Martine McCutcheon recently returned to our screens as she reprised her iconic role as Love Actually’s Natalie in the Red Nose Day sequel.
Yesterday, however, she sat down on ITV’s Loose Women to broach a far more serious topic: domestic abuse.
After learning that Spice Girls star Mel B had filed a restraining order against her estranged husband Stephen Belafonte after 10 years of alleged abuse, McCutcheon responded: “It could happen to anyone.”
She then went on to explain that she and her mother, Jenny Tomlin, experienced abuse at the hands of her father – and the 40-year-old stressed that it took them nine years to escape him.
“My mum was a career woman, very educated, and even though she made the choice to get away from my dad, it took years,” she said. “It took nine years.”
McCutcheon went on to reveal that her mother was forced to install panic buttons after her father, Thomas Hemmings, refused to leave them alone.
“We had panic buttons,” she said. “In the end, I would call the police when I was four years old and they would keep me on the phone while what was going on was going on downstairs.
“And guess what? By the time the police arrived, it ‘hadn’t happened’, so they couldn’t convict him of anything.”
McCutcheon added: “We'd move around the country and he'd always manage to find us.
“Men use children as a weapon and they know it's going to hurt you.”
The actor and musician went on to praise her mother’s bravery, saying: “My mum was so strong and brave.
“It’s a really scary decision to make [to leave someone], but women are dying of domestic abuse every week. They have to have a plan. These men are bullies and they’re obsessed.
“It’s all a calculated move.”
It is not the first time that McCutcheon has opened up about her traumatic childhood.
Speaking on Loose Women in 2016, she recalled an incident where she had been threatened by her father, saying: “He threatened me, he threatened my mum. He threatened to drop me over a balcony of our flats, we lived in like a Peabody Estate in East London, and he threatened to drop me over if she didn’t do what he wanted her to do when he was high as a kite one day.”
She added that her parents had fallen for each other “like two damaged souls”, saying: “My mum mistook his obsession for love, drugs and drink were involved with him and he would do the most terrible things and he wouldn't remember what he had done.”
McCutcheon continued: “When I was nine years old, I went to the Old Bailey and I spoke to the judge about what happened to me, what happened to my mum and an injunction was put against him and he wasn’t allowed obviously within a certain radius of me and my mum until I was 18.”
The former EastEnders star urged viewers watching not to sit in silence if any of the discussion was familiar to them – and said that she hoped her admission would encourage others to seek help.
“If anybody is going through this at home, talk to somebody, talk to a teacher, talk to a friend, you shouldn’t be living in fear and you haven't done anything wrong.”
It can be difficult for many people trapped in toxic and abusive relationships to spot the warning signs.
These can include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Your partner constantly criticises, humiliates or belittles you
- Your partner checks up on you or follows you
- Your partner tries to keep you from seeing your friends or family
- Your partner has prevented you or made it hard for you to continue studying or going to work
- Your partner unjustly accuses you of flirting or having affairs with others
- Your partner has forced you to do something that you really did not want to do
- Your partner has deliberately destroyed any of your possessions
- You have changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you
- Your partner controls your finances
- Your partner talks down to you
- Your partner has strong opinions on what you should wear and your appearance
- Your partner has tried to prevent you from leaving your house
- Your partner has forced you or harassed you into performing a sexual act
- Your partner has threatened to reveal or publish private information
- Your partner threatens to hurt him or herself if you leave them
- Your partner witholds medication from you
- Your partner makes you feel guilty all the time
- Your partner blames you for their bad moods and outbursts
- You are afraid of your partner
If you are worried that you might be the victim of emotional abuse, it’s quite likely that you are. If these signs of an abusive relationship sound all too familiar to you, then get out of that situation as soon as possible.
Visit womensaid.org.uk or call 0808-2000 247 for more information about coercive control, domestic abuse, and the help available for those affected.
Images: Rex Features