NOTE: This article contains disturbing and sexually explicit language. Please read at your own discretion.
The actress was one of the three women who spoke to the House Judiciary Committee, on expanding the policies set forth by the Sexual Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016 to all 50 states. The law gives sexual abuse survivors the right to have their rape kit preserved for the duration of the statute of limitations (or up to 20 years), and the right to know their forensic results.
She was joined by representatives of prominent sexual assault survivors’ advocacy groups, including Rebecca O’Connor, who is the vice-president of Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and Amanda Nguyen and Lauren Libby of Rise, a non-profit organization that protects the civil rights of survivors of sexual assault and rape.
“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 told the committee. “I accepted my powerlessness and I felt I deserved it somehow.” The Thirteen actress also said that her abuse triggered her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“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,” Wood shared. “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.”
She continued, “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.”
Wood continued by explaining how the trauma she experienced had affected her psychologically. “While I was tied up and being beaten and told unspeakable things, I truly felt like I could die,” she said. “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.”
The 30-year-old actress went on to say that she had also been raped by a different abuser later in life.
“Because of this abuse, when I was pushed onto the floor of a locked storage closet by another attacker, after hours at a bar, my body instinctively knew what to do: disappear, go numb, make it go away,” Wood said. “Being abused and raped previously made it easier for me to be raped again, not the other way around.”
The bill was intended as a model for states to follow. So far, nine states have passed versions of the federal legislation, but Wood stressed in her testimony about the need to pass the bill everywhere.
“This bill is just one step in the right direction of setting the bar higher for what’s right and what the standard will be that we will set for society,” Wood said. “The recognition of basic civil rights for sexual assault survivors serves as a first step. It’s a safety net that may save someone’s life one day. Even though we passed this bill at a federal level, there’s still work to be done. In order to ensure all survivors are protected under this law, we need to pass this bill in all 50 states. We’ve done this in nine so far, and it’s our job to make sure that survivors in the remaining 41 are treated with the same humanity and dignity. This is called progress and it starts here.”
Wood spoke out about her sexual assault in October when thousands of women began identifying themselves as victims of sexual harassment or assault following the call to action propelled by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s downfall over of allegations of sexual misconduct spanning decades.
“Being raped once made it easier to be raped again. I instinctually shut down. My body remembered, so it protected me. I disappeared. #metoo,” Wood wrote as part of a series of tweets on her experience. “Sharing my stories and feeling less alone really helps. So thank you for listening.”
None of Wood’s allegations have been proven in court.
Watch the full video of Wood’s U.S. Congressional testimony below.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.
—With files from the Associated Press