"When someone you care about strikes you...you feel sadness, you feel shame, you feel embarrassment. You think, 'Was it my fault?' " says Santoro
Credit: Ramona Rosales

Matthew Santoro has always been an open book.

“I was always the class clown,” the YouTube star says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “I’ve never had a problem sharing my life with others.”

Born and raised in Welland, Ont., Santoro, 30, went to school to become an accountant but quit his job when his creative outlet, YouTube provided him the opportunity to support himself without a 9-to-5 job.

“YouTube became my classroom and allowed me to entertain millions,” says Santoro, who launched his self-titled channel of fun-fact videos in 2010, a vlog channel shortly after and a gaming channel earlier this year.

But there was one subject matter Santoro was hesitant to share publicly with his 5.4 million YouTube channel subscribers: being physically and mentally abused by a woman.

“When someone you care about strikes you…you feel sadness, you feel shame, you feel embarrassment. You think, ‘Was it my fault?’ ” Santoro said in the tearful video “My Abuse Story,” which he made public in January.

To see Santoro in the pages of PEOPLE, pick up the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands Friday

The video has now been viewed over 7 million times and Santoro hopes that it helps others in similar situations realize that they are not alone.

“I’m inspired by the hundreds of messages I get from people saying I’ve helped them get through depression and suicidal thoughts,” says Santoro, who’s releasing his first book, Mind=Blown, Aug. 9. “I just want to help make people smile.”