Thandie Newton says she became ‘super-vulnerable to predators’ as she speaks about surviving sexual abuse as a teenager

‘It was like I had to give something back for being noticed,’ Westworld star says

Sabrina Barr@fabsab5
Wednesday 08 July 2020 10:25
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Thandie Newton has spoken about sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager, explaining how being discriminated against made her “super vulnerable to predators”.

In a new interview with Vulture, Newton recalled not feeling beautiful during her childhood, something that she believes was “hugely to do” with her ethnicity.

“I had no sense of self. One of the reasons why is because I was not considered anything. There was a lot that people could have been interested in in me when I was young. They didn’t want to express it, because they didn’t want to praise the black girl,” the 47-year-old said.

The actor explained that despite being the “star student” in her ballet class, she was never awarded prizes, despite it being “screamingly obvious” that she deserved the recognition.

“We didn’t talk about it at the time, but the damage was done. It just made me super-vulnerable to predators. That’s the truth,” Newton said.

“Because there’s so much about not having a sense of value. I suffered quite badly for a couple of years from anorexia, and it all feeds into this. Just wanting to disappear.”

The Westworld star outlined how she had a “very complicated relationship with sexual relationships”, as she felt she “had to give something back for being noticed”.

Newton stated that “predators and sexual abusers” were able to take note of her sense of self-worth “like a shark smelling blood in the water”.

“In a way, an eating disorder was just like, ‘Okay, I need to finish myself off. I need to get fully rid of myself now,’” she said.

“Unfortunately, that was while I was in an industry where a woman is utterly objectified.”

Newton has spoken for several years about suffering from sexual abuse as a teenager, accusing director John Duigan of grooming her on the set of her debut film Flirting. Duigan has not commented publicly on the allegations.

The director was 39 years old at the time, while Newton was 16 years old.

In the Vulture interview, Newton discussed the way in which their relationship was described in the media, with some outlets denoting it as an “affair”.

“If they spoke about it in a way that’s not sympathetic or they called it an affair, it was insult to injury. It’s like re-abuse,” the actor said.

“I think the reason I talked about it a lot, too, is I’m trying to find someone who understands. I’m looking for help. It’s so f***ing obvious to me. What is the point if we don’t expose what needs to be exposed?”

When Newton was 21 years old, she met Eve Ensler, best-known for writing The Vagina Monologues.

While talking in a pub in North London after one of Ensler’s performances, Newton told the playwright about her experience of sexual abuse.

“She didn’t look at me with pity,” Newton recollected. “For her, it was like, ‘And you’re here.’

“It was the moment I turned from being a victim to a survivor. She just pointed out I was moving through it.”

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.​

The Independent is attempting to contact Mr Duigan for comment.

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