Evan Rachel Wood: on Breaking the Silence

The importance of chain reactions as a way to call out abuse.

This morning, Evan Rachel Wood came forward on social media about Marilyn Manson and how he abused and manipulated her for years when she was a teenager. The actress met Manson when she was 18, and they jumped into a relationship shortly after. At 22, Evan would attempt suicide, and in 2016, she told Rolling Stone:

I’ve been raped. By a significant other while we were together. […] I don’t believe we live in a time where people can stay silent any longer. Not given the state our world is in with its blatant bigotry and sexism.

Today, we know Marilyn Manson to have been this significant other who "brainwashed and manipulated [her] into submission". Evan Rachel Wood ends her statement with "I stand with the many victims who will no longer be silent".

The Me Too movement started in 2006 with activist Tarana Burke, but it took more than a decade for it to reach millions of victims who came forward after the Harvey Weinstein’s case started a chain reaction of outrage and support. The hashtag #metoo ended up being shared by billions, either to expose their abuse, or in support of survivors, so much so that Times named these Silent Breakers as person of the year 2017. Author and activist Rebecca Solnit speaks of silence as "central to women’s history", noting its pervasive force that perpetuates over generations, and calling out on individuals and institutions that embrace it.

In September of 2020, radio host Dan Cleary posted a thread on Twitter talking about the time he worked with Marilyn Manson, how he witnessed abusive behavior in 2007 towards Evan Rachel Wood, and how “Over the course of 1 year he turned her into a different person”. Dan saw the same thing happen with another Manson’s girlfriend called Lindsay in 2014–2015. There’s no way of knowing if Dan’s post reached Evan, or if it lingered with her for these past 4 months, leading to her getting the courage to speak up. Either way, Dan’s testimony has in itself an important perspective on the role of the witness as another silenced victim, not only because he saw this abuse and "didn’t totally realize until later in life", but also because

Everyone in his immediate circle knows this. But everyone (including myself) is afraid to say anything because of “the code”. It’s frowned upon to tell people’s private business.

As Evan Rachel Wood comes forward, a new chain reaction is created, and I’m reminded of the words of late Tillie Olsen, and how "We are only beginning to understand the process of discouragings, of silencings; of the making of enabled and of enablers." One of these enablers being the institutions that often disregard testimonies as not real, muting even further survivors.

These movements, however, give me hope — that we can, as future generations rise, understand how to better identify patterns of repression that haunt many survivors who are too oppressed to use their voice.

At the moment of writing, at least six more people gave their statement on similar experiences, some adding to Evan’s account as witnesses of this abusive behavior. Depicting scenes of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, victims, who were often 15+ years younger than him, talk about Manson’s luring and love-bombing approach that took the time to escalate to horrifying accounts of violence. Gabriella, one of the survivors, describes being forced to take drugs on several occasions. Who knows how many more stories like these are buried deep under the fear that fame and status is propelling, allowing narratives of maltreatment and abuse to grow as ordinary and normal, when they should be screamed loud enough be to deafened once and for all.