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Breaking Brian Warner: The women who refused to let the Marilyn Manson story die

An image reading: BReaking Brian Warner, how social media broke the Marilyn Manson story
(Image credit: Future)

“The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson. He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail.”

When Evan Rachel Wood named Marilyn Manson as her abuser in February, it seemed to catch parts of the media world off guard. Former friends and colleagues rushed to distance themselves from him, as those who had been lined up to work with him scattered. Manson had been set to star in TV shows Creepshow and American Gods, but as the allegations broke, his appearances were swiftly axed. His manager jumped ship and his record label dropped him. From the outside, it was chaos. 

But sitting watching it all unfold was a community of women for whom it came as no surprise at all. They’d been trying to tell people about it for years.

Alex* was born in Belfast in the early 90s. A so-called ‘ceasefire baby’, she grew up at a time when The Troubles were beginning to shift from all-out war towards a cautious peace. Any sense of division had melted away by the time Alex and her generation were teenagers and Belfast’s alternative scene was thriving, buoyed by a newfound sense of freedom and scepticism for the establishment – particularly organised religion and the damage it could cause. As far as countercultural icons went, for these kids, Manson was everything. 

Alex appreciated Manson more for what he represented than for his music, and was drawn to his ethos that “outsiders are the accepting people; everybody else is the enemy”. But she was also a fan of Wood. She knew that the pair had dated and recognised Wood in Manson’s music videos at the time. So when Wood began to share details of an abusive relationship years later, Alex was listening. 

In 2016, Wood gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine where she spoke about her experiences as a survivor of domestic abuse. In 2018, she testified in front of the California State Senate on behalf on the Phoenix Act – a bill Wood designed, which extended the statute of limitations on domestic violence felonies from three to five years. In 2019, she started the #IAmNotOk hashtag, posting photos of herself from a 2010 photoshoot for Elle Magazine, shared with the caption: “The day of this photoshoot, I was so weakened by an abusive relationship. I was emaciated, severely depressed, and could barely stand. I fell into a pool of tears and was sent home for the day. #IAmNotOk”. 

Wood stopped short of naming Manson in these posts, but, already familiar with the timeline of their relationship, it felt clear to Alex that there was only one person she could be talking about.

Alex wasn’t alone. YouTuber Ellie Jayden was a “casual fan” of Manson growing up and, like Alex, was inspired by the freedom of expression he represented. But she too had become a fan of Wood, following her career from films like Thirteen through to cult TV shows like True Blood. Although she’d also been aware of the pair dating, it was the YouTube algorithm which eventually put the pieces together for her. The recording of Wood’s Phoenix Act testimony was suggested to Ellie as a recommended video shortly after it was released in 2018. From there she was linked to another video of Game Of Thrones actor Esme Bianco, who co-created the Phoenix Act with Wood, testifying at the same hearing. 

After Wood released her statement in February, multiple women – at least 11 at last official count – joined her in coming forward and naming Manson as their abuser. One of them was Bianco. Earlier this month Bianco became the first of the women to file a lawsuit against Manson, suing him for sexual, mental and physical abuse. She detailed Manson “spanking, biting, cutting, and whipping” her “buttocks, breasts, and genitals”, all without her consent. The suit claims he used “drugs, force, and threats of force” to coerce her into having sex with him and that, in May 2011, Manson raped her. The lawsuit also details psychological abuse in the form of sleep deprivation and food deprivation all “in order to weaken her physically and mentally and decrease her ability to refuse him”. In a statement about the lawsuit, Bianco said: “For far too long, my abuser has been left unchecked, enabled by money, fame, and an industry that turned a blind eye. Despite the numerous brave women who have spoken out against Marilyn Manson, countless survivors remain silenced, and some of their voices will never be heard. My hope is that by raising mine, I will help to stop Brian Warner from shattering any more lives and empower other victims to seek their own small measure of justice.” Manson’s attorney has called the claims “provably false”. Manson has previously denied all claims made against him.

“I remember thinking, 'Wait a minute, didn't [Bianco] date Marilyn Manson as well? That's kind of odd’,” says Ellie. From there she headed down a rabbit hole and didn’t look back. “It's like a cultural blind spot,” she says. “But when you're made aware, you can't unsee what you're seeing and hearing.” 

The more she found out, the more certain she became that Manson had questions to answer. “I came across Manson’s 2009 Interview with SPIN and that really concerned me, because this was not hearsay, this was his own words,” she says. “It was upsetting. He was speaking about his breakup from Evan Rachel Wood and he explains how he self-harmed each time she wouldn’t answer the phone – which was 158 times. That seriously disturbed me and got me thinking, how was this not a bigger story at the time? How did this just get swept under the rug?”

