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Samantha Morton: ‘Abused women aren’t allowed to be angry’

Oscar-nominated British actress Samantha Morton has said she is “fuming” about how society treats abused women, like her late mother.

The star reflected on her difficult childhood, in and out of care homes, and her relationships with her parents for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

She said she “wouldn’t be who I am today” without her mum Pamela, whom she was unable to live with as a child.

“But I am fuming at how society behaves around mental health issues for women.”

She added: “My mum had a very, very traumatic childhood. And it’s fascinating now as a mother and as a woman growing up to go ‘wow’.”

‘Things weren’t talked about’

She described her mother, whom she said was abused as a child, as “kind, subservient. vulnerable, funny” and “beautiful”, but noted how nobody else had a good word to say about her.

“She is a saint in a way to me,” said Morton, who lost her to cancer several years ago.

“There’s something fascinating in what I did get from her from not getting what I thought I wanted from her.”

“I was not privy to seeing her when she was very poorly when I was very small with her mental health issues,” she continued. “That’s what people were rude about and mean about.

“Women aren’t allowed to be angry if they’d been raped or sexually abused – things weren’t talked about.”

Morton was Oscar-nominated in her early 20s for best supporting actress in 2000, for the film Sweet and Lowdown. She was listed again in 2004 for the best actress Oscar for In America, and later won a Bafta – this time as a director on The Unloved in 2010.

She told Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne that as well as being given “a good hiding” by her father when she was younger, and being repeatedly expelled from school, she was also sexually abused in a care home.

“People abused positions of power,” said the 43-year-old Nottingham actress and director, who apologised on the programme for having “snapped” at one point and threatened a bully herself while in one of her riotous care homes.

Morton confirmed she had still been in the care home system when she got her big break as an actress, on Peak Practice, fittingly playing “a runaway”, she joked.

‘Duty of care’

She concluded by saying that she has “absolute forgiveness” and understanding for everybody who mistreated her, but had not forgotten.

“I think that people in a professional role have a duty of care, not only to the children that they’re looking after, to do their jobs properly,” she said.

“And I think a lot of people failed in those jobs in regards to me and many of my friends, my foster siblings, my siblings, and I just wish certain individuals would put their hands up and say, ‘Yeah, we were wrong, we could have done better.’

“But people don’t want to admit any liability in the culture that we are now because it’s like, people get sued or… what’s that gonna achieve?

“Unless people say, ‘We got it wrong, we want to get it right’, how are we going to change?”

Samantha Morton’s Desert Island Discs is on Radio 4 at 11:00 BST on Sunday 4 October, after which you can listen back on BBC Sounds.

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