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Why Evan Rachel Wood’s Steps Against Her Abuser are So Powerful

Trigger Warning: sexual abuse

When the rising starlet Evan Rachel Wood first went public dating popular rock musician Marilyn Manson, she was 19 and he was 36. There was a clear imbalance of power, and Hollywood recognized it. Tabloids first reporting on the drastic age difference put dramatic pressure on Wood, somehow blaming her. Instead of recognizing her as a victim of grooming, they belittled her.

This year, Wood broke her silence and came forward with how Manson preyed on her teenage naivete. Not only did Manson manipulate her, but he is alleged to have committed severe emotional and physical abuse against Wood.

It’s been 23 years since the inception of their relationship, and Wood is now explicitly speaking up against her abuser. In the past, she’s alluded to a history of abuse and sexual assault. However, she never publicly named her offender until now.

Once again, she has become the subject of brutal tabloids. These articles are asking what about now makes it an appropriate time to come forward? Whatever the reason, it’s Wood’s choice. Sometimes it takes a while to come to terms with the abuse one faces. Sometimes, especially in Hollywood, the abused’s career can be jeopardized. For example, when Johnny Depp came forward about abuse by his then-wife Amber Heard, he was pulled from his role in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” movie series.

When Wood became involved with Manson, she was young and just beginning her career as a serious actress. Inversely, Manson was an established artist. Manson had more control in the industry. If Wood were to publicly expose Manson, she could have risked permanent damage to her freshly started career. If the famous Depp can be affected by this, a new actress surely is at the mercy of her abuser.

This plays into the grooming aspect. Not only was Manson much older, but he had a great deal of power over her, putting Wood at an extreme disadvantage. A power discrepancy is a difficult thing to overcome, even 23 years later. It’s brave of Wood to come forward and work past the grooming Manson subjected her to. When an abuser is a loved one, it makes the situation so much more complicated. At some level, the victim feels the need to protect their offender. The victim once cared so deeply for them – maybe even loved them. To speak up against them is difficult, but Wood is putting the well-being of would-be victims first. She is assuring that Manson will be unable to take advantage of other vulnerable girls later.

I relate to the struggles of Wood. I, too, was sexually assaulted by an ex-boyfriend, but in my case, it was after we’d broken up. For a while, I was unsure how to feel. I tried to justify his actions and see his point of view. I wanted to think that there was a good explanation for the pain that I felt, that maybe it wasn’t that he cruelly chose to take advantage of me. I ended up cutting contact with him and tried to sweep it under the rug, but like Wood, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Every time I closed my eyes, I would relive the trauma he inflicted upon me, which ultimately changed me. I was constantly on edge, tap-tap-tapping my foot like the Roadrunner from Looney Tunes, my foot moving at an unfathomable rate while my body stayed in place. It wasn’t fair that he got to live a normal life while I felt like I’d lost the very essence of my being.

Wood describes a similar conundrum. PTSD wrecked her as well, and the nightmare kept her up at night. She, too, resented the life her abuser got to live while she was still tormented. After 23 years, she recognized her worth and the justice she deserved. There’s no good reason for Manson to get away with it all, she concluded. Even all those years later, it was not too late for her to regain her power. She had to recognize her strength at her own pace. Courage doesn’t have to be immediate and innate. Sometimes, courage grows slowly. Sometimes, courage is scary. Sometimes, courage isn’t obvious. Nonetheless, Wood harnessed great courage in her convictions.

I greatly admire what Wood is doing. I find her an inspiration for my situation and have recently started to bring attention to what I have gone through, too. Because I was sexually assaulted six months ago, I thought it was too late to get retribution, but Wood proves that it is never too late. If you have been abused or sexually assaulted, do not think it is too late for you to get justice. Take your time to recover and grow and then make sure you get peace. Protect future women and men from going through what you have.

Ashley Hamilton is an advertising and international studies major at the University of Florida. She was raised in Yulee, Florida – a town in which everyone still knows everyone and secrets are seldom secret. Nestled in the marshes of the Amelia River and the tumultuous St. Mary’s river, Yulee was as rural as could be when she moved to the Jacksonville metropolitan area in 2006. Upon arrival, the town had no more than a Home Depot, Winn-Dixie, WhataBurger, and a couple of local feed stores. She has grown with her town and is thrilled to evolve into a gator. Hamilton is a lover of all things creative: literature, poetry, theater, film, architecture, and art. She revels in the pastels of Wes Anderson films and impressionism paintings. She grew up in the south (on the Florida-Georgia border) and would feel most comfortable in the presence of historic southern town such as New Orleans, Savannah, or Charleston. There is an almost magnetic draw to these port cities that she cannot deny. After three concussions and a change in majors, she is heading into her second semester in the College of Journalism and Communications. Luckily, it only took a couple of knocks to her head for Hamilton to decide to follow her passions. Biomedical Engineering lacked the creativity and literal analysis she desired. Through her advertising degree, Hamilton plans to develop an understanding of persuasive speech and the intricacies of the copyright system. She foresees herself attending law school, hopefully, at her alma mater to study corporate law in order to protect the intellectual properties of authors and artists.
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