Following widespread criticism for their letters in support of Danny Masterson ahead of his sentencing for rape, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have stepped down from their positions at Thorn, the anti-child-sex-abuse organization Kutcher co-founded in 2009.
Kutcher served as chairman of the board at the organization, which he co-founded with ex-wife Demi Moore, while his now-wife Kunis was an observer on the board.
"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 said in a statement shared with Time. "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."
"I cannot allow my error in judgment to distract from our efforts and the children we serve," Kutcher wrote. "As you know, I have worked for 15 years to fight for people who are sexually exploited. 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. This is precisely what we have all worked to reverse over the last decade."
Todd Williamson/Getty Images Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis
Kutcher and Kunis were heavily criticized for writing character letters for their That '70s Show costar Danny Masterson, who was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison after being convicted on two counts of rape. Many argued that the actors' support for Masterson contradicted the mission of their organization, which uses seeks to defend children from sexual abuse by removing Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) from the internet.
"We would not be the Thorn that we are today without Ashton's contributions," the organization said in a statement on its website. "He has played a significant role in the impact we have made, and we are grateful for his participation over the last 15 years."
The actors' letters first circulated last week on legal reporter Meghann Cuniff's blog. "As a friend, Danny has been nothing but a positive influence on me," Kutcher wrote. "While I'm aware that the judgement has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice, I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing."
Meanwhile, Kunis' letter described Masterson as "an amazing friend, confidant, and, above all, an outstanding older brother figure to me. She also wrote that "his caring nature and ability to offer guidance have been instrumental in my growth both personally and professionally."
The couple posted a video on Instagram Saturday acknowledging the controversy. "We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters that we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson," Kutcher said. "We support victims. We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future," Kunis said.
Kutcher clarified that the letters "were intended for the judge to read and not to undermine the testimony of the victims or re-traumatize them in any way. We would never want to do that. And we're sorry if that has taken place." At the end of the video, Kunis said, "Our heart goes out to every single person who's ever been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or rape."
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