Trigger warning: this article contains references to sexual assault, suicide and domestic violence that some readers may find distressing.
Actress Evan Rachel Wood is sharing her story in a powerful new two-part documentary called Phoenix Rising, in which she will take her experience as a survivor of domestic violence to pursue justice, heal generational wounds, and reclaim her story.
Wood is one of several women who have made allegations against musician Marilyn Manson (real name Brian Warner), with the actress accusing him of abusing her over the course of their relationship, which started when she was just a teenager.
Almost a decade after escaping that relationship, Wood co-authored and successfully lobbied for passage of The Phoenix Act, legislation that extends the statute of limitations for domestic violence cases in California — an achievement chronicled in her documentary.
Phoenix Rising also delves behind familiar headlines and explores the often-misunderstood aspects of domestic abuse, helping to shed light on the many factors that prevent survivors from coming forward with their stories as they deal with years of aftershocks and emotional trauma.
Wood named Warner as her abuser on February 1, 2021, after alluding to being abused by him in previous media interviews. Her claims prompted several more women to allege that Warner also sexually, physically, and mentally abused them in a Rolling Stone investigation, with four of the women filing civil lawsuits against him.
In the documentary, Wood details how Manson allegedly wore her down, manipulated, groomed and brainwashed her saying, “He was monitoring my every move. I couldn’t reach out to anybody to say, ‘I need help,’ because if he caught me doing that … it would be up for two days getting yelled at, pleading my case, trying to talk him off the ledge. He just knew how to break you down.”
The actress has said that her experience with Manson led to her attempting suicide when she was 22 years old and has also alleged that the singer raped her on camera during the filming of the video for his single ‘Heart-Shaped Glasses’.
Manson responded to the claims in the documentary, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2022, by filing a defamation lawsuit against Wood, accusing her and her friend Illma Gore of emotional distress, and “impersonation over the internet”, accusing the pair of impersonating an FBI agent to entice other women to come forward with allegations against him.
Speaking about the lawsuit on American talk show, The View, Wood said she was not scared of Manson but was sad as his response was predictable.
“This is what pretty much every survivor that tries to expose someone in a position of power goes through, and this is part of the retaliation that keeps survivors quiet,” she said. “This is why people don’t want to come forward. This was expected.”
Phoenix Rising premieres on BINGE on March 16, 2022.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources