Evan Rachel Wood was one of three women to testify in front of Congress on February 27 about her experience with sexual assault in an attempt to expand the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act beyond federal level and into all 50 states. The “Westworld” actress was joined by Amanda Nguyen and Lauren Libby from Rise, a nonprofit that advocates for sexual assault survivors’ rights, and Rebecca O’Connor, the Vice President of RAINN. Wood spoke candidly about her experiences with being a victim and the PTSD that resulted from her abuse.
“I thought I was the only human who experienced this, and I carried so much guilt and confusion about my response to the abuse,” Wood said, before going into detail about the torture she endured. “I accepted my powerlessness, and I felt I deserved it somehow.”
Wood’s testimony described multiple instances of abuse. The actress said that she felt like she could die when she was raped, and she candidly discussed about being assaulted the first time taught her to disassociate from her body during future moments of abuse. A transcription of part of Wood’s testimony is below (via Mashable).
It started slow but escalated over time, including threats against my life, severe gaslighting and brainwashing, [and] waking up to the man that claimed to love me raping what he believed to be my unconscious body. And the worst part: Sick rituals of binding me up by my hands and feet to be mentally and physically tortured until my abuser felt I had proven my love for them.
In this moment, being tied up and being beaten and told unspeakable things, I truly felt like I could die. Not just because my abuser said to me, ‘I could kill you right now,’ but because in that moment I felt like I left my body and I was too afraid to run. He would find me.
Because of this abuse when I was pushed onto the floor of a locked storage closest by another attacker, after hours at a bar, my body instinctively knew what to do: Disappear, go numb, make it go away. Being abused and raped previously made it easier for me to be raped again, not the other way around.
Seven years after my rapes — plural — I was diagnosed with long term PTSD. Which I had been living with all that time without knowledge about my condition. I simply thought I was going crazy. I struggled with self-harm to the point of two suicide attempts, which landed me in a psychiatric hospital for a short period of time. This was, however, a turning point in my life when I started seeking professional help to deal with my trauma and mental stress. But others are not so fortunate, and because of this rape is often more than a few minutes of trauma, but slow death.
In an email to CNN, Wood explained why she decided to testify in front of Congress and to share her story so openly: “I want Congress to understand that sexual assault and rape have lasting effects on your health and well being. It’s the trauma that continues after the act itself that is overwhelming. Survivors shouldn’t also be forced to jump through hurdles to hold their perpetrators accountable.”
Wood is a member of the Time’s Up campaign and has been an ardent supporter of the #MeToo anti-harassment movement. She reprises her award-nominated turn on “Westworld” in Season 2, which debuts on HBO this April.