So, Ellie began work on a series of videos about Manson and Wood’s relationship which she hoped would encourage people to scrutinise it a little closer. Her first was called The Toxic Relationship Of Evan Rachel Wood & Marilyn Manson. “I just felt compelled to say something because I felt like these women in their testimonies, they were saying things that were consistent and matched up, like they kind of mirrored each other and it just made a lot of sense to me. I felt bad for them because I could tell they were so afraid to say anything; they were saying everything but naming him, they were doing their best to tell people. I put it out there to the world and just waited.” Ellie is a self-professed “small creator” and most of her videos have a few thousand views, so her expectations for the video were modest. But Wood’s testimony had just been released and interest was intensifying. The video racked up well over 100,000 hits.

But people had been putting the pieces together long before Wood’s testimony was made public. Laura grew up in a quiet village in Germany where alternative culture was barely on her radar until she discovered Marilyn Manson. A dedication to him in Melissa Marr’s young adult fiction book Ink Exchange made her curious to hear what he sounded like and soon she was a dedicated fan. For Laura it was also the algorithm which caused her fandom to unravel. One night in 2015, scrolling through Instagram, she came across a post dedicated to Manson. This in itself wasn’t unusual; as a fan immersed in his world, she often hit posts about him. But this one stood out from the others. It was a post about his relationship with then on-off girlfriend, now-wife, Lindsay Usich Warner. 

“The post was about [Usich’s] relationship with Manson being ‘off’,” says Laura. She left a comment on the post and, soon, struck up a friendship with its author. “After I left the comment, Sarah*, the girl behind the account, messaged me and asked if I knew anything about their relationship. That was the day we first met, and if I hadn't met her I wouldn't be doing what I do today. She was already researching and posting about [Manson], and she was really good at finding out really personal stuff by contacting his exes and assistants. I was kind of fascinated by that. I didn't really know how serious it was, but I decided to help her.”

The pair's focus wasn’t actually on Manson at first. “Sarah was convinced that Lindsay was the main problem back then,” says Laura. “Manson is really good at making himself look like the victim.” The pair originally set to work on “exposing” Usich as a crazy, possessive girlfriend. If it sounds like classic teenage girl stuff, that’s because it was: Sarah and Laura were 13 and 17 respectively at the time, and, as Laura admits, “were too young to understand that Manson was actually the problem.” But it didn’t take long for them to realise they’d got it wrong. In 2016, Laura read Wood’s Rolling Stone interview and her perspective of Manson began to shift. In 2017, when Jack Off Jill singer Jessicka Addams shared a statement about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez, it all sounded a bit too close for comfort. Laura began to dig even deeper into Manson’s past, his relationships and his own suspect behaviour, and was alarmed by what she found.

It was at this point that Laura set up the Mansonisabusive Instagram account** to collate and share the information she and Sarah found online. Then, one day, Sarah vanished. Manson’s camp had threatened her with serious legal action. Terrified, she abandoned the project. “She was so scared she left me alone with all that information,” Laura says. “There were so many red flags. I said from the beginning; it's a pattern. The stories always repeat themselves. I think that's what I found interesting at first. That's why I collected the stuff.”

With Sarah gone, Laura carried on the work alone. “As a former fan I just thought it was important to show others what he really is like, because there's so much incriminating evidence,” she says. “Every other 'normal' person with a nine-to-five job would have already been in jail. So, I just wanted to get all the information out there. I wanted to help.”

Anyone who’s come across Mansonisabusive will know it documents hundreds of posts and stories taken from magazine articles, interviews and TV appearances stretching back as far as the 90s. A lot of it highlights what his partners have said about him over the years, but a significant amount is interviews with Manson himself, all in his own words. He talks about claims he and his band transported two 14-year-old girls across state lines and, when questioned on if they “fucked the whole band”, responds “No, which is a shame”. There is footage of him making jokes on stage about having sex with underage girls, and an interview in which he talks about a time he almost got arrested for “child pornography” for telling “grade eight girls” he was going to make them feel like they were in “grade nine”. There are various references to him killing his dates or girlfriends and burying them in his garden, or locking them in a small soundproof enclosure he calls the ‘bad girl room’, which he says is used often. There is an interview from 1995 in which he says “anybody that gets into any exploitation is not someone who doesn’t WANT to get taken advantage of”.

It’s the sort of thing Manson’s publicist brushed off as “rockstar theatrics” when we questioned them about it last year, but as a body of content, it makes for pretty miserable reading. 

