An open letter to Mark Schwahn in the wake of the sexual harassment accusations against him

Dear Mark,

I’m sure you’re having a tough time right now in the wake of the sexual harassment that has been alleged against you these past couple of weeks. And I’m glad. In fact, I hope that you’re nervous, regretful, and questioning yourself right now. I hope you feel tortured about the harm that you have caused so many of the women you have worked with. But most of all, I hope you are overwhelmed with guilt. Because that’s a feeling that I’ve been plagued with since this news broke. I feel guilty for idolizing and supporting a man who would stoop so low as to endanger the lives and careers of the women around him for a stroke to his ego. And I feel sick that your wrong doings taints a legacy of a show that has been so important to me and so many other individuals around the world.

I first fell in love with One Tree Hill when I was 15 years old. It was already a few seasons into its run, so I coveted DVDs of past episodes that I would rent from Blockbuster. I spent time with each disc – watching episodes multiple times and taking in special features with amazement. While the show itself made me feel more understood as a confused teenager, it was the special features – the behind the scenes videos, interviews, and commentaries – that made a substantial impact on my life. I had previously been overwhelmed by the prospects of my future and had no direction in which to push myself toward. But suddenly, in these featurettes, I saw careers that excited me, motivated me, and gave me a passion for something. I found the fire inside of me.

I wanted to be you. I was inspired by the idea of being able to create something that would resonate with others in the same way it did for me. I wanted to make creative choices and write characters that made people aspire to be better in some way. And ultimately, I wanted to be able to work as a team with people who were just as passionate about it as I was. Opportunities you squandered.

I followed this dream, and I continued watching One Tree Hill as I did it. I watched the series finale in a tiny apartment in New York City, and I cried through most of the episode. Less because the show was finally coming to an end, and more because it gave me a chance to reflect on how far I had come since watching those DVDs in my childhood bedroom. I crossed the stage at my college graduation with a film degree and a One Tree Hill quote on my graduation cap. It’s a line that Nathan says to Jamie in Season 8 in reference to a choice he makes to take a more difficult path – “Sometimes the hardest things are the most rewarding.” I was taking a moment to bask in the reward of the hard work I had put in. I was proud of the show that had done so much to get me there. It felt significant. It had become a part of who I was.

I work in the TV industry now. I’m not quite where I want to be, but I get another step closer every day. I’ve dealt with difficult situations because of my gender in the workplace, and I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with other females in this industry who are trudging the same path. So I feel this even more strongly toward the women who were a part of One Tree Hill, as they had such a large part in shaping my career goals. I feel such a connection to them that I can surely do without you.

You do not own One Tree Hill. It belongs to your adversaries now. All of us who are willing to stand against you in defense of the women you have mistreated and betrayed. It belongs to Audrey Wauchope, Rachel Specter, Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, Danneel Harris, Michaela McManus, Kate Voegele, Daphne Zuniga, India DeBeaufort, Bevin Prince, Jana Kramer, Shantel Van Santen, Allison Munn, Jane Beck, Tarin Squillante, Cristy Koebley, and JoJo Stephens. It belongs to the men who attempted to protect the women in the writers’ room from you. It belongs to every fan (of the show’s largely female fan base) that has supported the show and made your career possible. One Tree Hill no longer belongs to you. But your mistakes do. And it’s time for you to own them.

You had my dream. In my eyes you had the ultimate prize. And despite the treacherous position you’ve found yourself in, I’ve been inspired by you one last time. Inspired to one day be the kind of leader that you were not. To stand by other women to help them succeed, and to stand up to the men who put roadblocks in front of me because of my gender. To find my voice in a new way; not just on the page, but in my career for the betterment of my life. Your fall from grace will be the result of your overwhelming confidence that you deserved to act this way. And now the women you’ve harmed deserve to find the confidence to ruin you. So I will stand in solidarity with them now. Because it was them all along. It's always been them. Their art mattered. It’s what got me here.

Sincerely and without regret,

Hayley Goldstein