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Actress addresses effects of sexual assault in lecture

| Thursday, November 13, 2014

When actress, producer and philanthropist AnnaLynne McCord spoke to Notre Dame students Thursday evening in the LaFortune Ballroom, she had one very clear message: the importance of acceptance and forgiveness.

At age 18, McCord, who has starred in “90210,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Dallas,” was sexually assaulted in her own home by a male friend, and she said the fact that she knew her attacker that made it harder to grasp.

“[Knowing the attacker] is the part that makes it very shameful, very uncomfortable, and this is what keeps silence,” McCord said.

As the assault took place, she said she was unsure of how to fight for herself. But it was when she thought of her boyfriend that she suddenly found a voice and stood up to her attacker.

“For [my boyfriend] I had a voice … but I couldn’t do it for myself because I felt pushed down as a woman,” McCord said of the weakness she felt in the moment of the attack.

She said instinctually repressed the memory following the attack and did not speak about it to anyone for many months.

“[It was] denial, denial, denial,” she said, until she told a male friend 10 months later.

“That was the first time I ever said it,” McCord said. “That was the first time I ever acknowledged that that’s actually what it was. That was the first time I even gave any kind of thought towards it.”

That moment led her to a revelation: she was not reacting to her assault in the same vengeful and angered way that her friend was reacting.

She couldn’t quite understand this difference, she said.

“Why didn’t I feel that for myself? Why did I feel like I didn’t have a voice?” McCord said.

After her many trips to Cambodia as part of her work against sex trafficking, McCord said she began to find her voice and heal.

“These girls [in Cambodia] have been raped everyday. … And they were not suffering, and they were not angry,” she said, which was completely antithetical to the anger, frustration and depression that she felt after for years after her assault.

However, it was not until McCord went back to the exact place where her attacker had confronted her not long after her assault that she was able to feel at peace with what happened.

“I cried for myself,” she said.

It was then that she felt she had moved on.

As she stood in that spot, McCord said that she thought, “I’m done. I’m done with the cycle of abuse. I’m done with the suffering. … [He does not] have power over me. I’m no longer shackled.”

Another big moment in her healing process came when McCord finally admitted her assault publically, she said.

“I felt relieved,” McCord said. “Everyone knew I’m damaged, I’m tainted, bad stuff has happened to me … but I’m still kicking.

“It was a weight off my shoulders.”

Now, McCord said she forgives her attacker because her story of healing is not about him, it is about her. She said overcoming her sexual assault has led her to better forgive and accept others in her life today.

“I can’t go back. I can’t undo it.” McCord said. “Now, when something happens to me, I own it, and I practice letting it go.”

The event, entitled, “It Starts with Me: Healing and Forgiveness,” was sponsored by Sponsored by the Department of Film, Television and Theatre, the GeNDer Studies Program, Lyons Hall and Duncan Hall.

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