Evan Rachel Wood testifies in 2018 to support the Survivors' Bill of Rights Act. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Evan Rachel Wood said the documentary Phoenix Rising, which premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival Sunday, is bigger than her experiences with Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson. The documentary follows Wood coming forward with allegations of abuse by Warner, and her involvement in the Phoenix Act to change laws about domestic violence.
"Unfortunately, my story is not unique," Wood said at a virtual Q&A following the screening of Part 1 of Phoenix Rising. "[The purpose is to] not just expose this person but to explain domestic violence and how it works."
Wood, 34, met Warner when she was 18 and they dated from 2006 to 2011. Wood testified before the California Senate on behalf of the Domestic Violence Bill of Rights in 2019, but did not name the abuser she described.
In an Instagram post Feb. 1, 2020, Wood said Warner abused her. Because the three year statute of limitations had passed, Wood and Ilma Gore formed the Phoenix Act to advocate for laws to extend the statute of limitations.
"I was not only pursuing my own kind of justice, but I was paired up with some of the most incredible people that I've ever met," Wood said. "It ignited a desire and need in me to continue the conversation and do everything I could to raise awareness."
One of the advocates with whom Wood works is Shay Franco-Clausen, who attended the screening and Q&A of Phoenix Rising. Franco-Clausen said Wood is raising the profile of domestic violence issues for women who are often overlooked.
"A lot of people don't look at DV or human trafficking when it comes to Black women," Franco-Clausen said. "Inside jails, most women are survivors of domestic violence, which is a gateway from human trafficking or into human trafficking."
Another advocate involved in the Phoenix Act is Ashley Walters, who also testified as a former employee of Warner's. Walters said she experienced a catharsis similar to Wood's simply by being able to name Warner.
"Nothing prepares you for what happens within when you actually say your abuser's name and tell the world what happened," Walters said.
Wood was friends with documentary filmmaker Amy Berg prior to Phoenix Rising. Wood asked Berg if she'd make a film about the Phoenix Act.
Phoenix Rising is a two part series that will air on HBO. Berg said Wood's tenacity in the face of the statute of limitations inspired her to make the series.
"When she was told that the statute of limitations had expired, that didn't stop her," Berg said. "She went on to change the laws in California. As a storyteller, everything is there to tell a really important and interesting story."
Berg said that the first part of Phoenix Rising is simply the backstory for the second half. Berg said the second part will also feature more stories from other survivors of domestic violence.
"I hope their stories will elevate courage in people who are living in domestic violence relationships in silence and looking for resources," Berg said. "Overall, this was always about identifying patterns and trying to educate people."
In the film, Wood describes techniques like grooming and love bombing, which are common among abusers, and Wood alleges Warner practiced them on her. Wood said the media also bears responsibility for shielding Warner for years.
"The way the press handled the story for many, many years is shameful," Wood said. "It's time we finally tell the whole story and for the narrative to change and for the survivors to take back ownership of their stories."
Berg said she still experienced industry figures protecting Warner. Phoenix Rising includes Manson's music and videos, particularly one for "Heart-Shaped Glasses," which Wood alleges captured her sexual abuse on camera. Berg said the film faced resistance when clearing Manson songs.
"People are still protecting Brian Warner and they don't want to participate in anything that might upset him," Berg said. "As an industry we need to take account at this point, not just for Brian Warner, for all the people who are being abusive towards women and men and children."
HBO has not announced the premiere date for Phoenix Rising yet. As the first audience viewed Part 1, Wood reminded them that this is not a celebration of victory. It is a cry for more help and support for the Phoenix Act and other protections for survivors.
"It's not a ticker tape parade," Wood said. "It's an SOS."
Phoenix Rising filmmakers state at the end of Part 1 that they reached out to Warner and his legal representatives. They did not elect to comment on the specific allegations made against Warner in the film, but reissued a previous statement denying sexual assault or abuse.