'Brave' By Rose McGowan Details Her Sexual Assault & 10 Other Painful Revelations
One of the most highly anticipated books of the year, Rose McGowan's memoir Brave is a haunting, searing examination of rape culture in Hollywood and the myriad ways — some subtle, others not so much — that bad men are protected and enabled by systems of power.
In the memoir, out Jan. 30 from HarperOne, she shares the horrifying details of her own alleged assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein for the first time, and paints a picture of female stardom as a road rife with sexism, assault, trauma, and trepidation. It's a terrifying read, but a necessary one, too, and in many ways, it feels like the fierce reclamation of power that Rose McGowan has so long fought for in the public and private eye.
"Very few sex symbols escape Hollywood with their minds intact, if they manage to stay alive at all," she writes in the introduction of the book. "The streets of Hollywood are paved over the bodies of the vulnerable, the f*cked with, the lied to, and the hurt. I know, I was almost one of them. You may think that what happens in Hollywood doesn't affect you. You're wrong. My darlings, who do you think is curating your reality? Who is showing you who you want to be?"
The book is a true testament to the bravery of the women leading the charges of the #MeToo movement. Here are a few of the must-read moments from Brave:
She Describes The Night Of Her Sexual Assault In Detail For The First Time
In the memoir, Rose McGowan writes about the actual details of the alleged sexual assault by a man she refers to as "The Monster" and "The Studio Head" — believed to be Harvey Weinstein — for the first time.
She details how she was "summoned" to meet a man she calls The Monster or The Studio Head at a hotel in Park City, Utah — the site of the Sundance Film Festival — in 1997. She learned that the scheduled breakfast meeting had been relocated to his hotel room. "I was certain we would be working together for many years to come, and we were here to plot out the grand arc of my career," she writes. "That's how my manager had framed this very significant meeting."
Here's what she says happened: When she walked into the hotel room, she claims that The Studio Head asked about the kinds of projects she wanted to do. Then, "apropos of nothing," he told her he had a Jacuzzi in his hotel room, which she "thought was tacky." After the meeting wrapped at about 10:30 a.m., he offered to walk her out, but stopped her as she walked to the door, and pushed her into the room with the Jacuzzi. "Everything at this point happens so quickly, and yet so slowly," she writes.
He then allegedly maneuvered her body so she was seated on the edge of the Jacuzzi and performed nonconsensual oral sex on her while he masturbated. "I did what so many who experience trauma do, I disassociated and left my body. I went up above myself," she writes. She faked an orgasm, which she says satisfied him and kept him from continuing.
"He moans loudly. Through my tears I see his semen floating on top of the bubbles," she writes. She picks up her clothes and stumbles outside of the hotel in a "state of shock."
She Told Ben Affleck Immediately Following The Alleged Assault
Immediately after the alleged assault, Rose McGowan reported to an MTV photo-call with Ben Affleck, her co-star in the movie Phantoms. She writes that she was visibly shaken and her eyes were filled with tears. When she told Affleck where she had just come from, he allegedly said: "G*dd*mn it. I told him to stop doing that."
Later, she writes, "That comment has haunted me. How f*cked up that everyone shook their heads and just looked the other way."
This isn't the first time McGowan has recalled this particular moment with Affleck. In an interview on Today in December, Samantha Guthrie asked the actor if it was true that he had been informed about McGowan's alleged assault after the incident. "I don't want to get into other people's individual stories. Those are their stories and they're entitled to tell as much or as little of those. I believe Rose. I support her. I like and admire her tenacity and I wish her the best,'" he said.
UPDATE: In a statement to Bustle, Ben Brafman, Harvey Weinstein's attorney, said the following: "As a general matter, Harvey Weinstein and his attorneys have refrained from publicly criticizing any of the women who have made allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Weinstein despite a wealth of evidence that would demonstrate the patent falsity of these claims. Watching the "performance" by Rose McGowan as she looks to promote her new book however, has made it impossible to remain quiet as she tries to smear Mr. Weinstein with a bold lie that is denied not only by Mr. Weinstein himself, but by at least two witnesses, including Ms. McGowan's own Manager at the time who Ms. McGowan claims to have confided in the day after the alleged assault and an A-list actor Ben Affleck who Ms. McGowan claims to have also told about her encounter with Mr. Weinstein shortly after the incident she now describes as "rape", but which in 1997 she described to her Manager as a "consensual" act of sex.
