual abuse, toxic relationships and an addiction to meth.
The 42-year-old actress wrote candidly about her tumultuous adolescence and the loss of her youth in her new memoir, The great peace, recalling how she was raped when she was 12 years old and then turned to drugs to deal with it.
‘I took drugs to numb myself from the pain,’ she wrote USA today. ‘Alcohol. Pot. Coke. crystal meth. Pickles. Ecstasy. mushrooms. mescaline. It was my way of breaking free from the hell of my existence – and surviving.”
Candid: Mena Suvari, 42, is candid about her addiction to meth as a teen actress in her new memoir, The Great Peace, which was published Tuesday
Trauma: Suvari (pictured in 1999) said she was raped by a friend of her brother’s at age 12 and sexually assaulted repeatedly. She turned to medicine to cope with the pain
Suvari explained that after her family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, her middle brother’s boyfriend, KJ, started taking an interest in her, despite being three years older and in high school.
“Nobody stopped him from being alone in my bedroom with me. Nobody warned me. No one asked when he became more my friend than my brother’s. No one asked what we were talking about or what we were doing together all day,” she wrote. “I was always left to my own devices.”
The America Beauty star said KJ wrote her love letters, called her daily, and often came to her house to see her, and gave her the attention she craved.
She explained how KJ first forced her to kiss him, which made her question her hesitation and insist that she was ready. This became a pattern as he pushed her sexual boundaries further.
Suvari said she and KJ were making out in his living room a month before her 13th birthday when he pulled out a condom. She was adamant that she didn’t want to lose her virginity, and he put it down and said, “Okay.”
Looking back: The actress (pictured in 1998) recalled the sniff lines in the school bathroom during breaks and how her “entire back broke in acne” from the meth
Secret: Despite her addiction, she said she managed to keep her grades up and continue her acting career without anyone getting the wiser
Then he convinced her to follow him to the secluded guest room above the garage. He took out the condom again, but this time he ignored her pleas to stop.
“I saw him put on the condom and felt my heart sink into a dark abyss. And just like at the dinner table at home, my voice disappeared,” she wrote. “No matter how many times I said, ‘No, I don’t want that,’ and begged him not to, he didn’t hear me.
“I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, KJ climbed off of me and went to the bathroom to take off the condom. I turned on my side, facing away from him, and cried. So deep. So full of shame and fear. So broken.’
Suvari said she convinced herself that KJ loved her and that everything was “normal.”
“I was never okay again because in that moment I became what I thought I had let happen to me,” she wrote.
KJ kept taking her to the guest room for sex, which probably caused her first cystitis.
Looking back, she wondered how her life might have been different if the doctor had asked her if she was having sex and if she was okay with it. Instead, she was given a prescription to treat the infection and birth control pills — without talking to her about what taking them meant.
Abuse: Suvari said the entire time she was filming American Beauty (pictured with Kevin Spacey) she submitted to her abusive boyfriend Tyler’s “demands for kinky threesomes”
Difficult to handle: Suvari (pictured in 2002) said she was “ready to be rescued every day,” but “it never happened”
Suvari expected KJ to do something special for her 13th birthday, but he didn’t even make an effort to see her. When she saw him the next day on Valentine’s Day, he gave her a CD and broke up with her.
She said KJ bragged about having sex with her and claimed he dumped her because he was “bored.” He also shamed her and called her a “whore.” While she was in a girls’ school at the time, her brother knew what KJ was telling people and not what to think.
After being raped, she got drunk for the first time and turned to drugs to cope with the shame and worthlessness she felt.
Suvari was still a teenager when she moved to Hollywood, where she claims she was abused again by a predatory manager in her mid-30s who had sex with her when she was 16.
As a college student in Burbank, California, she was addicted to meth and spent her days getting high.
“The hours I was in school were spent thinking about leaving school and writing a few lines,” she wrote in an excerpt published by cosmopolitan.
Family: Suvari married her third husband, Michael Hope, in October 2018. She found out she was pregnant with her son, Christopher, after she finished writing her memoir
Love: Suvari welcomed her son, Christopher, in April. She told ABC News she’s glad she didn’t commit suicide and ‘held on to him’
“I stayed up late at night, slept for a few hours, and then repeated the day. It wasn’t long before I took out my small, gold-lacquered, compact butterfly-embossed mirror and sniffed a line in the school bathroom during a break.’
Suvari said the meth made her “hyperconscious,” but also paranoid. The drug use eventually began to take a physical toll on her.
My whole back broke out with acne. I had always had perfect skin. I knew it was the meth,” she wrote. “And just like before with the birth control offered in exchange for no questions asked, I was given antibiotics to ‘get away’.”
Despite her addiction, she said she managed to keep up with her grades and continue her acting career without anyone being the wiser.
Memories: Suvari said she felt compelled to write her memoir after going through an old trash can and finding a suicide note she couldn’t remember writing
‘I stayed outside as much as possible. And stayed as much as I could,” she wrote. “I still did everything that was asked of me. School work. auditions. Sex. I just needed to know how fucked up I got every day.
“I thought I could and should suffer in silence. This was clearly my destiny. I prayed that someone would throw me a lifeline. I was ready to be rescued every day. It never happened.’
At age 17, she got into an abusive relationship with a man named Tyler, a 26-year-old lighting engineer whom she met at a rave. She recalled moving in with him and said he verbally abused her and forced her to have threesomes with women he took home.
It was Tyler who convinced her to stop abusing meth, so she smoked marijuana instead, another attempt to ease her suffering.
To the outside world, Suvari was the epitome of success. She became a breakthrough star after her breakthrough roles in the raunchy teen comedy American Pie and the Oscar-winning film American Beauty, both of which came out in 1999.
“The whole time I worked on ‘American Beauty’ I just kept grinding: working to perfect my part, submitting to Tyler’s demands for kinky threesomes at least three or four times a week, and pretending everything in was in order. Only it wasn’t,” she wrote.
It would be years before she would leave Tyler and she would continue to struggle with painful memories, drugs, financial problems and failed marriages. She credited acting with giving her a purpose and saving her life.
Suvari married her third husband, Michael Hope, in October 2018. She found out she was pregnant with her son, Christopher, after she finished writing her memoir. Her son was born in April of this year.
She explained in her author’s note that she felt compelled to write about her life after going through an old bin full of her teenage memories and finding a suicide note she couldn’t remember.
‘If I had done that’ [committed suicide] … I wouldn’t be where I am now and [Christopher] wouldn’t be here,” she said ABC news. “So I’m glad I persisted. I held for him.’