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Actress Charlize Theron Opens Up About Alcoholic Father, Traumatic Childhood

Charlize Theron Talks about traumatic childhood experiences
*Photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter

While growing up on her parents’ farm in South Africa, Charlize Theron lived in a constant state of uncertainty. Her father had alcoholism, and in a recent interview on the Howard Stern Show, Theron described how her father’s addiction affected her everyday life.

“I would wake up not knowing what was going to happen and not knowing how my day was going to go,” said Theron. “All of it depended on somebody else and whether he was not going to drink or drink.”

Theron was 15-years-old when her father, in a drunken state, threatened her and her mother Gerda with a shotgun and physically attacked her mother. Gerda fatally shot him four times in self-defense. After the incident, Theron never wanted to tell anybody about it and pretended like it didn’t happen. It wasn’t until her late 20s and early 30s that she sought out therapy to help her heal from her traumatic childhood experiences.

Charlize TheronTheron felt terrible about the situation, but didn’t dwell on it or let it define her. Her mother Gerda was a huge inspiration in helping her move forward. “Her philosophy was: This is horrible. Acknowledge that this is horrible.” said Theron. “Now make a choice. Will this define you? Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?”

Traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, loss of a loved one, domestic violence, parental substance use, natural disasters and other life-altering events impact how a child views him or herself and responds to the world. Trauma impacts important regions of the brain responsible for problem-solving, emotion regulation and memory. Years and years of research show that some of the worst health and social problems arise from traumatic childhood experiences.

It is important for professionals as well as communities to understand what childhood trauma is and know how they can help individuals who have experienced it. Learn more about the life-long effects of childhood trauma and KVC’s work to integrate trauma-informed care into child welfare and related systems.

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