The disturbing reason Pauley Perrette left NCIS

She was one of the few remaining original cast members of NCIS, so when Pauley Perrette announced she was leaving the series in October 2017, fans of the long-running police procedural took it hard. The raven-haired actress had become part of the furniture over her decade-and-a-half stint as forensic scientist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto, once described by senior field agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) as "the happiest goth you'll ever meet." While that might have been true of her character, it turns out that Perrette wasn't happy at all.

Her departure seemed straightforward at first — a simple case of an actress growing tired of playing a role and wanting to move on to new projects. In a statement (via The Hollywood Reporter), CBS said Perrette was "a valued member of both NCIS and the CBS Family for over 15 years" and thanked her for "making Abby one of the most unique characters on TV."

In her own statement, Perrette claimed that there were no ill feelings involved, but we now know that wasn't the case. Let's take a look at the real reason she decided to quit NCIS.

Those fake skin care ads

Using Twitter as a tool to inform fans of your intentions isn't exactly unusual for an actor nowadays, but the fact that Perrette decided to do just that so far in advance of her final NCIS appearance raised a lot of eyebrows. She bowed out a full eight months after her initial tweet, leading many to assume that something was amiss behind the scenes. One of the stories that came out of the rumor mill was that the actress was dumping the show so she could concentrate on her own line of skin care products, something she vehemently denied.

This all came about after an advertisement disguised as a news article claimed Perrette was endorsing a revolutionary new anti-aging cream. "It's a fake company," she told Inside Edition. "It's a scam. I have people — hundreds and hundreds of people — asking questions about why I would pick a skin care line over my job. People are getting scammed and no one can catch these people." 

As the rumors persisted, the actress was forced to take to Twitter to combat those skincare rumors. "I'm leaving, but that's not why," she tweeted, initially leaving it at that, but then gradually hinting at something darker going on behind the scenes…

She refused to 'go low'

Just days after her NCIS character said an emotional farewell to her long-time colleagues in May 2018, Perrette unleashed a series of increasingly disturbing tweets that finally started to shed some light on the situation. After reading articles that falsely identified her reasons for exiting the show, the actress decided it was time to stop holding her tongue and speak out.

Perrette (who appeared in a whopping 352 episodes of NCIS) revealed that she had kept quiet out of a sense of loyalty but found herself being pushed over the edge by inaccurate reports. "I refused to go low, that's why I've never told publicly what happened," she tweeted. "But there are tabloid articles out there that are telling total lies about me. If you believe them? Please leave me alone. You clearly don't know me. (Sorry guys, had to be said)." 

But there was plenty that Perrette still wasn't saying…

She wanted to 'protect her crew'

The conversation turned more serious in subsequent tweets, with Perrette alluding to a "crime" that had taken place. She wasn't forthcoming about the exact nature of said crime, saying she still had a lot of friends on the set of NCIS that she felt obligated to shield from trouble.

"Maybe I'm wrong for not 'spilling the beans,'" she tweeted. "Telling the story, THE TRUTH. I feel I have to protect my crew, jobs and so many people. But at what cost? I.don't know." She then attempted to explain the predicament that she had found herself in, but was seemingly stuck between a rock and hard place. "Just know, I'm trying to do the right thing, but maybe silence isn't the right thing about crime. I'm… Just… ?"

The 'machine' is keeping her quiet

Sadly, Pauley Perrette is just one of many women who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and assault since 2017. When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October of that year, countless females — both celebrities and regular citizens — began to open up about their own experiences of abuse at the hands of men in positions of power, something Perrette said she experienced for the first time in high school. 

"I never met THAT Harvey Weinstein, but I sure know him, in different shapes, sizes and names," she tweeted. "I lost my virginity in a rape when I was 15, by a football player. That's the 'power guy' in high school. And you know what I said? What I did? Nothing."

