Ashton Kutcher Mila Kunis

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ backlash is a reminder – ‘good friends’ can be rapists too

‘Oh, he’s lovely, he would never do that’

Attention hasn’t been on disgraced That ’70s Show star Danny Masterson or the pain of his victims since he was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for the violent rape of two women on Thursday. Instead, backlash and judgement has surrounded his former co-stars Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis – who wrote character letters to Judge Charlaine Olmedo claiming Danny to be “an outstanding role model and friend” and an “exceptional older brother figure”, following the accusations. This was their opinion and experience of him. And they stuck to it.

“Danny is a person that is consistently there for you when you need him,” Ashton wrote. “We’ve travelled around the world together, raised our daughters together, and shared countless family moments. Not only is he a good friend to me, I’ve witnessed him to be a good friend to others and the kind of brother others would be lucky to have,” he said. “Danny’s role as a husband and father to his daughter has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Mila echoed. “He demonstrates grace and empathy in every situation.”

But a person – as seems to have been forgotten here – can be an extraordinary father, a supportive colleague, and a loyal and committed friend— and still be a rapist. Just because someone has been all of those wonderful things to you, doesn’t mean he hasn’t committed life-altering sexual violence against others. It’s possible to hide monstrous parts of yourself from public view.

In both Ashton and Mila’s character letters for Danny they whole-heartedly celebrated the way he’d promoted a “drug-free lifestyle” to them both. “I attribute not falling into the typical Hollywood life of drugs directly to Danny,” wrote Ashton. “Any time that we were to meet someone or interact with someone who was on drugs, or did drugs, he made it clear that that wouldn’t be a good person to be friends with,” he added. “One of the most remarkable aspects of Danny’s character is his unwavering commitment to discouraging the use of drugs,” Mila similarly claimed. “His dedication to avoiding all substances has inspired not only me but also countless others in our circle,” she said.

Yet during Danny’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson outlined how Danny had drugged women’s drinks so he could rape them: “The defendant drugs his victims to gain control,” she said. “He does this to take away his victims’ ability to consent. You don’t want to have sex? You don’t have a choice. The defendant makes that choice for these victims. And he does it over and over and over again.” These women – glaringly – did not have the same experience as Ashton and Mila with Danny.

As one person on Twitter wrote: “This happens a lot: a woman says, ‘I’ve experienced this man’s terrible behaviour’ and his friends, who’ve only ever seen his charming side, say, ‘oh, he’s lovely, he would never do that’ All. The. Time.” Importantly, “believe women” doesn’t mean believe women when it makes sense, you’re comfortable, and the accusation is about someone you didn’t really like anyway. “Believe women” means taking the victim’s word— even when they’re our friend. Even when it seems unfathomable.

Fundamentally, 1.9million people (7.7 per cent women and 0.2 per cent men) were victims of rape in the last year on record, according the Office for National Statistics. We wouldn’t have so many victims of sexual violence if only obviously evil and twisted men were committing the crimes. Men you like do it too. Guys you’ve known since childhood. Father figures you look up to. Kind, caring, supportive members of your inner circle of friends. And until we acknowledge that painful reality and act accordingl— we’re not really supporting victims at all.

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Featured image credit via Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins