Entertainment

Zara McDermott says she ‘buried' sexual assault experience in back of her mind

The reality star is presenting a BBC documentary exploring rape culture.

Former Love Island contestant Zara McDermott has said she felt the need to speak out about her sexual assault because the memory had been “buried” in the back of her mind for so long.

The reality star fronted a widely praised BBC Three documentary about revenge porn earlier this year and is following it up with a special exploring rape culture.

The former Government adviser from Essex recently said she was attacked about four years ago by a young man or boy who appeared to be wearing a school uniform, but passers-by intervened.

The X Factor: Celebrity Launch – London
Zara McDermott (Ian West/PA)

McDermott said she struggled to described the experience as “assault” because many women had experienced worse.

She told the PA news agency: “This assault that happened to me, it’s hard to say that it was assault.

“I think that’s just me not allowing myself to say it because I got away very much unscathed – and I’m so conscious that so many other women haven’t had that.

“So I’m conscious that I don’t want it to be a ‘woe is me’ situation.

“That happened to me and I couldn’t really do anything, but I managed to get away pretty unscathed.

“That was something that I felt more so that it was important to talk about it and share it because I hadn’t really done it yet and I had buried it in the back of my mind.”

McDermott said making her previous film about revenge porn, which she became the victim of while at school, had been a “massive part of healing from it”.

She added: “It was almost like therapy doing that doc because I talked about things for the first time that I hadn’t talked about in years and thought about what happened properly.

“Like, why do I sometimes feel like this? Oh, it’s because this happened to me when I was 15 and it’s made me feel like this now.

Sam Thompson
Sam Thompson (Ian West/PA)

“It helped me heal myself and link things together where I felt maybe slightly damaged from what happens when I was younger.

“So I wouldn’t so much (say) a weight lifted, but more so like a healing process.”

McDermott praised her boyfriend, Made In Chelsea cast member Sam Thompson, for his support as she spoke publicly about her experiences for the first time.

She said: “He is literally the best person in the whole world. He is my best friend. He is always there to talk to me about anything and everything.

“I think that it’s really important in life that you find someone who you can be 100% yourself around, and they accept you for every flaw and past experience – and he absolutely does that.

“And I hope he can feel the same with me. We’ve both been through a lot in our lives.

“We’re not that old but we’ve still been through a lot, and it’s really important that I can speak to him, and he always makes me feel like I can.

“So he’s super supportive and he’s always so happy to be involved in my films, as well, because sometimes it is really important to get a male perspective on something.”

Zara McDermott: Uncovering Rape Culture airs on BBC Three on Wednesday November 24.

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