A California appeals court ruled Wednesday (Dec. 13) that Marilyn Manson’s former assistant can sue him for sexual assault, overturning an earlier decision that said she waited too long to bring her case.
In a 24-page opinion, California’s Second Appellate District revived a lawsuit filed by Ashley Walters that claims Manson subjected her to brutal treatment, including sexual harassment and discrimination, during the year that she worked for him from 2010 to 2011.
A lower court had ruled last year that Walters’ lawsuit, filed in 2021, was barred by the statute of limitations, which requires such cases to be filed within two years. But on Wednesday, the appeals court said Walters’ case was fair game under the so-called delayed discovery rule, as she claims the trauma of the incidents caused her to suppress the memories until 2020.
“Until she received diagnosis and treatment, Walters [says she] was unable to remember the repressed events, and once she did recall them, she was unable to immediately identify these events as abuse,” the court wrote. “These allegations of suppressed memories and psychological blocking are sufficient to withstand [dismissal].”
A representative for Manson declined to comment on the ruling. An attorney for Walters did not immediately return a request for comment.
Walters was one of several women who accused Manson of sexual abuse in 2021. His former fiancé Evan Rachel Wood accused him of grooming and sexual abuse on Twitter in February 2021, and then others, including Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco and model Ashley Morgan Smithine, filed lawsuits against him.
Manson has denied all of the accusations, and several of the cases have been dismissed or settled. Manson later sued Wood for defamation, claiming she had “secretly recruited, coordinated, and pressured” other women to make such allegations, though that case was largely dismissed earlier this year.
In her lawsuit, Walters claimed that Manson subjected her to “sexual exploitation, manipulation and psychological abuse” while she worked for him as a personal assistant. The alleged abuse included whipping her and throwing her against a wall in a “a drug-induced rage”; forcing her to stay awake for 48 hours by feeding her cocaine; and having “offered” her sexually to friends and associates.
In June 2022, the case was dismissed for being filed past the statute of limitations. Walters argued then that she had suppressed the memories of Manson’s abuse until other women began coming forward, but the judge said during a hearing that he had not seen “sufficient facts” to invoke the delayed-discovery rule.
In Wednesday’s ruling overturning that decision, the appeals court did not say that Walters’ accusations against Manson were true. Instead, it merely said that her allegations were enough for the case to survive being dismissed at the outset. The court recounted various claims that, if proven true, would mean that Walters had truly not discovered the abuse until 2020.
“The complaint described the support group Walters joined in October 2020 and recounted the stories shared by the other abused women that ‘began to unlock new memories [Walters] repressed long ago as a result of her psychological trauma by being manipulated and threatened by Warner during and after her employment,’” the court wrote. “The complaint also described how Walters began therapy in November 2020 and was diagnosed the following month with complex posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.”
The ruling sends the case back to the trial court, where the parties will engage in more litigation, conduct discovery and move toward an eventual trial.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and need support and/or resources, reach out to RAINN and the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) for free, confidential help 24/7.
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