The #MeToo movement has emboldened those who've been victimized in the past, but to date, Perrette has not named her alleged abuser. One of her NCIS-related tweets included the words "he did it" but didn't say who "he" was. According to the actress, a "publicity machine" is working hard to keep her quiet. "A very rich, very powerful publicity 'machine'. No morals, no obligation to truth, and I'm just left here, reading the lies, trying to protect my crew. Trying to remain calm," she tweeted.

She claims to have suffered 'multiple physical assaults'

The fourth and final tweet that Perrette sent out on May 13, 2018, was the most disturbing of the lot because the actress compared her alleged high school ordeal to what had been happening to her in the workplace. The New Orleans-native claimed there had been "multiple physical assaults" against her during her time on NCIS and urged anyone who was going through a similar experience to tell somebody about it rather than let the bullies and abusers win.

"I've been supporting anti-bullying programs forever," she tweeted. "But now I KNOW because it was ME! If it's school or work, that you're required to go to? It's horrifying. I left. Multiple Physical Assaults. I REALLY get it now. Stay safe. Nothing is worth your safety. Tell someone." 

The actress took part in the CBS Cares campaign in 2017, dedicating her summer break from NCIS to spreading an anti-bullying message. "It's true that sticks and stones can break our bones, what's not true [is] that we can never be hurt by words," she said. "Use your words to build others up, not bring them down."

CBS sorta kinda responds

It took CBS bosses less than 48 hours to come up with a suitable response to Perrette's cryptic Twitter tirade, though the network's statement was just as vague as its former employee's allegations. CBS said the actress came forward with a "workplace concern" in 2017, but there was no direct mention of the bullying or the "multiple physical assaults" that Perrette alluded to online. "We took the matter seriously and worked with her to find a resolution. We are committed to a safe work environment on all our shows," a CBS spokesperson said (via Entertainment Tonight).

The network added, "Pauley Perrette had a terrific run on NCIS and we are all going to miss her." The following day, Perrette responded in kind. "I want to thank my studio and network CBS," she tweeted. "They have always been so good to me and always had my back."

Did she get her ex-husband fired from the show?

In 2000, Perrette married Francis "Coyote" Shivers, best known for his role in coming-of-age cult classic Empire Records. The couple separated in 2004 and finalized its divorce in 2006, but moving on hasn't been easy for either party. According to the Daily Mail, Shivers believes Perrette secretly had him fired from the NCIS music department, though he's never been able to prove it. The pair have been locked in a nasty legal battle since the split, with both exes claiming to have been tormented by the other.

"He uses Family Court as his arena to harass women," Perrette told Fox News. She claims that a judge gave her no choice but to leave her Hollywood home. "Because of my fear of him, I left. I grabbed my two dogs, my cat and my laptop and I ran." Shivers has been accused of some truly horrendous sexual crimes by former partners, though he has always insisted that Perrette and his other exes are out to get him.

This theory has been backed up by Lisa Lynch, a former friend of Perrette. "I recall her stealing the cat of her ex-boyfriend," court papers obtained by the New York Post quote Lynch as saying. "Then when he wanted to take her to court about this, [she] filled out the paperwork for a restraining order in retaliation." 

Shivers was jailed for nine months in 2015 after violating the terms of the restraining order Perrette took out against him.

These aren't the first allegations she's made

Pauley Perrette has accused multiple men of assault over the years. In addition to her ex-husband and the high school football player, there was also an incident involving a supposedly homeless man named David Merck.

In 2015, Perrette posted a lengthy letter to Twitter describing how she had been attacked by the "very psychotic" Merck as she was walking down her street minding her own business. "He grabbed me so forcefully, pinned my arm, punched me in the nose [and] forehead repeatedly telling me he was going to kill me," she said. "I was alone, terrified and trapped. There was an empty garage behind me and I knew if he got me in there I was dead. I knew I couldn't over come [sic] him. I prayed my heart out."

Merck was arrested and sent to a psychiatric institution. He was released in February 2018, prompting Perrette to warn her neighbors. "I'm afraid the next word I hear about this guy is that he's killed a female," she told Fox 11, adding that she was now "afraid to go out."