Model Ashley Morgan Smithline has filed a lawsuit against Marilyn Manson, seeking damages for sexual assault, sexual battery, and human trafficking. Her complaint, filed on Tuesday in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California, contains gruesome allegations of rape that involve being whipped, burned, and cut by the singer, who she says “branded” her by carving his initials into her thigh. Smithline first accused Manson of abuse on Instagram in February, and recently told her story to People magazine in an in-depth interview. “I felt alone and trapped in an unhealthy, dehumanizing, degrading, disgusting relationship,” she said in a statement to the Cut. “I had no healthy contact with anyone and it was the most terrifying experience of my life.”
The 36-year-old is one of more than a dozen women who have accused the singer of abusive behavior, including Evan Rachel Wood and the Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco, and she is the fourth to file a lawsuit against him. Manson, whose legal name is Brian Warner, is also under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for alleged domestic violence, and on Sunday agreed to turn himself in to police on an arrest warrant related to the alleged assault of a videographer at a 2019 concert in New Hampshire. He has denied all claims of abuse, calling them “horrible distortions of reality” that misrepresent consensual relationships with “like-minded partners,” in a statement he released in February. A spokesperson for Manson denied Smithline’s allegations: “There are so many falsehoods within her claims that we wouldn’t know where to begin to answer them,” they said in a statement. “This relationship, to the limited extent it was a relationship, lasted less than a week in 2010. Manson hasn’t seen Ms. Smithline since then.”
Smithline first connected with Manson in the summer of 2010, according to the complaint, while she was modeling in Bangkok. In conversations online and over the phone, she confided in him that she no longer wanted to model and he recruited her to be in an upcoming film project, saying he believed in her “as an actress.” Manson flew her to L.A., and shortly after that, Smithline says she agreed to move into the singer’s apartment. At first their sexual relationship was consensual, but according to the lawsuit “it quickly became apparent that consensual sex was not enough” for him.
One day in mid-November, Smithline woke up to Manson sexually assaulting her while her ankles and wrists were “tied together behind her back,” the complaint says. When she asked him to stop, Smithline says he told her to “Shut the fuck up.” The complaint details multiple instances of alleged sexual assault, in which she says Manson choked, strangled, and smothered her with a pillow. In one incident, Smithline says the singer broke her nose when she tried to resist; in another, she says he cut her shoulder, inner arm, and stomach, which “drew blood” and caused her “to go into shock.” (Smithline told People that Manson “forced her to do a blood pact,” in which he cut her stomach and drank her blood. The complaint says he would often use a “knife emblazoned with a swastika” on her body and call Smithline by anti-Semitic slurs when he was upset.)
Smithline’s story echoes that of other Manson accusers, many of whom say they were tied up, cut, and whipped by the singer, and felt gaslit into thinking the violence was normal. They all describe the disorienting experience of being in his frigid, dark apartment, where the blackout curtains were always drawn. Smithline says she never knew the time of day and was expected to “work at all hours” on their film in his home studio, despite being deprived of sleep and food. She says Manson gave her cocaine to stay awake and that her weight dropped to roughly 80 pounds. She also claims the singer would repeatedly lock her in a small, soundproof glass enclosure he called “the bad girls’ room.” In the lawsuit, this is part of a separate “unlawful imprisonment” claim, alleging Manson did things like confiscate Smithline’s phone, bind her with rope, and lock her up. “All of this served to manipulate and further control her,” the complaint reads. He wanted to “weaken her physically and mentally and decrease her ability to refuse him.”
Over the next two years, she continued modeling in Asia for a few months at a time and would stay with Manson back in L.A. between jobs. According to the lawsuit, when they were together, he isolated her from friends and family; shortly after she moved in, he allegedly began confiscating her phone for hours at a time, “preventing her from contacting anyone.” Smithline says she was constantly terrified, since Manson would often threaten to kill her, especially if she tried to leave. He “exercised total control,” according to the lawsuit, to the point where she “became powerless and brainwashed.” In addition to the claims of sexual assault and sexual battery, Smithline is suing Manson for damages arising out of human trafficking, claiming she was lured to the U.S. for a project that was never released and expected to repay the singer with “labor and sexual intimacy.” (Bianco’s lawsuit also includes a similar claim.)
After a few attempts, Smithline eventually ended the relationship for good in January 2013. She didn’t realize the extent of the psychological and emotional trauma the relationship left her with until last fall, the complaint says, when she spoke with women who revealed their own “emotional, physical, verbal and sexual abuse” by the singer. Smithline still deals with mental-health issues like PTSD and panic attacks, and says the scars on her body are a daily reminder of the trauma. By filing the lawsuit, she hopes that Manson will be held accountable and prevented from harming anyone else. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely safe,” she said in a statement, “and I certainly will not feel whole until I know he’s been held to answer for what he has done.”