Rose McGowan, star of the series "Charmed" and the new "Conan The Barbarian" film, says she escaped "by the skin of my teeth" from a religious group as a child in Italy, where she was born.
The 38-year-old actress made her comments in an interview published in the September 2011 print issue of People magazine, which quotes her on its cover as saying: "I escaped a cult."
McGowan has talked in the past about her unconventional childhood. She and her six siblings were raised in Italy in a commune run by the Children of God group. The actress told People that her father smuggled her and her siblings out after he became fearful that she would be abused sexually. They hid in a stone house and avoided neighbors.
""My dad was strong enough to realize that this hippie love had gone south," she told People. "I remember a man trying to break in with a hammer. As strong as I like to think I've always been, I'm sure I could have been broken. I know I got out by the skin of my teeth."
Children of God was investigated in the 1970s following allegations of polygamy and sexual abuse of children, but was never convicted. In 1994, the group, known today as "The Family International," said that founder David Berg, who died that year, had encouraged members to engage in a form of prostitution called "Flirty Fishing." The practice has since been discontinued.
"Every child has the right to be protected from abuse and neglect of any kind, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or educational," The Family International child protection policy reads. "We consider that the abusive treatment of a child is not only a crime, but a sin in the eyes of God. The Family International has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the abusive treatment of children, and will permanently expel any member who violates this policy."
McGowan says when she lived on the commune, its female residents "were basically there to serve the men sexually - you were allowed to have more than one wife."
McGowan also said she was assaulted physically on the commune.
"You weren't allowed to have imperfections," she said. "I had a little wart on my thumb, and I remember walking down this hallway - a door opened and some adult grabbed me and just cut it off with a razor blade and stuck me back out in the hallway with it still bleeding."
Both of her parents eventually bought her and her siblings to the United States. She spoke no English at the time. The actress, who has often showcased a unique, sometimes flashy clothing style, was bullied at school. When she was a teenager, her mother suspected she was on drugs and put her in a rehab clinic.
McGowan ran away and spent a few days living on the streets. She later moved with her family to Seattle and lived by herself.
"At 13, when I was a runaway, I was taken in by the most amazing drag queens in Portland, Oregon," McGowan told The Advocate earlier this month. "We didn't always know where our next meal was coming from, but there was so much camaraderie and love," she said. "Not to mention, those girls could paint a face, and I learned how because of them."McGowan emancipated herself at age 15 and relocated to Los Angeles. She nabbed her breakout role on the WB drama series "Charmed" in 2001, replacing cast member Shannen Doherty. "Charmed" ended its run in 2006.
McGowan is also known for her high-profile relationships. She was engaged to shock rocker Marilyn Manson for more than two years before they split in 2001. She later dated Ahmet Zappa, son of the late singer Frank Zappa, and was engaged to Robert Rodriguez, who directed her in the 2007 action-horror flicks "Planet Terror" and "Grindhouse." They are said to have ended their relationship in 2009.
McGowan can currently be seen in the film "Conan the Barbarian," a remake of a 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger fantasy film, McGowan plays the villain Marique, a witch and the daughter of an evil warlord. Jason Momoa portrays the title character, who seeks revenge for the destruction of his tribe. He previously starred on the show "Stargate: Atlantis" and plays Khal Drogo on the HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones."
UPDATED at 1:30 p.m. ET: The religious group The Family International has responded to Rose McGowan's remarks.
(See photos from the "Conan the Barbarian" premiere). The film was released on August 19. Check out a trailer below.