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[Update] CONTRACTED Director Responds to Allegations of Assault

UPDATE: Eric England provided the following statement on March 4th, 2020.

Dear friends and fellow horror fans,

On February 25th, a film I helped write and produce though my new company, Talk Story Pictures, was released without my name in the credits. I chose to remove my name due to the distributor’s expressed fears regarding potential backlash from certain vocal members within our horror community. These fears stem from the grave allegations raised against me on March 16, 2018, nearly two years ago, by a former significant other, Katie Stegeman, the morning my latest directorial film was released in theaters.

At the time, my inclination was to vigorously respond, but I was advised by those around me not to make a statement for fear that any reply may negatively affect the movie. As I continue to learn throughout the course of my life, responding from a place of fear is rarely the correct response. So with peace, progress and compassion as guiding elements of my life, I feel I must now provide closure to this matter and move forward with my career.

First and foremost, I offer a heartfelt apology to Katie for any distress caused during our relationship. Before these allegations, I was unaware any existed, much less to such a serious extent. To be very clear, these allegations stem from a private and intimate domestic relationship Katie and I shared and have no involvement with my conduct on set as a director or producer. Katie and I lived together between 2010-2013 and shared a lot of love, laughs and joy together over that time with our friends and families. We also collaborated on several projects together during this time, which made our relationship passionate, competitive and, at times, toxic. I was by no means a perfect partner, and we certainly had moments I’m not proud of. I take full responsibility for my contributions in those times.

However, I have never criminally nor sexually assaulted or abused her, nor have I done so to anyone in my life, and to my knowledge no files, charges, arrests, reports, or even noise complaints have ever been made against me to the LAPD. Furthermore, I in no way, shape or form condone violence against women, men, children, animals or any other creatures living on this earth.

I never retained legal counsel, a publicist or any sort of defense for these matters, as they were looked into by invested parties and deemed opportunistic and sensational, given the timing and attempts to promote the premiere of her directorial debut and sell tickets to her filmmaking seminars in the days after her allegations. I, moreover, have had no interest in engaging in rumors, gossip or “he said, she said” debates.

In the interest of full disclosure and clearing the air, I did have recurring bouts of manic depression, which I learned last year were the result of an undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder — a highly stigmatized and misunderstood condition. I mention this for no reason other than to provide a complete picture of me as a person. I have met this condition head- on, and through proper treatment and therapy, I am able to understand and deal with it. While a diagnosis is never an excuse for behavior, it does begin to explain it. Before knowing of the disorder, I had confided in Katie and her family about the feelings I was experiencing, and ultimately these conversations were hyperbolized and used against me in her allegations.

After our romantic relationship ended in September 2013, we maintained a kind and caring connection, and I continued to serve as a reference and resource for her acting career. As for the claim that Katie feared for her life, in October 2013, the month after our relationship had ended, she accompanied me on a trip to Spain with a group of our friends and colleagues for a film festival — a trip she was under no contractual obligation to make — to promote our movie and her career, evidence of which is publicly available. While there she openly chose to share a hotel room and sleep in the same bed with me, despite reserving a room of her own prior to the tripWe continued to see each other casually and unofficially in the months following this trip until finally ceasing contact in early 2014 as I entered a new relationship. To further refute these claims with private photos, e-mails or text messages would only serve to demonize her and invade our privacies, neither of which I care to do.

As a child, I was drawn to the horror genre as an escape from the unstable environment of my upbringing and have the utmost respect and empathy for victims of abuse. I have spent a great deal of time since these allegations reflecting on myself as a human being and my interactions with others. I have devoted substantial effort and energy to bettering myself, both mentally and spiritually; volunteering in my local communities; and attending regular therapy sessions and group meetings. The world is a much brighter place for me today.

While I’ve been truly disheartened by the myopic and venomous responses to these allegations, which have resulted in bullying; shaming; spreading lies; blackmailing and even death threats from people who hold positions of respect and influence in our community, using social activism and moral grandstanding as a guise for personal vendettas and competitive advantages, I have deep respect for and gratitude towards those who have stood beside me throughout this time.

This experience has made me more aware than ever of how rapidly initial impressions can lead to firmly-held conclusions, confirmation biases, and taken without pause to destructive ends. It has given me the opportunity to reconsider how I view and judge others. As Joaquin Phoenix so eloquently stated at this year’s Academy Awards, “I think that’s when we’re at our best — when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption. That is the best of humanity.”