In an email to Mr. Weinstein regarding the encounter, Jill Messick says the following, “When we met up the following day, she hesitantly told me of her own accord that during the meeting that night before she had gotten into a hot tub with Mr. Weinstein. She was very clear about the fact that getting into that hot tub was something that she did consensually and that in hindsight it was also something that she regretted having done.”
Ben Affleck expressed the following in an email to Mr. Weinstein, “She never told me nor did I ever infer that she was attacked by anyone. Any accounts to the contrary are false. I have no knowledge about anything Rose did or claimed to have done.”
She Later Learned "The Monster's" Behavior Was Widely Accepted In Hollywood
McGowan writes that during the period immediately following the alleged attack, she "couldn't stop crying" and that her manager counseled her to "see it as something that would help my career in the long run."
On another occasion, she called her management agency and spoke to a man she describes as "a powerful guy in town." When she told him what happened, he said, "G*dd*mn it. I just had an exposé about him killed in the LA Times; he owes it to me not to do this."
"Oh my God," she writes. "This man could have stopped this Monster from hurting me, but instead chose to do him a solid... my brain was stunned into silence. Who were these awful people?"
She Decided Not To Come Forward Publicly, So As Not To Become A "Pawn"
She decided not to come forward publicly, despite being urged to do so by a "big lawyer," because she "instinctively knew [she] would become a minor player in some kind of power game between two powerful men."
"I was not going to be used as a pawn by these people," she writes. "Even in my messed-up state, I refused to be a pawn. I didn't realize yet that I already was one."
Instead, she decided to "put him on notice that I was not okay with what he did." She told her attorney she wanted money for therapy and to donate to a rape crisis center, and her lawyer secured her $100,000. "The money felt dirty, anyway," she writes. "I largely gave it away. It brought me no solace."
Soon After The Assault, She Learned That She Had Been "Blacklisted"
She later learned that Weinstein was allegedly in the process of "blacklisting" her in Hollywood. "So many people heard about what had happened," she writes. "It had spread like wildfire.... it seemed like every creep in Hollywood knew about my most vulnerable and violated moment. And I was the one who was punished for it. It's like being assaulted over and over and over."
She Wore That Infamous "Naked" Dress For An Important Reason
It's impossible to forget the "naked" dress Rose McGowan wore to the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. With Marilyn Manson by her side, she strode down the runway in a sheer, backless, beaded dress. To her, the fashion statement was also a reclamation of her body in the wake of sexual assault.
"I thought, You know what? You want to objectify me? You want to see a body? This is what you want? All you media men, all you photographers, you vultures, this is what you want to see? I’ll show you a body.' And so I did... It was, of course, misinterpreted and sexualized, which was the exact opposite point I was trying to make," she writes.
She Alleges That Her Relationship With Director Robert Rodriguez Was Filled With Abuse
Rose McGowan claims that director Robert Rodriguez, her former lover, was manipulative and emotionally abusive. She writes of her recollection of the moment she met him at Cannes Film Festival. (She calls him RR in the book.) He told her that he was unhappily married and he allegedly promised to be her "savior in the film industry." But she says their passionate romance quickly turned sour.
"RR was wildly jealous, which at first, like most, I took as being flattering," she writes, later adding: "If he saw an old photo of me with any ex-boyfriend, or hear any reference to one of them, it would set him off into a rage where he'd do something utterly brilliant like throw his laptop out the window."
Later, he asks her to marry him. She doesn't want to, but "I said yes mostly because I didn't know how to say no. My main reaction was thinking I didn't want to hurt his feeling," she writes. But the relationship continued to be emotional abusive after she agreed to marry him, she claims.
