On Thursday, Rossi, born Scottine Ross, filed a lawsuit accusing the actor of assault and battery, emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence.
Rossi, in her complaint, alleges that Sheen, 50, agreed to resolve the issue with a $1 million settlement but backed out of the deal after going public with his HIV on the Today show Nov. 17 – and vowing to no longer be “shaken down” by “extortionists” he claimed fleeced him out of $10 million. (Rossi says she is aware of people who blackmailed him.)
“I think that I released myself from this prison today,” Sheen told Matt Lauer.
In a sitdown interview with PEOPLE, Rossi reiterates her claim from the lawsuit that Sheen concealed his HIV status from and engaged in unprotected sex with her at the beginning of their relationship – but that’s not why she’s suing.
Her complaint describes an allegedly physically and emotionally abusive relationship, and she elaborates to PEOPLE that she felt like an isolated “Stepford Wife” after being “forced” to quit nursing school and retiring from the adult film industry. Rossi, now 26, claims she was too in love with the Two and a Half Men star, and then too afraid, to leave him. A year after she claims that he ended their engagement over a text, she says she’s still terrified.
The complaint details numerous instances in which Sheen allegedly threatened her life, along with her claim that he talked about wanting “to murder people he was angry with” and putting a “hit” on her ex-husband.
“I’m scared he wants to kill me,” she tells PEOPLE.
Sheen filed for a dismissal of the complaint Monday, claiming it was Rossi who “assaulted and/or attempted to assault Sheen” while “extremely intoxicated” because “she was jealous that he was spending time with other people, including his own kids.”
“He never kicked, choked, dragged, shook or struck Rossi, and he never threatened to kill her,” according to his request.
Sheen’s lawyer Martin D. Singer has also denied all of her allegations.
“Charlie Sheen intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit filed by Brett Rossi aka Scottine Ross. Numerous witnesses will dispute each and every claim made by Ms. Rossi,” he said in a statement Thursday. “We are confident that Mr. Sheen will prevail in this action and also will recover significant damages against her in connection with a pending arbitration that was commenced months ago.”
Falling in Love
Rossi first met Sheen in November 2013, when she claims he tried to be introduced to her multiple times through mutual friends after seeing her porn videos. She declined, and according to the complaint, one night she was offered $10,000 to sleep with an unnamed client at his Los Angeles home. Sure enough, it was Sheen. (He denies he paid her in his request for dismissal.)
“To a student, $10,000 is a lot of money,” she says. “It’s not something I’m proud of.”
She says they had sex using a condom, and shortly after, fell in love. She knew him not as Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen but as “Carlos,” his given name, and says he also knew a side of herself, “Scotty,” separate from her porn persona.
“He was the very first person in my entire life that I never had to have a secret … and to me that was very comforting,” she says. “He made me feel beautiful, he didn’t make me feel like I was just this ex-porn girl who is essentially a loser. He had told me that he had dreamed of me since he was a little boy, and he told me that he was in love with me before he even met me.”
After having sex as many as five times – with and without protection – Rossi discovered Sheen’s HIV prescription, Truvada, in his medicine cabinet, recognizing it because she was studying pharmacology in nursing school, she alleges in the complaint. (Sheen claims in his request for dismissal that “Rossi was well-aware of Sheen’s medical condition.”)
She says she “felt betrayed,” and about a week later, she claims he confessed to being HIV-positive.
“He broke down and told me, and he was emotional, and I interpreted his feelings as being ashamed, that he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want to lose me,” she says. “He assured me that he could not give me HIV because he was not contagious.”
It’s a claim he repeated on the Today show, telling Lauer it is “impossible” for him to have transmitted the virus while on medication.
“Individuals who are optimally treated, who have undetectable viral loads, who responsibly use protection – it’s incredibly low,” his personal physician, Dr. Richard Huzienga, clarified on air. “It’s incredibly rare to transmit the virus. We can’t say that that’s zero, but it’s a very, very low number.”
Rossi says she consulted with his doctor to go on medication during the rest of their relationship (“I felt in a sick, twisted way that by me showing him that I was willing to sacrifice my own life, that it would show him how loyal I was to him,” she says now) and has tested negative for HIV. Still, she says it was “disturbing” to hear Sheen’s comments and alleges in the complaint that he didn’t always take his antiretroviral drugs when drunk or high.
“I know during our relationship there were points when he was on benders that he would miss his doses,” she says.
On Today, Sheen said he s taken four pills every day since his diagnosis.
“Over the course of four years, you have never missed taking your medication?” Lauer asked.
“I have not, no. I have not,” Sheen replied. “No, never once.”
His purported benders are outlined in graphic detail in her lawsuit, including a sexual act she claims she consented to until Sheen allegedly became violent and aggressive. She says she begged him to stop and ran to the bathroom when it was over, realizing she was bleeding from “a tear.”
As recounted in the complaint, Rossi says, “The scariest moment was when he pinned me to the wall and he went off on me, and he choked me to the point of where I almost passed out. I remember screaming to him, ‘Charlie, I can’t breathe. Please stop, please stop.’ And he just kept saying, ‘I’m going to f—— kill you,’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god, he’s going to kill me.’ And I think that was so scary to me because it was the first time I had admitted [it] to myself.”
