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Finally, a Decent Ruling in the Marilyn Manson v. Evan Rachel Wood Defamation Case

Evan Rachel Wood Phoenix Rising HBO Doc

Actress Evan Rachel Wood has had an uphill battle since she named Brian Warner, more famously known as Marilyn Manson, as her abuser. She had been told by her management team not to name him publicly for what it might do to her career. Since Wood made the announcement on Instagram in 2019, she has also received backlash from Manson’s legions of fans. Anyone who paid attention to the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial knows how the story plays out.

Just like his fellow accused abuser, Manson filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser. In early 2022, Manson filed a defamation suit against Wood and her partner Illma Gore for their documentary, Phoenix Rising, as well as a bunch of smaller issues. On May 9, the Los Angeles court issued a tentative ruling on the lawsuit, striking down many of Manson’s claims, giving hope that this case won’t play out like the infamous Depp v. Heard case.

Protecting a victim’s free speech

The recent court ruling gutted much of Manson’s claims against Wood. The claims that Wood forged an FBI letter to recruit women to file charges against him were thrown out, along with the charges that she used structured tactics to influence the claims women made about their experiences with Manson. Most of the lesser charges were also dismissed. A California judge ruled that anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) laws protected Wood’s right to free speech of voicing her allegations and finding others who may have had shared experiences.

Victims who come forward often have to deal with reliving the trauma, facing their abuser, and being judged in the court of public opinion—which often simultaneously drags survivors’ reputations through the mud and claims they’ve made the whole thing up because survivors are treated so well, without a hint of irony. Survivors of abuse often have difficulty vocalizing their trauma or formally accusing their abusers. When the #MeToo movement went viral, it felt like empathy and safe spaces for victims might become normalized. However, after the three-ring circus known as the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation case, it seemed like all the ground gained during #MeToo slipped away. On top of everything else stacked against them, victims could now be the ones who have to defend themselves in court.

Wood named her alleged abuser after years of doing victim advocacy work. She worked on extending the statute of limitations for reporting criminal charges against domestic abusers in California and other states. Even with the extension, the timeline of her alleged abuse still puts her outside the limits of filing criminal charges. Yet, Wood came forward to ensure more women didn’t fall into the same grooming traps she did. With this ruling, Wood and Gore may still go to trial against Manson. Hopefully, the latest court ruling is a turning point in the way courts protect victims when they make abuse claims.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.