The women of One Tree Hill have accused creator and showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment in the wake of staff writer Audrey Wauchope's harrowing allegations against her former TV boss. In a series of tweets, Wauchope said she and the other female writers on staff — whom she said were often hired based solely on their looks — were often subjected to frequent and unwelcome touching by Schwahn.
"He'd just squeeze his disgusting body in between us and put his arms around us, grinning," she tweeted. "He pet hair. He massaged shoulders." Though she did not name Schwahn in her tweets, members of the One Tree Hill cast quickly rallied around her in support.
On Monday (November 13), Wauchope's writing partner Rachel Specter tweeted her support for the women of OTH who "endured endless sexual harassment" from Schwahn.
So far, 18 women who worked on the long-running teen drama — including principal cast members Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz — have come forward to not only publicly support Wauchope but also to shed light on Schwahn's behavior, which they claim was an "open secret" on set.
In a candid letter published by Variety on Monday, the women allege that many of them were were "manipulated psychologically and emotionally" by the showrunner.
"More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress," the letter read. "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."
Bush, who starred as Brooke Davis in all eight seasons of One Tree Hill, has been in fierce support of her fellow cast members on social media, tweeting, "It's time, sisters. I am so proud to call these women my family. You cannot imagine."
Her onscreen BFF Burton added, "I have been angry for a decade. Today, my sisters take back what was rightfully ours."
Burton left the series at the end of Season 6 with costar Chad Michael Murray. At the time, her departure was a shock to fans of her angst-ridden character Peyton Sawyer, but in recent days Burton has since implied that she left the series because of Schwahn. On Monday, she retweeted a fan who had posted her 2009 goodbye video with the message, "The first time I watched this video, I cried my heart out. She left a character that meant so much to her (for us). Now we know why."
Since the letter was published, more women (and men) who worked on the One Tree Hill set have tweeted messages of support and solidarity, condemning the toxic atmosphere that Schwahn created for women on their set.
In a statement to EW, Murray said he was "so dang proud" of the "incredible" women of OTH who have continued to "lead [and] change the atmosphere of society" since the show wrapped in 2012.
"The women of OTH have always been strong and incredible. Today they've made us all even more proud by standing as a beacon of what is right, and continuing to lead & change the atmosphere of society. This affects all avenues of life, from our day to day activities in passing to each and every single work place. Respect and love must lead the way.
A new frontier has arrived & it's an honor to see all women stand up to the opposition that has caused so much pain. Equal rights & equal treatment isn’t an option, it is mandatory. Equality, safety and respect for all is the goal.
I stand with all the those who have suffered & pray that this evil will meet its demise in the strength of this movement. OTH Women — I'm so dang proud of you."
Once a Raven, always a Raven.