Alex was frustrated that even with all this information out there, no one seemed to be listening – or, if they were, they didn’t really care. “With 'cancel culture' being such a big thing now – I mean, there's comedians that are gonna get chastised for a joke that they made 10, or 15 years ago, TV shows that aired 10, 15 years ago pulled off Netflix,” she says. “If that's something that bubbles to the top and people are paying attention to it, why aren't people talking about something as serious as this?” In June of last year, she’d had enough. She became one of the first people to directly accuse Manson of being Wood’s abuser in a tweet that went viral. Celebrities like Kathy Griffin and Traci Lords started sharing and soon the retweets neared 50,000. Finally, it seemed, people were ready to listen.

Between them, Alex, Ellie and Laura were starting to generate significant noise about Manson and the accusations around his behaviour. They began to attract the attention of a number of women who said they’d experienced Manson’s abuse firsthand and soon, a network formed. While Alex, Ellie and Laura may be the visible faces of the research, there’s currently a whole network of people talking to each other, sharing stories, supporting one another. They’ve formed a tight-knit circle that includes survivors and their close friends. At this point, they’re all in it together, and they’re not going to stop until they get what they perceive to be justice. “The support system from the girls has been amazing,” says Alex. "As long as you have the right support system, and people remind you that you're doing the right thing, encouraging you to speak up and advocate for other survivors, it's all you can do really.”

But work like this comes with an inevitable backlash from a dedicated, hostile fanbase that includes bullying, harassment and threats. “Dealing with all that kind of abuse from randoms in my DMs calling me every name under the sun; it was just like, 'Do I know what I'm in for here?’” says Alex. “I don't think I anticipated that reaction or realised just how serious things could get. [I heard] a lot of things that a person shouldn’t have to repeat. Death threats, rape threats, being told I'm doing it for internet clout. Over time it does start to grind you down, and hearing things such as, 'You deserve to be raped', that's the kind of thing that really cuts. No woman, nobody at all, should be told that; it's completely abhorrent.”

There were times when the women considered if they could carry on, but ultimately, they held their nerve. “As someone who will never stop advocating for survivors, it wouldn’t be like me to sit down and not speak about it anymore,” says Alex.

“[I thought about giving up] all the time because the bullying was really intense,” says Laura. “When the account gets a little bit more attention the fans come and try to discredit me personally, or the stuff I post. That’s a little bit difficult because they try to intimidate me by finding out where I live, or by saying, ‘I have pictures of you so if you don't stop we'll post them online’. But then ex-girlfriends of his messaged me and told me that my account helped them. It made it a bit easier, so I kept on going. I'm at the point where I don't really care anymore. When I was a little bit younger, when I started, I was a little bit more scared of his fans. I’m not anymore.” Have his fans ever got close to finding out where she lives? “No, and they never will,” she laughs.

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A screengrab of harassment sent to the Mansonisabusive Instagram page

A gallery of screengrabs capturing some of the harassment sent to the Mansonisabusive Instagram page, as well as threats they've found Laura's location (Image credit: Mansonisabusive)
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A screengrab of harassment sent to the Mansonisabusive Instagram page

(Image credit: Mansonisabusive)
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A screengrab of harassment sent to the Mansonisabusive Instagram page

(Image credit: Mansonisabusive)
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A screengrab of harassment sent to the Mansonisabusive Instagram page

(Image credit: Mansonisabusive)
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A screengrab of harassment sent to the Mansonisabusive Instagram page

(Image credit: Mansonisabusive)

For Ellie, it was also the stories she was hearing on the ground that kept her focus. “I got so many personal messages off people who had been to meet and greets, who were fans, and who had experienced stuff like that before,” she says. “People who told me they met him in the 90s, people who told me they met him over the last couple of years. It wasn't just one time period. People have shown me screenshots and their own evidence. They don’t want to publicise it, they just want to say, 'Oh my god, thank god I can tell someone, no one would believe me’. I noticed a lot of common things that people were saying, especially with girls who met him through being a fan of his music. It all seemed to correlate in some way.”

Between Alex, Ellie and Laura, they estimate that around 20 additional women – including fans, ex-girlfriends, acquaintances who don’t want to go public – have got in touch to share their personal experiences with Manson. When you add in the numbers of people sharing second-hand stories of their friends, or friends of friends, the number grows higher still. Sadly, being a point of contact for people hoping to share their stories has also been exploited by disgruntled fans. “I’ve had messages where people have sent me fake stories about abuse,” says Ellie. “They've told me they were abused by Manson and then they’re like, 'Ha ha it's a lie, fuck you, bitch. Manson's amazing, you suck, go die.’"

