Mena Suvari Opens up About Childhood Sexual Abuse, Meth Use

Mena Suvari has more details to share about her life than just her strange experience with Kevin Spacey on the set of American Beauty in her new memoir, The Great Peace: A Memoir. In an interview with PEOPLE to promote the book, Suvari, 42, discussed her struggles with drug addiction and childhood sexual abuse. In the book, Suvari said she was the victim of "repeated sexual abuse" between the ages of 12 and 20.

Suvari was introduced to methamphetamine on vacation when she was a teenager, she told PEOPLE. "How it blew my mind," she said. "And then I believed that I would never encounter it again. But when I came back to L.A., I ended up meeting a group of friends that one of my girlfriends had been hanging out with, and there it was again."

The American Pie star thought she was "just over managing" her addiction when she used meth again. The experience "took me down a very dark path," she said. She was "just trying to survive" at this point after she was raped by a friend of her older brother's when she was in sixth grade. "When my family split apart, I ended up hanging out more and more, just going out," Suvari said. "And [the] rave scene, and we'd do all of those things. And so I tried anything. Mescaline. I mean whatever."

Before Suvari turned 17, she met a man she refers to as "Tyler," who sexually and emotionally abused her during their relationship. Tyler, whom she was with for three years, did not like meth, but he used other drugs. Although he was abusive, his distaste for meth was a "gift of at least getting that drug out of my life."

However, she was still exposed to other drugs and had the "opportunity" to try other drugs. "You know, acid, and ecstasy and things like this. And that time with him was so devastatingly dark that I needed those things," she told PEOPLE. "But then, you know, my work, that opportunity, that art that saved my life, that was the healthy addiction that I needed to replace it with."

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The actress found an escape through her film work. She called making American Beauty a "beautiful experience" that gave her a chance to "express me right when I needed I to save me." At that point though, she felt like she was living a double life, "desperately trying to heal." She eventually split with Tyler and stopped using drugs. Therapy and her friends helped her realize she deserved a better life.

Elsewhere in The Great Peace, Suvari wrote about being raped a month before she turned 13. "Between the ages of twelve and twenty, I was the victim of repeated sexual abuse," she wrote. She also revealed that a manager she worked with when she was 15 wanted to have a sexual relationship with her.
Thankfully, Suvari has found peace today. She is married to Mike Hope, whom she met while making Hallmark's I'll Be Home for Christmas in 2016. They married in 2018 and welcomed their son Christopher in April 2021. "This is my truth. This is my voice," she told PEOPLE. "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."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.