Over the past few weeks, accusations of sexual harassment have been leveled against numerous powerful men in Hollywood.
But few allegations have been like this:
On Monday night, the female cast and many crew members from One Tree Hill came together to write an open letter that called out series creator Mark Schwahn for years of unchecked sexual misconduct.
The actresses were inspired to take this unusual step after writer Audrey Wauchope (who currently works on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) Tweeted on Saturday that she and a colleague were sexually harassed years ago during their time writing for an unnamed series.
Wauchope did not cite Schwahn by name in her barrage of Tweets, either.
But she did write the following:
“Female writers would try to get the spot where the showrunner wouldn’t sit as to not be touched. Often men would help out by sitting next to him, thus protecting the women.
“Sometimes we wouldn’t luck out and he’d just squeeze his disgusting body in between us and put his arms around us, grinning.
“He pet hair. He massaged shoulders. I know he did more but not to me so they’re not my stories to share.”
Wauchope went on to say that the showrunner passed around naked photos of an actress he had slept with, unbeknownst to the actress, and that he tried talking a writer out of getting married because he wanted a chance to have sex with her.
It’s now clear that Wauchope was referring to Mark Schwahn.
In a joint statement – signed by One Tree Hill stars such as Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton and Bethany Joy Lenz – the female cast members of this former CW hit backed up Wauchope’s claims and alleged Schwahn manipulated many of them “psychologically and emotionally.”
Here is what the powerful letter says:
All of the female cast members of One Tree Hill have chosen this forum to stand together in support of Audrey Wauchope and one another.
To use terminology that has become familiar as the systemic reality of sexual harassment and assault has come more and more to light, Mark Schwahn’s behavior over the duration of the filming of One Tree Hill was something of an “open secret.”
Many of us were, to varying degrees, manipulated psychologically and emotionally. More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress.
Many of us were put in uncomfortable positions and had to swiftly learn to fight back, sometimes physically, because it was made clear to us that the supervisors in the room were not the protectors they were supposed to be.
Many of us were spoken to in ways that ran the spectrum from deeply upsetting, to traumatizing, to downright illegal. And a few of us were put in positions where we felt physically unsafe.
More than one woman on our show had her career trajectory threatened.
The through line in all of this was, and still is, our unwavering support of and faith in one another. We confided in each other.
We set up safe spaces to talk about his behavior and how to handle it. To warn new women who joined our ranks.
We understood that a lot of it was orchestrated in ways that kept it out of sight for the studio back home. We also understood that no one was fully unaware.
The lack of action that has been routine, the turning of the other cheek, is intolerable.
We collectively want to echo the calls of women everywhere that vehemently demand change, in all industries.
Many of us were told, during filming, that coming forward to talk about this culture would result in our show being canceled and hundreds of lovely, qualified, hard-working, and talented people losing their jobs.
This is not an appropriate amount of pressure to put on young girls.
Many of us since have stayed silent publicly but had very open channels of communication in our friend group and in our industry, because we want Tree Hill to remain the place “where everything’s better and everything’s safe” for our fans; some of whom have said that the show quite literally saved their lives.
But the reality is, no space is safe when it has an underlying and infectious cancer. We have worked at taking our power back, making the conventions our own, and relishing in the good memories.
But there is more work to be done.
And it concludes:
We are all deeply grateful for Audrey’s courage. For one another. And for every male cast mate and crew member who has reached out to our group of women to offer their support these last few days.
They echo the greater rallying cry that must lead us to change: Believe Women. We are all in this together.
The message is signed “With Love and Courage” by:
- Sophia Bush
- Hilarie Burton
- Bethany Joy Lenz
- Danneel Harris
- Michaela McManus
- Kate Voegele
- Daphne Zuniga
- India de Beaufort
- Bevin Prince
- Jana Kramer
- Shantel Van Santen
- Allison Munn
It is also signed by the “Brave Crew And All the rest of the Women We Worked With Who Are Finding Their Voices as We Speak.”
Schwahn currently runs The Royals on E!.
In a statement Monday, the network said it is “monitoring the information carefully” and is “committed to providing a safe working environment in which everyone is treated respectfully and professionally.”