I just finished reading actress AnnaLynne McCord’s essay in Cosmopolitan and I’m crying. Her story was matter-of-fact, it was raw and it was incredibly powerful. McCord, 26, has previously spoken in general terms about being abused. In 2011, at an event for the Somaly Mam foundation, Annalynne said that the “innocence of my mind was stolen as a child.” Annalynne has worked with the The Somaly Mam foundation, dedicated to rescuing victims of sex slavery, for years. In Cosmopolitan, AnnaLynne described what she went through, explaining that she was physically abused as a child by a religious father and raped by a man at 18 whom she considered a friend. I was so impressed by how AnnaLynne told her story. I feel like I know her, like she’s a friend who confided in me. Here are some excerpts from her story, but I recommend that you read it in its entirety.
On her strict, abusive upbringing
I grew up in an extremely religious and conservative family in Georgia, mostly in the small city of Monroe, near Atlanta. My dad was a nondenominational Christian pastor. My mom homeschooled my two sisters and me. My sisters and I rarely got to watch TV, mainly just old episodes of Little House on the Prairie. We could never watch anything like Harry Potter because it had witches in it. We never talked about sex. We weren’t even supposed to kiss until we got married. It was like we were living in 1902.
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. One day, I would suffer a punishment, and the next, my family would have a lovely day at the beach and I would tell myself, Maybe it’s not so bad.
On being raped
When I was 18, I moved to Los Angeles to audition for roles. My boyfriend planned to come later. One night, a guy friend called. He said he needed a good night’s sleep for a meeting, as he’d been crashing on someone’s couch. I had known him for some time, so I said to come over and I set him up with a clean towel. 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.
And then, suddenly, my thoughts took a practical turn: I could get an STD. I could get pregnant. I have a boyfriend. I said, “Please, don’t!” He stopped and went in the bathroom and finished. I lay there and stared at the ceiling for the rest of the night, frozen. At dawn, I wrote a note to him and left. I sat outside in a car and waited for him to leave. When he did, I went back inside, took a shower, and pretended it hadn’t happened.
How her attacker denied raping her
I didn’t tell anyone other than asking a friend if I should worry about getting pregnant if a man pulled out during sex. I went to an audition, then to dinner with friends. I acted strong — fake strong. Over the next few months, I began to go dark. My friends would invite me to events where the guy would be, and I would stay away. Then one night, I did go to a club with friends, and I saw him there. We made eye contact and I felt like throwing up. I turned and ran, sprinting into traffic.
Around this time, I landed a role on Nip/Tuck. My character, Eden, was confident, sexy, audacious. But privately, I was reeling. 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.
And then my attacker confronted me. We were at a club, and he cornered me, wanting to talk. I said, “You know what happened.” He said, “What are you saying? What we had that night was beautiful.”
My boyfriend came around the corner, and I got away. Later, a male friend told me my attacker was going around claiming I was in love with him. Finally, something in me snapped. “He raped me!” I said.
My friend’s reaction surprised me: He was so angry. I realized I was allowed to feel angry too. I told another friend, and she burst into tears. Again, I thought, I’m allowed to feel like this. I told my boyfriend. I told my older sister, Angel. It was another step. But it would take an outright breakdown to truly turn things around.
On her charity work
I met a woman named Somaly Mam, who rescues girls from sexual slavery in Southeast Asia. The girls are kidnapped or sold as young as ages 4 and 5. They live in grimy brothels where they are raped every day. At one of Somaly’s shelters in Cambodia, I met dozens of young survivors. They became my friends, my sisters. Through helping them heal, I began to heal myself.
That story of her assaulter re-writing history and trying to turn his rape of her into some tender moment is chilling. He violated her while she was sleeping! It just makes me so mad for her.
AnnaLynne also wrote about considering suicide and how that was a turning point for her, and how her role on 90210, as a rape victim, helped her heal. She’s been in a relationship with Dominic Purcell, of Prison Break, for over three years. She wrote that “I have wonderful, mind-blowing sex with my man, and it no longer causes me guilt or shame.”
I feel for AnnaLynne and for all that she went through. I also admire how she dealt with her awful, sad past, by working with other victims. This was the most moving celebrity essay I’ve read in a long time.
AnnaLynne McCord is shown at a charity event for CAST, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, on 5-9-14. She’s shown with Dominic Purcell in 2011 and 2012. Credit: WENN.com