In the days following, Theron's devastated mother insisted that the teenager leave and resume her life away from home. Her mother said she would face the investigation on her own.
"For her to say go, go make something of your life, go, go do something — that was an extremely brave thing for her to do," Theron said. "Those are the sacrifices, you know, that I think you do for your children, and she always did that. She always put me first."
In the end, Theron's mother never faced prosecution. The attorney general ruled that her mother had acted to defend herself and her daughter.
Theron has said she bears the scar of that night on her heart, like a tattoo. "It's a part of me, but it doesn't rule my life," she said.
Theron considers herself "very lucky" and that she doesn't go through her life suffering.
"I have an incredible life!" she said. "I love my job. I have beautiful people around me. I'm in love with an incredible man. My career is beautiful."
That "incredible man" is actor Stuart Townsend (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), who has been Theron's beau for 2 1/2 years. "The lotto was scratched and I won," Theron said. "I don't think I could have imagined a love like that."
Still, it cannot be an accident that Theron has a triumph now in Monster, exploring the roles of choice and fate, and the dark road from the past to the future. Danger, ambiguity — "it's the world that I know," said Theron.
But she added, "I'm dying for a comedy." She joked, "Please, I can be funny too!"
And if Theron could go back and change the past, she says, there's only one thing she would do. "I would force my parents to get a divorce. That would be it. The rest of it has been an incredible journey."