Evan Rachel Wood On Surviving Domestic Violence And 'Rising From The Ashes'
Evan Rachel Wood, 32, says speaking out about her past abusive relationship was not an easy decision but it was an important one.
At the age of 18, the Westworld star’s abuse started and continued and she was starved, isolated from friends and family and at one point even tied up by her hands and feet. It took years for the actress to begin to heal and she did not plan to go public with her story.
“I was ready to go to my grave with what had happened to me, until I realized that the person who had hurt me had also hurt a number of other women. That changed everything for me,” she says.
She decided to take her evidence of abuse to an attorney but was told there was nothing she could do because the statute of limitations on her case had run out.
- For much more on PEOPLE’s Women Changing the World 2019, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
“I said, ‘That doesn’t sound right. Something’s wrong, what are my options?’ They said, ‘Well, you can try to change the law.'”
So that’s just what she did. After teaming up with legislators, lawmakers and other domestic violence survivors, Wood wrote and created the Phoenix Act, a bill that extends the time victims have to come forward and get justice.
After working closely with Sen. Susan Rubio, the bill was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Oct. 7 and extends the statute of limitations for domestic violence felony crimes from three years to five years. It also expands training requirements for police officers to help them properly identify survivors of domestic violence without causing additional harm.
“My goal in doing this was to make sure that what happened to me couldn’t happen to anybody else, if they were in my situation. And to start a dialogue that we so desperately need, because it’s a global epidemic, and it affects men and women and children,” says Wood. “Bad things can happen to you, but you can rise out of the ashes. That is exactly why I named it the Phoenix Act. I do believe that you can come back from tragedy, sometimes even stronger than you were before.”
Kate Ranta, author of Killing Kate: A Story of Turning Abuse and Tragedy into Transformation and Triumph, says Wood’s work has helped fellow domestic violence survivors like herself.
“Evan Rachel Wood is a survivor who chose to turn her pain into action in order to save other women. Her creation of The Phoenix Act shows her resolve to make sure victims of domestic violence have the gift of time, extending the statute of limitations by which to report abuse,” says Ranta. “It’s often scary and dangerous and difficult to come forward, so this law allows for time to heal and come forward. Evan is amazing because she uses her public platform to uplift other survivors’ voices – that is the mark of a true leader.”