Rose McGowan: ‘Being sexually assaulted threw a wrench in my thinking'

The world tried to tell me I was worthless, but I always knew I was worth quite a lot and that I was destined for a really big life. My dad was the leader of the chapter of an Italian cult called the Children of God and my mum was one of his wives. We moved to a military base in America when I was 10 and my name was changed from Rosa to Rose. At school I had a detention every single day for insubordination and pointing out the teachers’ factual inaccuracies.

I emancipated myself when I was 15. By then I was living in the back room of a friend’s house in Hollywood and had about 25 cents to my name, so I represented myself in court. I needed to have control of my own life.

Most people from a cult end up in another and that’s what’s happened to me. If you’re doing something that supports a power structure that’s not supporting you, guess what? You’re in a cult. Hollywood is a major authoritarian regime. It controls what you’re supposed to look like, how you have your hair, how you dress and speak. And whatever you do, don’t ruffle any feathers. God forbid you get out of line, little girl. God forbid.

Being sexually assaulted when I was 21 threw a monkey wrench in my thinking for a while. It had happened at different times before that, the first time when I was 14. With “the Monster”, I tried to tell people, but it just got crushed and swept under the rug. A criminal attorney told me: “You’re an actress. You’ve done a sex scene. No one will believe you. You’re done.” And, at that time, she was right. Today, she would not be right, which is huge.

People who say, “I don’t even know if I can flirt any more,” are just so dumb. What they mean is, “I can’t abuse my power in that weird grey area like I liked to do for so long.” People just need to get a little smarter. Just 10%. That’s all I’m asking.

We need to change our vernacular about abuse of power. Rape is not sex. It’s theft. It’s a massive abuse of power and a miscarriage of justice. It’s not a sexual crime. The problem might manifest itself in a sexual way sometimes, but underlying that is an abuse of power.

Celebrity is a horrible word and I grimace when I’m described as one. I was never trying to be an actor. I just found myself in that world. Celebrity is ephemeral. It’s like the dirt under your glossily painted fingernails.

I’m currently in a relationship with a woman, but despite my experiences my faith in men isn’t destroyed. I’ve never been like that. I’ve always been really hopeful about people and I think it would be best if people could stop seeing themselves as men and women and just see themselves as humans.

Brave by Rose McGowan is published by HarperCollins (£9.99). Buy a copy for £8.79 at


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