[The following article includes discusses of sexual abuse and violence.]
After nine months of research, court documents, and interviews, Rolling Stone has shared an article detailing the long history of Brian “Marilyn Manson” Warner’s alleged misogyny, violence, and open discussion of sexual abuse. The exposé comes in the middle of multiple ongoing lawsuits against the rocker for sexual assault and an investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The article describes Warner as “someone who conditioned women through flattery and dark humor before introducing a pattern of abuse that allegedly included whipping, carving initials into skin, forced confinement, and rape.”
The piece alleges that over decades, Warner “was able to hide his abuses in plain sight behind the Marilyn Manson character he created and the music industry that supported, and profited from, his living-demon shtick.”
Among the interviewees are accusers Ashley Walters, Warner’s former assistant, and his ex-partners Ashley Morgan Smithline, Sarah McNeilly, and actor Esmé Bianco. Each of them alleges patterns of “love-bombing” at the beginning of the relationship in order to gain closeness with his victims, before unleashing hellish abuse.
Multiple sources recount the use of an alleged soundproof “Bad Girls’ room,” which was essentially a closet Warner would use to lock women in for hours at a time and dole out psychological torture. Earlier this year, musician Phoebe Bridgers recounted her experience as a teenager in Warner’s home, in which he called one area of the house the “rape room.”
Some of Warner’s band members and longtime acquaintances also detail their experiences being on the receiving end of his alleged violence and tantrums. In 1996, Warner threw his microphone stand at drummer Kenneth Wilson, sending him to the hospital.
One old friend recalls memories of Warner allegedly abusing his mother, screaming and chasing her through their home. Former friend Tim Vaughn says, “He chased her down the hallway with a microphone stand. I asked him, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ He’s like, ‘The bitch is always coming in at the worst times.’”
The scathing and in-depth work showcases that Warner’s long-documented desire to “shock” held very real consequences for those around him. He was held up by the industry which continued to support him, with his behavior cast aside even while he openly joked about instilling fear in young women, and using a fear tactics for sexual control. Many believed it was all a part of his “shock rocker” caricature.
“We give an awful lot of slack to men like this, and especially in the music industry,” Bianco says in the interview. “If you’re not a womanizer and a complete misogynist, are you really a rock star at all?”
Bianco continues, “Everyone passed it off as theatrical, like, ‘There goes Marilyn Manson.’ But when he started turning ugly against me, I was like, ‘Oh, he wasn’t kidding.’”
Even now, he still retains pockets of support. Warner’s taken to hiding behind another musician known to cause his own shockwaves—Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. The rapper brought Warner out on stage first, during one of his Donda shows, and then again for one of his Sunday Services.
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse, help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides free, confidential support 24/7/365. Text “START” to 88788, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or chat online at TheHotline.org.