Courtney Stodden, who first made headlines in 2011 when they married The Green Mile actor Doug Hutchison, is now opening up about the abuse they experienced at the hands of their ex-husband and from the media. At the time of their marriage, Hutchinson was 50 and Stodden was just 16, but given legal consent to marry him by their mother. Not much has been reported about Stodden in the last five years, but the former teen star delves deep into the traumatic effects that grooming and bullying have had in their life in a recent Daily Beast interview.
Branded a teen bride, Stodden experienced widespread ridicule after marrying Hutchison. Anderson Cooper reportedly compared them to a stripper on CNN and Dr Drew even examined their breasts with an ultrasound device in front of a live studio audience — while they were still a minor — to determine if they had any cosmetic work done. Stodden's divorce from Hutchison was finalised last year. But in the wake of the viral documentary Framing Britney Spears, which captured the cruelty Spears was treated with in the 2000s, the media's treatment of Stodden — while they were married to an abusive man who was decades older than them as a child — is now under the microscope.
"It took me a really long time to understand what 'grooming' even meant," Stodden told The Daily Beast. "But as I grew into a woman, I started realizing what happened to me... I was over the relationship and wanted to move on, but when he left, I was terrified to be on my own. I didn't know how to be on my own. I still don't have a license. I depended so much on him and he knew that, so when he left it was almost a manipulative way of going, 'Okay, let’s see if you can survive without me here.'" And Stodden has, but not without their share of difficulties.
Stodden recalls severe verbal abuse and gaslighting at the hands of Hutchison, realising years later just how much of a "master groomer" he was. "He told me everything a young girl would want to hear from somebody she's craving love from, and when I got married to him, he changed. And he knew he had me right where he wanted me," they said.
And while being groomed, the media treated Stodden as the punchline — at best. "I have a lot of trauma from that entire chapter in my life," they said. "And that's the time where you're developing — your brain's developing, you're becoming a woman. And as I'm forming, I am being mocked, overtly sexualized, abused — not only in my home, but internationally — and it really did a number on my self-confidence and my sense of worthiness, which I struggle with today."
Stodden's story recalls the experiences of many other teen stars. Recently, the media has been forced to reckon with its treatment of young celebs in the early-2000s, including Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan. While still underage, they were put in positions where they were pressured to be both hypersexual and role models for young girls; to be worldly, yet naive; to embody conflicting ends of a patriarchal spectrum that forgets that they're children, but is simultaneously dismissive if they stand up for themselves. Only now is this culture of manipulation being thoroughly reexamined and seen for what it truly is. And while Stodden may have come forward, they still don't feel like they're out of the woods.
"I still feel like I'm stuck. Even though I'm out of that relationship, I still feel heavy," they explained. "I don't feel light. I don't feel like things are so much better. I hope that eventually I'll be able to find genuine happiness and shed the traumas of my past, but I just feel very pessimistic."