“It’s a shock when someone does things to you, you know, things you’re not expecting. It isn’t that people suddenly become the bogeymen.”
Oscar-nominated British actress Samantha Morton revealed over the weekend that she had been sexually abused as a child by staff at the care home where she lived as a young teenager.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, she said she decided to speak out following revelations of horrifying abuse against young people in the northern city of Rotherham.
“I thought they were really nice people, so I was actually really shocked when it happened,” she said of her abusers. “And, ultimately, nobody would have believed me, because they’re the coolest, nicest people. People with the best trainers, the nicest car, this, that.”
The 37-year-old actress spent much of her childhood in foster homes or children’s homes – her father was violent and spent time in prison, her mother had a breakdown and her stepfather, now dead, was an alcoholic who had also served time.
When she was 13, in a state-run home in Nottingham in central England, she said she was sexually abused by two care workers living in the home. They had befriended her, giving her treats, but then abused her, at first individually and then together in her bedroom.
“It’s a shock when someone does things to you, you know, things you’re not expecting. It isn’t that people suddenly become the bogeymen,” Morton told the newspaper. “Abuse of children is gradual – this is why we now understand the term grooming.”
She did not immediately go the authorities because “how weird is this? I didn’t want them to get into trouble”, but when she did tell social workers, no action was taken.
Morton also talked about suffering physical abuse when she was 14: “I was once punched in the face by a young male residential social worker because I told him to ‘eff off”.
She spoke out after an enquiry earlier this month detailed the gang rape, kidnapping and trafficking of girls as young as 11 in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, and blamed the authorities for failing to respond to the problem.
Asked whom she felt most anger towards for her abuse, Morton said it was not the perpetrators or the police, who did nothing after she reported the abuse. Most at fault, she said, were the social workers.
“They had a duty of care – not only a social duty of care, but a legal obligation to take care of me, and they didn’t. They failed miserably. But I survived,” she said. “I’m here to tell the tale. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Morton has been nominated for two Oscars, for her supporting role in Woody Allen’s 1999 film Sweet And Lowdown, and for best actress in the 2002 movie In America. Her latest films include The Harvest and the upcoming Miss Julie with Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain. – AFP
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