After being raped at 18 years old by a friend in her own Los Angeles apartment more than a decade ago, AnnaLynne McCord sought treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And while undergoing therapy sessions last year, the 90210 star recalled painful memories of childhood sexual abuse for the first time in her life.
She opened up to PEOPLE about the traumatizing memories at Mosaic Foundation’s first annual Gala Against Human Slavery at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City on Tuesday night. With high-priced bidding items, like a signed Andy Warhol print, the star-studded charity event raised $600,000.
“I remembered a sexual assault when I was 19 years old. That was the story I knew,” McCord, who first revealed she was raped in an essay for Cosmopolitan in 2014, told PEOPLE.
“A year ago, I was in treatment for PTSD and memories of child sexual abuse came back for years all the way until I was 11 years,” the Dallas actress, 32, said. “Now I know why this is my life and this is my story because it is so personal to me.”
Growing up, she said that she “believed that sex equated love.”
“Sex and love equaled the same thing,” she explained. “So what did I do? I wanted to be loved. I thought I had to had sex with someone to be able to be loved. It was devastating to my soul as a human being to feel I wasn’t worthy of love unless someone was taking advantage of my body.”
Now, McCord, who serves as the president of an anti-human trafficking organization called Together1Heart, has made it her mission to “make sure every single person in this planet knows what love feels like.”
She added: “To be able to be a part of something where young men and women and boys and girls have been through even worse than what I have been through in my own life [and] to see that they weren’t suicidal like I was, they weren’t cutting up their arms like I was, they were forgiving and loving themselves and those who did that to them, that gave me a way out. They gave me hope.”
In her first-person Cosmopolitan essay, McCord wrote candidly about her devoutly Christian, physically abusive upbringing, and the night she woke up to find a male friend raping her in her Los Angeles apartment at age 18.
A storyline on 90210 — her character Naomi was raped by a teacher –— and her work with survivors of the Cambodian sex trade motivated her to come forward. And she hasn’t looked back.
“The support has been amazing,” she previously told PEOPLE. “You think in your head that the opposite is going to happen. You think that you’ll be shamed and there will be even more degradation, humiliation. And the opposite has been apparent. But what’s even more important than that to me has been the outreach from survivors who are telling me their stories.”
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