That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson made headlines once again as a verdict was reached in his retrial for sexual assault. In May, a jury found Masterson guilty of two counts of forcible rape after a week of deliberations. With sentencing slated for Sept. 7, he faces up to 30 years in prison. While coverage has included discussion over Masterson’s denial of any wrongdoing, advocacy groups, including the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), have come forward heralding the bravery and inspiration of the survivors.
After hearing the court’s verdict, RAINN President Scott Berkowitz spoke on behalf of the organization. “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,” said Berkowitz. He also discussed the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s decision not to charge The Social Network actor Armie Hammer on allegations of sexual assault, with prosecutors citing “insufficient evidence.” Berkowitz stated, “While we acknowledge the decision to not charge Hammer, we deeply appreciate the courage it took to come forward with these allegations and participate in such a long investigation.”
According to RAINN, 66% of sexual assaults go unreported, citing reasons from fear of recurrence and retaliation to wanting to protect the perpetrator. However, stories like Masterson’s can shed light on the growing number of Americans who suffer at the hand of abusers.
‘Relief, Exhaustion, Strength, Sadness’
Masterson’s case continues to draw interest from the general public as most identify him with his television acting career. The ruling convicted him of sexually assaulting women known as Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2 in his Hollywood Hills, California, home. The jury was deadlocked on the matter of Jane Doe No. 3.
Following the ruling, Masterson’s survivors stepped forward to share their feelings about the jury’s decision. “I am experiencing a complex array of emotions — relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness — knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior,” said Jane Doe No. 1. Jane Doe No. 1 and her fellow plaintiffs aren’t alone in their feelings. Emotions of grief, fear, and depression are common responses to sexual assault trauma, making it critical that victims seek support and counseling to help them cope for the long term. RAINN specializes in providing confidential, 24/7 resources for survivors and their loved ones, encouraging survivors nationwide to come forward without blame for their experiences.
Another common factor in sexual assault trama is shame, which can be a barrier to reporting.
“One continuing challenge is that the vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported,” said RAINN President Scott Berkowitz. “That’s one of the things that makes high-profile cases like this so important: being able to have a positive outcome when other survivors come forward will hopefully lead to less shame and less self-blame. I’m hopeful that, over time, this will lead to a higher reporting rate and to a better law enforcement response when it is reported.”
RAINN: Continuing To Empower Survivors
Media coverage of high-profile sexual assault cases like Masterson’s have a tendency to hit a nerve with members of the public who have been assaulted themselves but hesitate to come forward. Notably, coverage of the Harvey Weinstein allegations in 2017 caused a 21% increase in calls to RAINN at the time. Following the verdict in actor Johnny Depp’s 2022 sexual abuse case, RAINN provided help to 35% more people, attributing the news coverage to the spike in calls. Scott Berkowitz’s RAINN team sees these influxes as an opportunity to help those in need as they become empowered to come forward. “[We] are encouraged that our work with the media continues to empower survivors of sexual violence to seek the help that they need to heal,” said Erinn Robinson, RAINN’s press secretary on the heels of the broadcast of Lifetime’s R. Kelly documentary. The television event also produced a 40% increase in calls to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline number (800-656-4673).
RAINN has aided sexual assault victims since 1994, but Berkowitz cites public conversation and network willingness to make resources more broadly available through awareness campaigns as a game changer for providing help. As networks include RAINN public service announcements during prime-time television slots, more survivors experience the confidence they need to come forward. “MeToo put millions of faces on the problem. It drove a national conversation, but I think even more importantly, it drove millions more private conversations,” explained Berkowitz. And as Danny Masterson’s sentencing approaches, RAINN remains stalwart in its promise to provide the support survivors need to seek healing and justice.