But it’s not just Manson’s fans these women have to worry about. It’s not lost on them that Manson’s a powerful person who could realistically make life very hard for them. Knowing this makes Alex nervous. “Sometimes I'm worried, and sometimes I think, 'Would he do anything?” she says. “When you hear the likes of Evan Rachel Wood and Esme Bianco saying that they're fearing for their lives to this day, it makes me think: ’Should I be worried? What does he have the potential to do?’ He probably does have the potential to ruin my life if he really wanted to, and whenever I think of that I think, 'Do I really want to come forward?’ It is pretty scary.”

Ellie echoes her concerns. “I've seen messages from people who tell me they were victims and that they don't want to speak out publicly because they're afraid for their families and everything else and I'm like, 'Oh god’,” she says. “I think also, if people like Esme and Evan who are women in Hollywood, who have a lot more power and influence than me – if they're scared, that makes me feel scared in a way because I think, 'Oh god, I'm just the little guy', you know?”

Their anxiety is understandable, especially when you learn that Ellie, Alex and Laura have all had run ins with Manson or his camp. They all know Manson is aware of what they’re doing as he’s left a visible digital footprint by, for example, watching their Instagram stories that reference him or blocking their accounts online. But there was one name in particular that came up frequently when discussing online harassment: Lindsay Usich.

Ellie, Alex and Laura feel that Usich is attempting to silence those who speak out about Manson using methods of online intimidation and threats. We already know that Laura and Usich didn’t get off to the best start, so it’s fair that she might be wary or defensive when dealing with these women. But Usich’s alleged role in the online harassment of those who speak out against Manson goes beyond self-defence. In December 2020, Wood filed a police report after Usich allegedly conspired to obtain and share images of Wood which would “ruin her career” in a bid to “shut her up” – just six weeks before she named Manson as her abuser. 

A screengrab of Evan Rachel Wood's stories explaining her police report against Lindsay Usich

(Image credit: Instagram/Evan Rachel Wood)

Usich has made mildly threatening hints to Laura in the past that she has been close to uncovering her location. “Lindsay talked a lot about IP addresses and how she knew my location and stuff, but I don’t really think she ever did,” says Laura. “She always tried to scare me.” However, both Manson and Usich have Laura’s personal Instagram account – which she’s never publicised or linked to Mansonisabusive – blocked, which Laura believes must be because they actually did track down her IP address and use it to link the two accounts together.

A contact working for the Phoenix Act has confirmed that "a bunch" of fan accounts sending abuse to Alex, Ellie and others link back to IP addresses in the Hollywood Hills. The likelihood that a load of Manson's abusive fans all live in the same exclusive seven square mile area seems slim. But we know who does live there: Manson and Usich.

Since Wood and Bianco named Manson earlier this year, the women have felt vindicated and reinvigorated to speak about the story publicly. “When I saw Evan post her story, it gave me a bit more momentum in the sense that you don't come across as a crazy conspiracy theorist anymore,” says Ellie. Is she proud of what she’s helped achieve so far? “I don't know if I'd say I'm proud of myself,” she says. “I'm more proud of the people that named him, that's a lot more terrifying than anything I've done uploading a video. But, I'm glad that I didn't give up. A lot of people feel like one person can't make a difference, but you can. You can make efforts and you can make small ripples in the larger ocean. You can contribute to movements and you can contribute to justice. If you see something wrong, stand up for it and it can be worth it. We always think that we can't make a difference, but I hope I made a difference in some way.”

It’d be easy to see this as the end of the story, but for the women involved they feel it’s just the beginning of what comes next. “This is just one chapter that's closing, there's still chapters to come as far as I'm concerned,” says Alex. “The way I see it is it’s not over until he is in prison.” Laura feels the same, and is ready to carry on the work with Ellie and Alex. “I could imagine [us carrying on together] because he's not in jail yet. There's a lot of work ahead of us. It's going to take time.” 

“As far as I can tell, there's been loads of people contacting the FBI,” says Ellie. “I've seen several girls on Instagram saying they've contacted the FBI with their own stories and evidence. I can only assume there's going to be trials eventually. I feel like it's only the start of a lot more information.”

For Ellie, she hopes it will result in at least some of his fans accepting the work they’ve done so far. “Never worship false idols,” she says. “You can be inspired by people, but you never know what kind of person they really are.”

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved
**Since this article was originally published, the Mansonisabusive account has been deleted by Instagram. Laura is putting her archive together again at @
mansonsabusivebehaviour