Actress AnnaLynne McCord, who you may remember from Nip/Tuck, Dallas, or 90210, has a message for women and girls: "You have a voice. Don’t put yourself in a box. Don’t let the polite lies of society silence you." McCord is speaking out in a new Cosmopolitan essay titled, "Why I'm Done Staying Quiet About My Sexual Assault," and in it she details the physical abuse she endured as a child -- which she believes taught her to keep silent when she was sexually assaulted at 18.
It's a tough essay to read, but it's also inspiring to see how McCord went from her lowest point, which included a suicide attempt, to experiencing what she calls "my own revolution."
McCord opens by saying she believes it's time to be open about what happened to her, despite her upbringing which taught her to stay quiet:
My parents believed in strict “discipline,” as they called it — I would call it abuse. The punishments were painful and ritualistic. We would have to bend over the bed, sometimes with our pants down, arms outstretched, and get spanked — with a ruler in our younger years and later with a paddle that my parents bought when they thought the ruler wasn’t strong enough. I found it all very confusing. I knew my mom and dad loved me, and I loved them too. I still do. My dad always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. But at the same time, my parents hurt me, which told me they hated me. I know they were doing what they thought was right to discipline their kids. But it really messed me up.
She goes on to describe a specific incident that happened when she was a teenager and a male friend crashed at her apartment:
We sat on the bed and talked for a while, then I fell asleep. When I woke up, he was inside me. At first, I felt so disoriented and numb, I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. I wondered if I had done something to give him the wrong idea. I felt afraid of making him angry. Believe it or not, I didn’t want to offend him. I just wanted it to be over. My childhood had come back to haunt me again: Because of the physical abuse, I didn’t believe there were borders between other people’s bodies and my own. I didn’t believe I had a voice.
She was eventually able to tell him to stop, but the experience led her to a dark place emotionally:
I would drive to a secluded place, park underneath a tree, and write dark poetry on my arm, then slice myself with a massively sharp knife, rubbing in the blood. (...) I lay on my bed in a hotel in Madrid for days, feeling increasingly alone and hopeless. I had pills and water in hand and thought seriously about killing myself. I didn’t fear death — it felt like a solution. When you’re in that mode, you don’t think suicide is a selfish thing to do. You think you’re doing everyone a favor.
McCord has since gotten better with professional help, and she's also spoken with survivors of sexual slavery in Southeast Asia, turned a triggering 90210 rape storyline into a healing dialogue, and plans to go on a college speaker tour this fall. Good for her for being brave enough to share her story, because who knows how many young women she may have helped feel less alone -- or more empowered -- by doing so.
Image via bbcworldservice/Flickr