Ashton Kutcher is stepping down as chairman of the board of an anti-child-sex-abuse organization he co-founded, called Thorn, as he continues to face fallout and outrage for supporting rapist Danny Masterson.
“Victims of sexual abuse have been historically silenced and the character statement I submitted is yet another painful instance of questioning victims who are brave enough to share their experiences,” Kutcher wrote in a letter dated Thursday to Thorn’s board, which was shared on Thorn’s website as well as with TIME.
“After my wife and I spent several days of listening, personal reflection, learning, and conversations with survivors and the employees and leadership at Thorn, I have determined the responsible thing for me to do is resign as Chairman of the Board, effectively immediately,” Kutcher wrote. “I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve.”
Kutcher and Kunis made headlines late last week when it was revealed they wrote letters of support for Masterson, asking the presiding judge for leniency while determining sentencing for Masterson, who was found guilty of two counts of rape.
The co-stars, who are now married, were once main characters on That ’70s Show alongside Masterson. Their letters vouched for Masterson’s “exceptional character.”
“I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society,” Kutcher wrote, while Kunis described Masterson as an “outstanding role model and friend.”
Outrage over the letters ensued, prompting the couple to share a video to Instagram Sunday where Kutcher explained that Masterson’s family had asked them to write character letters detailing “the person that we knew for 25 years so that the judge could take that into full consideration relative to the sentencing.”
“The letters were not written to question the legitimacy of the judicial system or the validity of the jury’s ruling,” Kunis said.
The couple were just two of a reported 50 people who wrote letters of support to Judge Charlaine Olmeda.
However, the letters didn’t appear to do much to sway the judge’s mind, and Masterson was sentenced to 30 years to life behind bars.
And while Kunis and Kutcher have both been subject to much scorn and vitriol – including very public draggings from several fellow celebrities – Kutcher’s come under additional scrutiny for his advocacy in the anti-child-sex-trafficking space.
“The mission must always be the priority and I want to offer my heartfelt apology to all victims of sexual violence and everyone at Thorn who I hurt by what I did,” Kutcher wrote to Thorn’s board. “And to the broader advocacy community, I am deeply sorry. I remain proud of what we have accomplished in the past decade and will continue to support Thorn’s work. Thank you for your tireless advocacy and dedication to this cause.”
Thorn was founded in 2009 by Kutcher and his then-wife, Demi Moore, under the name DNA Foundation. Thorn develops tools and technology to help tech companies remove child sex abuse material from online spaces, as well as assist law enforcement in identifying victims.
“Ashton founded Thorn over a decade ago with one goal in mind: to protect children from sexual abuse and give them the childhood they deserve,” Suzanne Bell, a board member at Thorn, said in a statement.
“His unwavering dedication and commitment to Thorn throughout its journey have enabled the organization to become the leader that it is in the child safety ecosystem. It has been my privilege to join him on this mission.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.