I applaud the individuals alongside me who listen to women’s claims and seek out true justice. As part of my continued support for efforts promoting change within our culture and removing the systemic inequalities that exist for women in our industry, I will be donating all future residuals from my projects involving Katie to the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. I remain committed to creating safe work environments and creative opportunities for all women. I wish Katie nothing but the best with her life and her career, and I look forward to the future.


Eric England

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

This story discusses various forms of assault and, as such, readers should enter knowing that sensitive topics will be discussed.

In this time of #MeToo and #TimesUp, we are seeing more and more people come forward with stories of abuses they have suffered at the hands of people in power. From the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein to Mariah Carey’s ex-security guard who accused her of sexual harassment to Timothy Heller’s accusations of rape at the hands of Melanie Martinez, people are coming forward with their stories of pain and hurt in the hopes of changing the status quo so that everyone can feel a little bit safer.

Today another story is added to this tragic list as actor Katie Stegeman has publicly accused director Eric England (Contracted, Josie, Madison County) of “…physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually” abusing her over a three-year period.

Taking to Instagram, Stegeman wrote the following passionate, empathetic, and heartfelt message:

ericenglandkatiestegemanphoto 300x300 - [Update] CONTRACTED Director Responds to Allegations of Assault
The image Stegeman attached to her Instagram post.

[Pause. What a pleasure. Deep Breath.] For many years I have been keeping this man’s secret from going public. For many years I had to make sure I was safe and of sound mind coming forward. I wanted to come from a place of kindness and without fear. Well, today is the day. For three years, director Eric England abused me physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually. The irony of this photo is not lost on me. I was thrown into tables, choked until I couldn’t breathe, threatened with scissors, knives, screwdrivers, and was denied the right to turn this man down for sex for fear of, as he called it “awakening the beast.” To say I am lucky to be alive is an understatement. Sitting and watching the trailer for his latest movie #Josie is all the reminder I need to come forward. Impressionable, young amazing women like [Sophie Turner] should not be working with someone like him, and if I remain quiet, the pattern will continue. Eric, I hope this forces you to bow out gracefully and get the help you need. I know your team is aware of your history as well as the LAPD. It’s time to go and give way to the creatives of this town, who also know how to treat people when no one is looking. I want you to know I forgive you and thank you for reminding me how strong I am. I also want the people who knew about Eric’s abuse and continued to work for him to know, that I forgive you too. But now you have a choice. From here on out I ask you to do the right thing…even though it’s impossible at times. I want to thank all the amazing people in my life, who stood by me no questions asked. Especially my amazing hero [Brett Pierce], who reminded me that great men still exist. I stayed quiet for the integrity of our movies, out of respect for your family, for fear of you running a smear campaign, for fear of you hurting me, for fear of you stopping my movie, for fear of you making sure no horror director would hire me, but I am no longer afraid. I will happily put my career aside, if it means saving someone’s life, because no one should ever have to go through what I endured. I hope you find your peace and come out of this a better man. Love and light.

Josie refers to England’s latest film, which stars Sophie Turner and Dylan McDermott. The film follows the relationship between an older man and a high school girl who recently moves into the area. It was just released in limited theaters and on VOD.

Stegeman responded on her Instagram feed after receiving several comments of support, saying:
I cannot thank you all enough for your support. Means we are getting to a better place of zero tolerance. Please do me a huge favor and still watch Josie. There are a lot of innocent people involved in this movie and residuals are how they pay their bills. All I ask is that moving forward, we do not create a platform to reward violence or manipulation. Let’s fill this void with greatness and do our damnedest to put excellence at the top…not just the loudest voice in the room. I am so so so lucky to be surrounded by people, who do what’s right…not what’s popular. I am beyond inspired by you all. There’s no need to bash Eric…no one person is all bad…it’s just simply his time to go. Keep sharing the message and the love!

We at Dread Central take allegations like this very seriously; but for clarity’s sake, we must also make it clear that England has not been officially charged. I want to personally highlight the powerful and empathetic presentation of Stegeman’s accusation. As she herself claims, she wanted to come at this from “…a place of kindness and without fear.” I believe that she has done so and laud her for that. Should these allegations be confirmed, I want to send her my best wishes on her road to recovery and to let her know that she is not alone. Already there are many voices lending their support in this difficult time.

We have reached out to England for a comment, who simply replied, “I’ll be releasing a statement soon.

Written by Jonathan Barkan

Lifelong horror fan with a love of music on the side.

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