Disgraced actor and television star Danny Masterson was sentenced September 7, 2023, to 30 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting two women between 2001 and 2003. The trial, which wrapped up in May 2023, concluded with the jury finding Masterson guilty of two out of three counts of violent sexual assault. Considered a flight risk, Masterson had been held in custody until his September sentencing. The case and judgment proceedings were closely monitored by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN is dedicated to providing support to victims and their loved ones in the aftermath of sexual assault crimes.
The trial outcome will hopefully provide some level of closure and justice for his victims, who bravely came forward despite fears of retaliation, blame, and backlash. Adding pressure to the cases were references to Masterson’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology and his popularity throughout Hollywood, which pundits feared could create unjust protections for the actor. While members of their religious community, including family, have shunned them for coming forward and speaking out about what Masterson had done to them, the victims demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage and resolve throughout the proceedings, serving as an example to others who have experienced similar crimes.
Scott Berkowitz, RAINN president and founder, praised the victims for their bravery. “The victim impact statements were incredibly powerful and we applaud the strong sentence handed down by Judge [Charlaine F.] Olmedo. We are hopeful that today’s sentence sends a message that justice is possible and that our system can hold perpetrators, including those who are powerful in Hollywood, accountable.”
An Assault Every 68 Seconds
While Masterson is just one individual facing consequences for his crimes, the victims’ stories and serve as an example to the many other survivors of sexual violence across the country. According to RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, but 66% of these crimes go unreported. Victims often fear retaliation and recrimination from their communities, encouraging them to stay silent and suffer alone. Sharing victims’ stories, whether through the media as is the case with Masterson or through resources such as the RAINN Speakers Bureau, can be a means to remind victims that they are not alone and encourage them to reach out for help. RAINN believes that sharing these stories can also help others change how they perceive sexual assault crimes and their victims.
Masterson’s case was particularly challenging for the victims because they had to testify not once but twice. The initial trial, which took place in late 2022, ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a consensus. The result was a second trial in early 2023, where the victims once more took the stand to share their experiences. RAINN President Scott Berkowitz noted their courage after the verdict was handed down in May. “The three survivors involved in the case against Masterson demonstrated immense courage in going through a very difficult and public judicial process not once, but twice,” he said.
In addition to following the case and responding to media inquiries, RAINN played an important role in providing essential resources to victims and their loved ones. As often happens with prominent media stories involving sexual abuse or violence, survivors can become triggered by content that hits close to home with their own experiences. As such, calls to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673) tend to increase following broad exposure. This occurred in response to similar stories in the news regarding Harvey Weinstein, which caused a 21% increase in hotline calls, and Johnny Depp, whose case against Amber Heard increased hotline call volume by 35% the day of the verdict. “Until we’ve met our ultimate goal of ending sexual violence, RAINN’s free, confidential hotlines will be here 24/7, staffed by an incredible group of trained professionals and volunteers,” said Berkowitz.