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Hilarie Burton Finds Freedom in Speaking Up About ‘One Tree Hill’ Abuse

Hilarie Burton, known for her role as Peyton Sawyer on the hit teen drama “One Tree Hill,” recently opened up about the alleged abuse she and other cast members endured on the show’s set. Speaking at the Tribeca Festival premiere of “The Walking Dead: Dead City,” Burton expressed how speaking out against the abuse was a liberating experience. Alongside her co-stars Sophia Bush and Bethany Joy Lenz, Burton accused the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, of sexual harassment in 2017. The actresses shed light on the psychological and emotional manipulation they endured, highlighting the importance of honesty and finding one’s voice.

Finding Freedom in Honesty

For Hilarie Burton, speaking out about the abuse she experienced on the set of “One Tree Hill” was an empowering and liberating act. Reflecting on her decision to come forward, Burton emphasized the age-old lesson that honesty is the path to personal freedom. She acknowledged that when she was younger, she believed keeping quiet was a way to protect those she cared about. However, she learned that speaking up and sharing her truth had a far greater impact.

Allegations Against Mark Schwahn

In 2017, Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz, and 17 other women who worked on “One Tree Hill” accused creator Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment. In a letter, they detailed the disturbing behavior they experienced, which led some of them to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The women revealed that they had been subjected to psychological and emotional manipulation, and some had even resorted to physical self-defense. Schwahn has not personally addressed the allegations made against him.

Consequences and Support

Following the allegations, the production companies involved with Schwahn’s subsequent show, “The Royals,” took action. They issued a statement acknowledging the accusations and stating that they were monitoring the situation closely. Schwahn was ultimately fired from the series, with Lionsgate TV confirming that he would not be returning. The support from the production companies validated the women’s claims and demonstrated the importance of addressing such misconduct.

Hilarie Burton’s Courage

Hilarie Burton has demonstrated courage not only in speaking out against the abuse on the set of “One Tree Hill” but also in confronting other instances of misconduct. When a video resurfaced showing Ben Affleck groping her during a past television appearance, Burton publicly addressed the incident, emphasizing that she had not forgotten what had happened. Her bravery in speaking up led to Affleck apologizing for his inappropriate behavior. Burton’s willingness to confront uncomfortable situations and advocate for herself serves as an inspiration to others.

Supporting Her Husband and Embracing Power

At the Tribeca Festival premiere, Hilarie Burton attended to support her husband, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who stars in “The Walking Dead” spinoff set in Manhattan. Sporting a striking mane of silver hair that she adopted during the pandemic, Burton expressed how her silver locks make her feel powerful. This physical change symbolizes her resilience and strength in the face of adversity.


Hilarie Burton’s decision to speak up about the alleged abuse on the set of “One Tree Hill” has been a transformative experience for her. By sharing her truth and shedding light on the misconduct, she has found personal liberation and empowered others to do the same. The support from her co-stars, the production companies involved, and her husband demonstrates the importance of standing against abuse and fostering an environment of accountability. Through her courage and advocacy, Burton continues to inspire others to find their voices and fight for justice in the face of adversity.

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