It didn’t occur to me until just now that the women abused by Marilyn Manson were paying attention to Evan Rachel Wood’s words and actions for years. The women who came after Evan were abused, tortured, raped and traumatized as well, and in retrospect, I can see now that Evan became their North Star. They paid attention to what she said, for years, about being the victim of intimate partner abuse. They paid attention to her activism at the state and national level to protect survivors of abuse and punish the abusers. And when Evan named her abuser, those women took their cues from Evan too. Which is why so many of Manson’s victims came out and told their stories, and named Manson as well, all in the wake of Evan telling her story. I realized all of that as I read Esme Blanco’s account of being violently assaulted, tortured and raped by Manson. She, like Evan, had spoken about intimate partner violence publicly, but like Evan, she had not named her abuser before now. You can read Esme’s account here at The Cut (trigger warning: her story is very graphic). Here’s just one section.
“It’s really surreal,” she says over Zoom from her Los Angeles living room. The 38-year-old redhead takes off her glasses and wipes away a tear. Talking about Manson sends her body into flight mode, but more recently, it also fills her with what she calls a dragonlike strength. “I have this hot energy and power in my chest. I just want to open my mouth and be like ‘Ahhhhhhh’ and rain fire down,” she tells me, sticking out her tongue and waving both hands. It’s a strength Bianco says she didn’t have while playing Ros, a character on Game of Thrones who works in a brothel and is abused in ways that mirror the actress’s personal life. Like Ros, Bianco’s alleged abuse often had an audience: members of Manson’s entourage who now say they witnessed his angry outbursts and Bianco’s bruises, along with the fans and industry executives who dismissed the singer’s violent comments about women as just a part of his stage persona. “He’s told the world time and time again, ‘This is who I am,’’ says Bianco. “He hid in plain sight.”
Their [friendly] dynamic changed in 2009, after Manson sent Bianco a plane ticket from her home in London to L.A. so she could star in the music video for his song “I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies.” He explained that it would be shot on a flip camera for a home-video feel and would involve Manson “kidnapping” Bianco in his home. “I need to have a victim/lover,” he wrote in an email. Bianco believed that the job would be strictly professional. “You are gonna have to pretend to like being manhandled by me. Sorry,” Manson emailed her a few days before the shoot. Once she arrived, she says, the line between art and reality immediately blurred. Bianco, who was 26 at the time, says she spent the next three days in lingerie, barely sleeping or eating, with Manson serving up cocaine rather than food. She remembers him losing his temper and throwing the camera at a smoke alarm. Soon, she says, he became violent, tying her with cables to a prayer kneeler, lashing her with a whip, and using an electric sex toy called a Violet Wand on her wounds — the same kind of “torture device” Wood has said was used on her. Bianco was terrified but tried to calm down by telling herself, It’s just Manson being theatrical. We are going to make great art.
While waiting for her flight back home, Bianco sobbed. She felt sad to leave Manson and considered her wounds to be proof of their bond. On some level, she knew what had happened wasn’t BDSM; she says they hadn’t discussed consent or safe words, which she knew from both personal experience and the fetish performers in her circle were crucial for safe power dynamics. A few days after the shoot, Manson emailed Bianco a picture of her back covered in welts with a note reading, “bringing sexy back.”
[From The Cut]
It gets progressively worse from there. Two years after the “video shoot” – which was just Manson torturing her – she moved in with him and the abuse got far worse. He would shake her awake and tell her that she needed his permission to sleep. He would whip her. He would humiliate her in front his friends. The emotional abuse went hand in hand with the physical abuse, and Manson and his crew normalized all of it.
It’s also worth noting that both ERW and Esme testified in California around the passage, last year, of the Phoenix Act, which is an extension of existing domestic violence statutes, and basically makes it easier for survivors to come forward and press charges against their abusers, even years after the fact. Esme says at various points in this piece that Manson belongs in jail for what he did to her and other women. I agree.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red.
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