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Julianne Hough - who plays a survivor of domestic abuse in her upcoming movie "Safe Haven" - has revealed that she can relate to her character on the deepest level: She was also a victim of abuse.
In the cover story of the February issue of Cosmopolitan, the 24-year-old actress, dancer and singer opened up about being abused as a child while living away from her parents at a prestigious dance academy.
Then 10 years old, Hough was studying (along with her brother Derek) at the Italia Conti Academy of Arts in London, far from her family's home in Utah.
It was there, she said, that the adults who were entrusted with her care took advantage of her being without parental supervision.
"I was abused, mentally, physically, everything," Hough said in the interview.
"I was 10 years old looking like I was 28, being a very sensual dancer," she explained. "I was a tormented little kid who had to put on this sexy facade because that was my job and my life. But my heart was the same, and I was this innocent little girl. I wanted so much love."
The abuse got worse "when I started hitting puberty, when I started becoming a woman and stopped being a little girl."
Hough declined to name her abusers or provide other details, saying "I'm a very forgiving person, and I don't want to hurt anybody. What's past is past."
So why has she finally decided to share her story? Partly because of the emotions she experienced while filming "Safe Haven."
During one difficult scene, Hough says, "“I went from bawling to containing to laughing to crying again. Josh [Duhamel] was crying. I think it was the most therapeutic moment of my life.”
In the movie, she plays a young woman who hesitantly falls in love with a widower (Duhamel) after escaping an abusive relationship.
As for Hough, it seems that she has also found happiness in her work, as well as her relationship with her boyfriend of two years, Ryan Seacrest.
"We love what we do. We take pride in giving it our all, but then when we're alone, we really focus in on going to dinners and being extra-romantic and affectionate and just being there for each other."