In fact, while filming Planet Terror, Rodriguez allegedly became so jealous about McGowan's kissing scene with a fellow actor, Freddy Rodriguez, that he grew out his facial hair to match the character, banished everyone from the set on the day of the scene, and stood in for the actor during the make out scene. "All this effort, so Freddy wouldn't kiss me," she writes. "Of course, nobody said anything like, 'This is f*cking weird. What the f*ck is going on?'"
In another incident, she claims he worked her so hard during a scene she suffered nerve damage to her arm. She continued her shooting as scheduled, but ended up needing to get surgery. RR allegedly told her to pay for it out of pocket.
Some of these claims were previously reported in the February edition of Vanity Fair, and Rodriguez responded to the magazine article at the time. "It is deeply disappointing that the fact checkers at publishing house HarperOne did not reach out to me either," he said in a statement sent to USA Today by his representative, Eric Rose. "As a result, there are some key factual errors in the piece. These inaccuracies may appear to put me at odds with Rose, but I have no quarrel with her."
She Describes Her Experience Growing Up In The Children Of God Cult In Italy
Rose McGowan was raised in the Children of God cult in Italy, which she describes as fixated on perfection. She recounts how when she was 4 years old, a fellow cult member — a man with "shaggy blond hair" — sliced a razor blade across her hand because she had a wart on her thumb. "Perfection in all things," he told her. "Blood ran over my hand and I made a dripping mess of the hallway," she writes, adding, "like my hand, I was numb."
As she grew older, she grew increasingly incensed about the practices of the cult. She writes that the actions became "more and more dangerous," and recounts how the leader, Moses David, would make young women from the cult seduce men at bars so they would "wake up in the cult." David christened these women "Hookers for Jesus."
She writes that the cult was a "highly sexualized environment, run by men, to benefit men." According to McGowan, members of the cult began to molest children, which was the catalyst for her family leaving once and for all. "We couldn't just announce we were leaving and walk away, though," she writes. "When the cult got wind of certain members wanting to leave, one of their children might disappear, or some family would get severe punishment meted out to them, as a way of teaching the others."
Eventually, their father organized an escape for them and they fled to a small town in the Tuscany region of Italy. They later moved to the Pacific Northwest, but at age 15, she emancipated and moved to Los Angeles.
Long Before Her Alleged Sexual Assault, She Was Abused By Another Boyfriend
By this point, her parents were divorced and her mother lived in Los Angeles. "We were no longer legally bound to each other, and we felt like equals," she writes. They moved in together, and she writes that she was "truly happy" living with her. However, her mother continued to date men McGowan describes as "shysters, abusers, molesters."
Just six months into living with her mother, McGowan met a man named William, who was several years older than her. Her mother decided to leave Los Angeles with a "pathological liar" named Stewart, so McGowan moved in with William, whom she describes as a "spoiled brat." "He was the quintessential spoiled rich kid," she writes.
Shortly after she moved in, her boyfriend became abusive. She writes that he "kept her like a bird in a cage" and was "stupidly jealous." He also obsessed over her appearance and bought her copies of glossy magazines as "thinspiration" for her. She developed an eating disorder, and dropped to 92 pounds.
He once choked her and dragged her by the collar, which caused her to lose two toenails.
Her Ex-Boyfriend Was Murdered In A Crime That Remains Unsolved
While still living with William, she eventually began dating a club owner named Brett Cantor, whom she describes as "perceptive" and "kind."
"I started seeing flashes of the girl I really was and the woman I was going to become," she writes. "One day, I opened up to him about William and he was determined to help me get out of there."
She eventually concocts a plan to escape William's home — which succeeds — but after she gets away, she is unable to contact Brett. She learns that he's been murdered. "My blood ran cold and I remember nothing after that," she writes. "I found out later Brett was stabbed twenty-three times and almost decapitated. My world, my hope went black."
She Asks Men To Step Up To The Task Of Fixing A Culture Of Abuse
In the final chapter of the book, McGowan writes a call to action to all the people in Hollywood who have created a culture of abuse. In the end, she places the blame firmly on the shoulders of men. "To men in general: I think it's high time that you take a long look in the mirror. Your kind are the number one danger to women and children.... It is your responsibility to do the work. No one else is to blame, it is you who must break the cycle."