Thandiwe Newton has recalled being “derailed” from herself after being sexually abused by a director at the age of 16.
The Line of Duty and Westworld star has spent years publicly discussing the epidemic of sexual abuse and racism within the entertainment industry, and how often she was asked to be silent about her own experiences.
In a new interview with British Vogue, Newton recalled being “changed” by the abuse.
“There’s a moment where the ghost of me changed, you know, and it was then, it was 16,” Newton remembered. “He derailed me from myself utterly. I was traumatised. It was a kind of PTSD for sure. I was so distraught and appalled that a director had abused a young actress, and that it was happening elsewhere, minors getting abused and how f***ed up it was. I was basically waiting for someone to come along and say, ‘Well, what shall we do about this?’’’
Newton added that she battled eating disorders in the wake of her abuse, controlling her intake of food as a coping mechanism, adding: “I punished my body to try and find my heart.”
Newton also revealed in the interview that she is publicly reclaiming her birth name, Melanie Thandiwe (pronounced “Tan-dee-way”), and that she will be credited as “Thandiwe Newton” in all future on-screen credits and in interviews. Newton’s name was misspelled as “Thandie” in the credits for her debut film Flirting in 1991, and it stuck as she rose to fame. “Thandiwe” means “beloved” in Zulu.
“That’s my name,” she said. “It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”
In 2020, Newton recalled “bursting into tears” while filming a sexual assault scene in her Oscar-winning movie Crash.
You can contact the National Helpline for rape and sexual abuse, provided by Rape Crisis South London, by calling 0808 802 9999. The helpline is open between 12 and 2.30pm and 7 and 9.30pm every day of the year.