“Sadly, Charlie was the very first person I had ever loved more than myself,” she continues, crying. “Now that I look back, I believe that you should never love someone that much, because it is extremely dangerous. And I think that the women who have loved their partners more than they love themselves have ended up dead because of it, or close to. So it’s not so much the physical pain that he inflicted on me that day that he choked me that messed me up. It was the emotional pain, because that day, I realized to myself that I was trapped, and I didn’t know what to do, where to go, who to tell.”
Two months earlier, Rossi s complaint alleges, she had abortion after “much pressure and threats” from Sheen. The timing was off, she admits – they weren’t yet married, and he was still shooting Anger Management – but she says the couple had discussed having a child together and even naming a daughter “Charlie.” She calls Sheen’s ex-wife Brooke Mueller one of her best friends at the time and treated their 6-year-old twin boys Max and Bob as her sons, too.
According to Rossi’s lawsuit, Sheen threatened to “kick her to the curb” if she gave “birth to a retarded child” – even though the chances of an HIV-positive father transmitting the virus to a baby are low if the mother is HIV-negative, as Rossi is, and he is being treated, research shows.
(According to Sheen’s request for dismissal, he never “forced her to have an abortion, as she wildly alleges. In fact, Rossi told Sheen that she was taking birth control pills during the entire course of their relationship.”)
Although Rossi says she doesn’t”believe in abortion due to irresponsibility,” she says she terminated the pregnancy, calling her alleged back and forth with Sheen over what to do “draining.”
“I still cry,” she says. “I would have had a 14-month-old by now, and there are days where I regret it simply because I would still have someone in my life that loved me unconditionally, and I think that’s what everyone wants in life. But at the same time, I know that our child wouldn’t have been on his list of priorities, and that’s not fair.”
In October 2014, they broke up.
“I got to a point in our relationship where I was constantly on egg shells. If I wore too much makeup, was he going to ask me am I cheating on him? If I was tired, was he going to get upset with me? What was going to happen in his day that was going to cause me to be his punching bag, both emotionally and physically?” she says. “There were good times, but the bad outweighed the good. It’s just that he was so good at manipulating me into believing either it was my fault, that I was the reason, I wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasn’t doing the most I could, or he would just say, ‘I was drunk,’ or ‘I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again.’ I truly believe he was in denial of his own actions as well.”
“I think toward the end, both he and I knew it was just so toxic and so violent,” she adds later. “At least that’s what helps me sleep at night – I like to think that he let me go because he knew that he was eventually going to hurt me beyond repair.”
But Rossi became depressed after losing the man she loved and being painted as a “sex-crazed, bad-girl home-wrecker” by tabloids. She tried to commit suicide that November by overdosing on valium and vodka.
At the time, Sheen’s rep told PEOPLE, “Charlie and Scotty have been in communication and Charlie still has a tremendous fondness for Scotty and continues to wish her all the best.”
Rossi says Sheen never visited her in the hospital and in her lawsuit even accuses him of sending her a text that read, “Funny how an ex-nursing student couldn’t calculate the appropriate dosage of a vintage drug such as valium to successfully kill herself.”
A month later, she tried to kill herself again following a psychotic break.
“I was just in such a dark place,” she says. “His friends were my friends, so now I have no friends because obviously people have no loyalty in Hollywood. Whoever’s the bigger star, they’re gonna choose. I lost my family. His family was my family. I lost my kids. I was supposed to have a baby, that didn’t happen. And now I am just moved out from living in a hotel and got a place. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I hadn’t worked. My life was just in shambles, and it was very cowardly, but I wanted to escape. And I was so scared that he was going to keep pushing me and pushing me and pushing me, and I thought, to be honest, that that’s what he wanted.”
Today, Rossi says she “felt a sense of relief” for Sheen after he came forward with his health battle. Yet she believes he is “not taking accountability for his extremely dangerous behavior,” a sentiment echoed by his ex-girlfriend and former live-in Goddess Bree Olson, who went on Howard Stern’s radio show and blasted the star for hiding his HIV from her. (Sheen’s manager Mark Burg exclusively told PEOPLE that Olson “wasn’t in Charlie’s life when he was HIV-positive and so there was no reason to tell her anything.”)
For her part, Rossi says she’s on a “crusade” to help other survivors of domestic violence: “I want to be the voice for those who feel either they don’t have a voice or they’re too scared to have a voice, and I just hope that I can give them strength.”
And though she’s seeking unspecified damages from Sheen, she insists she didn’t speak out for financial gain.
“If I wanted money, I would have kept our child. If I wanted money, I would have kept silent. I want justice,” she says.
“I think the biggest misconception about me is the whole fictional character that the tabloids have created of me over the past two years,” she adds. “I think that people see me as this girl who saw fame and money, but at the end of the day, all I was looking for is what every girl my age is looking for: love.”
After intensive therapy, Rossi says she’s taking things day by day, working on a fictionalized book about her life, continuing to model and focusing on herself.
“I now can look in a mirror again,” she says. “For the longest time, I couldn’t look in a mirror, because I only saw a shell of a person I used to be.”
To learn more about living with HIV/AIDS today and to contribute in the fight against the diseases, visit amfAR.org.