I was sexually assaulted while working on EastEnders – I regret my reaction

Actress Gemma Bsix has bravely told how she was sexually assaulted at an awards show when she starred in the BBC soap EastEnders at just 15.

Gemma, 39, has told how she was assaulted in the toilets at the awards ceremony, where she was chosen as Best Young Actress, by the man the ceremony’s organizers had hired to take over her care that evening.

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Glam Gemma has had stints in EastEnders and HollyoaksCredit: PA: Press Association
Gemma played Claire Bates in EastEnders

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Gemma played Claire Bates in EastEndersCredit: Getty

The actress, who also appeared in Hollyoaks, was inappropriately proposed again when she appeared in a pantomime after leaving EastEnders at the age of 15 – with “no aftercare whatsoever”.

Gemma said: “Looking back now I should have reported them but I only know that now as a grown woman.

“At the time I was a kid, I was under 16.

“I wasn’t sexually active, and I didn’t know what was going on, what they were trying to achieve. I just knew it was scary experiences.

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“I get so frustrated that they ever happened. At the time, you were grateful you were famous so you just kept your mouth shut and carried on. It shouldn’t be like that.”

Gemma is now directing her Christmas charade, Cinderella, in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, and is doing everything she can to keep the young stars of her show safe.

She said: “I don’t want that to happen to any other young actress or actress on TV or stage.

“But if that’s the case, I want them to be able to speak out in a way that I couldn’t, but it was very different back then.”

Gemma has spoken out about a sexual assault that happened while working on EastEnders as a teenager

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Gemma has spoken out about a sexual assault that happened while working on EastEnders as a teenagerCredit: charity
Her character later became a cannibal who seduced Bradley and Ian Beale

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Her character later became a cannibal who seduced Bradley and Ian BealeCredit: BBC

Gemma was nine when she joined EastEnders in 1993 as Claire Bates, daughter of Nigel Bates, played by actor Paul Bradley.

Gemma said: “I was one of only three child actors on TV at the time, I was very popular.

“There have been situations where people put me in, like an award ceremony, that I wasn’t meant to be in.

And there was no social media to monitor anything, things were more hidden.

“On the set of EastEnders I was always safe and protected – I even had a chaperone to walk around the set.

“But after my first EastEnders contract ended, I just left to go into the real big world without any direction or anything.

“When they talk about no aftercare on Love Island now, it was just like that.”

scary

Gemma attended the Soap Awards in 1997 along with other members of the show, which at that time included such big stars as Barbara Windsor, Steve McFadden and Mike Reid.

She said: “There was a man outside of EastEnders who was assigned to keep me safe, to protect me, to look out for me.

“I was 15 and I think he was in his twenties, which seemed very old to me at the time.

“He approached me in the toilet. It was a very equal and scary situation.”

“I didn’t know what was going on or what he was trying to achieve. I laughed, and I tried to laugh it off and got out of the way.

“He became sensitive and approached me and tried to kiss me.

“He was really encroaching on my personal space. I laughed at him and said, ‘Oh my God no,’ but he tried again.

“I finally realize I don’t play ball. It just wasn’t acceptable.”

Gemma says she now wishes she had spoken

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Gemma says she now wishes she had spokenCredit: Simon Jones

She left EastEnders in 1998 when the actor who played her stepfather, Paul, quit.

“Ironically, they were about to do a story of abuse between Nigel and Claire, and Paul said, ‘Absolutely not,’ Gemma said. So I lost my job.

“I wish there was more protection for me when I was younger.

“While I was there the people were wonderful—I remember Barbara Windsor taking me under her wing and bringing me an agent—but off that bubble, when you leave that’s it, at 15 there was no aftercare.”

Now her two children, Juliet and Vienna, are growing up, and it has made her consider how she will protect them.

She said: “My daughters are seven and five years old and I am thinking about what happens to them as they get older and how I should protect them.

It reminded me of those days, of what happened. It made me want to be protected.

“In pantomime now, I make absolutely sure that the child actors are safe.

“I moved their dressing room so it was upstairs and no one could walk past it.”

The strongest person

It was when Gemma appeared in a pantomime after EastEnders, starring alongside dancer Wayne Sleep, in Blackpool’s Aladdin, that she resisted another advance during a “bad experience”.

She said: “He was an older member of the company, he looks a lot older, but looking back he was probably in his twenties.

“He flirted with me and at that time, at the age of fifteen, I loved the attention.

“But I remember I was at the after-show party, everybody was drinking, and he just tried that on me.

“I thought it was normal but then again, I look back and it’s not nice. It was taken a step too far.

“I was a child, so underage, I didn’t know what to do.

“My escort was one of the men from the wardrobe who had been rushed off his feet, so I was there alone.

“I am sure along the way that these experiences have made me a stronger person.”

Gemma lost her job on EastEnders when her on-screen father, Paul Bradley, quit

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Gemma lost her job on EastEnders when her on-screen father, Paul Bradley, quitCredit: BBC

After EastEnders, she finished her education, trained to be an electrician and was an M&S bra, but she never lost her love of acting.

She joined Hollyoaks as the ruthless Clare Devine, winning awards for her work.

Gemma said: “It was so much fun, I even asked someone to write to me from Wandsworth Prison wanting to be my accomplice in killing my friend in Hollyoaks.

“And I had a pastor tell me I could repent of my sins.”

EastEnders then lured Gemma Claire’s character back to Albert Square the following year as an adult who tried to seduce Ian Peel, played by Adam Woodyatt.

“Adam really struggled,” she said, laughing. “I was doggy-style with nipple daisies to cover up.”

“He was shot in the back but he saw the front. He kept saying, ‘I can’t do this, the last time I knew you, you were 14.'”

Bubbly Gemma embraced life as an adult actress with partying and portraying the boy mag she “loved.”

She said, “Who wouldn’t. I have to go to Ibiza for five days. Looking at the pictures I love. As I get older, I look at those pictures and think, ‘Look at what I’ve achieved’.”

“In 2009 – and I will always keep this in my heart – I was voted number one sexiest woman in the planet at FHM. I still own the copy. I’m so proud.”

The only problem was her love life.

Gemma with her husband Christian Rosse

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Gemma with her husband Christian RosseCredit: Rex

Gemma said: “I was celibate for six years when I was in Hollyoaks. I’m sure it was because people were confused by who I was.”

She finally fell in love with one of her brother’s friends, Christian Ross. They married in 2018 and he runs the environmentally friendly waste recycling company Weybridge Skip Hire.

“What he does,” Gemma said, “is a world away from what I do and keeps me in my place. He’s calmer than me, the frantic madman.”

As always, he was there to support her when her panto opened on December 10th.

Gemma, who plans to return to Hollyoaks as a shadow casting director, is working at Clacton’s Princes Theater with Britain’s Got Talent, Emmerdale star George Sampson and Cleopatra Higgins from the Cleopatra girl group.

She said, “I absolutely love directing. It’s incredible to have a vision and to see it come together.”

“This is the second bantu I have directed but I have performed in the past year as well. It is great to be able to sit still and not have the stress of going on stage.

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“It has turned into a real passion. But I don’t think I’ll ever give up on acting… I have so much fun showing off!”

Cinderella is now running at www.princestheater.co.uk until 1st January.

Gemma while in Hollyoaks

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Gemma while in HollyoaksCredit: charity
Gemma draws Bantu

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Gemma draws Bantu


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