Marilyn Manson's Ex Ashley Smithline Found Healing by Bonding with Other Alleged Victims: 'Cathartic'
Marilyn Manson's alleged victims are finding "strength in numbers."
In this week's cover story of PEOPLE, Ashley Morgan Smithline reveals the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of the rocker and also shares how instrumental meeting with his other alleged victims — including actresses Esmé Bianco and Evan Rachel Wood — has been for her healing process.
"It's been like this sisterhood," Smithline, 36, tells PEOPLE. "It's been really cathartic and good for all of us. It made things a lot easier."
Six of the women who have come forward with allegations of abuse met in September 2020 for more than six hours as they spoke up about their abuse.
"It was like looking at a room full of myself," Smithline says of meeting with the other women. "All of the abuse, the gaslighting, he just has a very specific pattern."
In an Instagram statement shortly after the first allegations surfaced, Manson said "these recent claims about me are horrible distortions of reality. My intimate relationships have always been entirely consensual with like-minded partners." In response to Smithline's specific allegations, a spokesperson for Manson, 52, says they "strongly deny her claims," stating that their relationship "didn't last a week."
Smithline says that she and the other women recounted having been beaten, abused and hurt by Manson in very similar ways.
"I have bonded with the other girls who went through this, and we've found such a strength in numbers," she says. "Our stories are all f—ing identical. It's disgusting. Like, at least if you're going to be an abusive psychopath, be original, and he wasn't in any way."
"Being with the other girls, these feelings of guilt and shame have lessened," Smithline adds. "They're not going away, and I don't know they will, and my feelings of dirtiness like having him in me and on me, and wanting to wash that off, has not gone away. I really look forward to when it does."
For more on Ashley Morgan Smithline, the abuse she says she faced at the hands of Marilyn Manson and why other survivors have decided to speak out, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.
Smithline shares she was bit, whipped and cut with a swastika-emblazoned knife over the course of the two years she was with Manson. She says he forced her to do a blood pact and also that he forced her into a soundproof glassbox whenever she "pissed him off."
"He cut me on my stomach and then drank my blood. Then, he had me drink his," she says. "The more I let him hurt me, the more I loved him and the more I was proving myself to him."
Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on PEOPLE's cover story with Ashley Morgan Smithline.
Smithline says the first time she attempted to leave Manson was after he berated her for becoming drowsy at 3 a.m. during a video shoot about a year after they first started seeing each other. But, like many victims of domestic violence, Smithline felt unable to leave her abuser.
"I want to think that I never went back again," she says. "I wanted to go back on my terms and be in control, but it doesn't ever work like that." Even after she moved from his house, she continued to see Manson during his tour breaks until January 2013.
As a result of the trama she allegedly faced, Smithline sees a therapist to treat PTSD, OCD and anxiety. However, today she stands strong as she shares her story.
"I'm sitting here and I'm talking about this so other girls don't go through it," she says. "I'm not a victim. I'm a f—ing survivor."
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
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