Phoenix Rising is an HBO documentary series that was released exactly a year ago. The two-part documentary series details the abuse allegations of actress and activist Evan Rachel Wood against her former boyfriend, American rock musician Marilyn Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner. A year after allegations and proof of harassment were made public through the documentary, no action or charges have been laid against Manson.
Evan Rachel Wood and Marilyn Manson were in a relationship from 2007 to 2011, a period during which Wood claims to have been groomed, manipulated and violated by Manson over a period of time. The documentary series also gives gruesome details about their relationship, with Wood expressing everything that happened during that period of time systematically.
In 2019, Wood helped co-author and pass California state’s Phoenix Act, whose statute of limitations was updated to 5 years as opposed to its prior time frame of 1-3 years. Even though it didn’t help Wood make thorough claims despite the evidence she had at hand, she focused on ensuring a better time period for abuse victims to come forward and speak about their abuse. When Wood spoke up, more victims of Marilyn’s abuse came forward to speak about the similarities in each of their cases.
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Throughout the time Evan Rachel Wood was working on changing the Phoenix Act, she only referred to Manson as her abuser without publicly naming him until 2020, when she put out a public statement through her Instagram. Her statement read – “The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson. He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail. I am here to expose this dangerous man and call out the many industries that have enabled him, before he ruins any more lives. I stand with the many victims who will no longer be silent.”
The statement has been written in text because Wood’s Instagram profile is currently private. Manson’s ex-fiance, American actress Rose McGowan also supported Evan Rachel Wood in standing up against Manson, according to Loudwire.
In retaliation to the allegations, Manson released two statements on Instagram in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The second statement led viewers to a link in Manson’s profile bio, which was the legal document suing Evan Rachel Wood and Illma Gore for defamation and more.
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Besides following the investigation, the documentary showed a meeting with survivors of Marilyn Manson’s abuse, which also featured Dan Cleary, one of Manson’s crew members at the time when Wood and Manson were in a relationship. In 2021, Cleary also made an appearance on Rare Form Radio, where he spoke about allegations against Manson between 2014 and 2015, saying he abused and threatened to kill his then-girlfriend, now wife, Lindsay Usich, according to Metal Injection.
It also underlines how the trauma of abuse victims often takes time to tackle, and therefore taking immediate action by filing cases and visiting police stations does not happen. The documentary further sees Wood sharing details of abuse in front of several committees when trying to amend the Phoenix Act. Watch Phoenix Rising on HBO Max or Hotstar (India).
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The existing popularity and fandom of someone as famous as Manson made it more difficult for Wood to publicly name him, as she received threats from fans and messages from people in the industry to stay quiet. Her own team discouraged her from making this public in the interest of “protecting her career.”
Earlier in 2023, Ashley Morgan Smithline, an LA-based model was also part of the survivor’s meeting shown in the documentary, but in February this year, she claimed Evan Rachel Wood and others “manipulated” her into speaking about her sexual assault by Manson, recanting her previous allegations, according to Rolling Stone. Shortly after this, LA Times reported that Wood filed a declaration to Los Angeles County saying she never pressured or manipulated Smithline into making any allegations that weren’t true.
According to Rolling Stone, the District Attorney of LA is still to announce whether or not charges will be filed against Marilyn Manson. Manson is currently married to LA-based photographer Lindsay Usich. A few questions remain on why statements made have been retracted, whether the statute of limitations in cases of immense trauma is too short of a timeframe to work through details and build a solid case, and if popularity can really keep alleged abusers walking in the open even after substantial evidence is provided, albeit late.
Cover image from Phoenix Rising sourced via Imdb.