[Trigger warning: this article contains descriptions of domestic violence, as well as sexual and physical abuse.]
Evan Rachel Wood has further detailed what she said was the years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her ex-fiancé, disgraced shock rocker Marilyn Manson (born Brian Warner).
In a new interview with the Navigating Narcissism podcast, Wood broke down why it took her so many years to face the reality of the violence she says she endured during the relationship, telling host Dr. Ramani Durvasula that before the larger #MeToo movement gained traction in 2017, her nervous system, the stress and the “weight of it all” became so intense that the Westworld star began to have stress seizures.
“When I realized what a physical impact this was having on me and it was making it nearly impossible to just move about my life normally and comfortably and safely… that was such a breaking point for me,” Wood added.
Manson has repeatedly denied all accusations from Wood and several other women who have claimed that the singer engaged in ritual sexual, physical and mental abuse, with many of the lawsuits filed against him so far over the allegations either dropped, dismissed or settled. In addition, in May a Los Angeles judge dismissed much of Manson’s defamation lawsuit against Wood, ruling that many of its claims were barred under a California law aimed at protecting free speech.
Wood first began dating Manson when she was 18 and Manson was 37, describing the intense relationship in the 2022 HBO documentary Phoenix Rising in terms of the older musician immediately “lovebombing” her with notes and texts after their first meeting and describing her as his “soulmate” and himself as her “vampire.” In the film she alleged that Manson tied her up and tortured her ritualistically, lashing her to a “kneeler” bench and hitting her “over and over” with a Nazi whip from the Holocaust before shocking her welts and private areas until she broke the bench in half.
Though she didn’t mention Manson during 2018 testimony to Congress about her abuse, in February 2021 Wood for the first time named her abuser, writing, “I am here to expose this dangerous man” in reference to the performer whose stock-in-trade has been shocking audiences with graphic, disturbing images and lyrics and depicting himself as a debauched agent of chaos. In speaking to Durvasula, the actress said she essentially had to “play dead” and “give him something that was undesirable” in order to make it feel like it was Manson’s idea to let her go as part of her difficult attempt to separate from him.
“There was a moment where I was like, ‘I’m so afraid of this person, I’ve been threatened so many times, either with blackmail or with force and if I stay here because I’m too scared to leave, I feel like I’m dead anyway’,” Wood said. “Staying felt like a death sentence, leaving also felt terrifying because something could happen to me or he could come after me. I felt like either way I feel dead so I may as well try to escape,” she said of her decision to try and disentangle herself from the performer she said often behaved in a “cult leader” fashion.
Describing “reactive abuse” where she said Manson pushed her to the edge of a breakdown — including one time where she claimed the singer told someone in his inner circle that she had slit her wrists “for attention” — Wood said Manson would try to “get ahead” of any allegations against him by putting out a “completely different” story to pre-empt her claims.
She further detailed what she has said was the abusive behavior she suffered while living with Manson during the relationship that lasted until she was 22, including him allegedly isolating her from others for days on end, escalating threats and her “getting in trouble” for such perceived slip-ups as giving guests water in plastic bottles instead of glasses.
“You and him and a mound of cocaine and he would keep you up and stay awake just berating you,” Wood said, “telling you everything that was wrong with the world and the people around you, everything you were doing wrong, all the ways you were failing him and failing yourself, the suspicions he had towards you, he would start wrecking the house. It was this non-stop onslaught of words and monologues, this constant stream of negativity that I felt like I couldn’t escape and couldn’t stop… it’s where the brainwashing and abuse started taking place. He wouldn’t stop until you gave in or started agreeing with everything he was saying or making the phone calls he wanted you to make.”
Wood described the yearslong process of healing from the trauma of the relationship, saying that while she was initially being “groomed” by Manson as they were going public, the reaction she saw was “very shaming and very blaming,” with the attention seemingly focused solely on her and not Warner. “Here’s this like sort of young harlot Lolita-type home wrecking party girl that’s come in and ruined everything,” she said of how she perceived the relationship was being described, rather than a focus on how much older Manson was and whether it was “somewhat inappropriate” for the then-married singer to be pursuing her; Manson was married to burlesque performer Dita Von Teese from 2004-2007.
Elsewhere, Wood said Manson coerced her into splitting with her mother — allegedly taking notes on her conversations with her mom — as a further attempt to isolate her and, as she said is typical with cults, convince her to not believe negative things she read about him. “Cults do the same thing when they’re like, ‘don’t read anything about the cult online’… it’s the same kind of psychology of up is down and down is up.”
She said at one point Manson demanded Wood kick her lifelong best friend out of her house, sending one of his “flying monkeys” (his assistant) with her, and having that person record the interaction so that he could confirm Wood had done what he told her to as part of his desire to control her actions.
At press time a spokesperson for Manson had not responded to Billboard‘s request for comment on Wood’s interview, though a source close to the singer said that “most of the false claims” made by Wood in her interview “have already been disputed within Brian’s ongoing lawsuit against her, and that the “new tales she is spinning” will likely be added to that case as well.
In a previous filing related to Manson’s defamation suit against Wood, he stated that he was in a romantic relationship with the actress until 2010 — after meeting her in 2006 — that they were engaged to be married and during that time they “carried on a loving and consensual relationship. Eventually, like many couples, we broke up. I never abused, assaulted, raped, or threatened Wood or her family as she has since contended”; Manson stated that any accusations of abuse, assault, rape or threats are “unequivocally false.”
Watch Wood on the Navigating Narcissism podcast below.
Stories about sexual assault allegations can be traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can reach out to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). The organization provides free, confidential support to sexual assault victims. Call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) or visit the anti-sexual violence organization’s website for more information.
Powered by Billboard.