"I'm grateful to be on the other side," says AnnaLynne McCord of healing from sexual trauma

By Aili Nahas
June 10, 2021 01:36 PM
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AnnaLynne McCord
AnnaLynne McCord
| Credit: Presley Ann/Getty Images for Visionary Women

AnnaLynne McCord is opening up about overcoming the horrific sexual trauma in her past - and how filming a pivotal scene on her hit drama 90210 helped uncover long suppressed memories.

After suffering sexual abuse as a child at the hands of someone she knew, McCord was raped by a friend when she was 18. "My body froze and did what it did when I was little," McCord, 33, recalls to PEOPLE for this week's issue. "I just cut out awareness of what was happening."

Though she had yet to be diagnosed, the actress was also living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, a mental health disorder characterized by two or more distinct personalities. Those so-called "alters" aided her in the ability to block out the pain.

For more from AnnaLynne McCord, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

annalynne mccord
AnnaLynne McCord
| Credit: Paul Archuleta/Wireimage

"It wasn't a conscious decision to shut it out," says McCord. "My dissociation took care of that and absorbed the bubble of my trauma. My brain protected me."

By 2002, McCord, then starring as scheming vixen Naomi Clark on 90210, was approached by the showrunner about a planned scene in which her character would be raped by a faculty advisor.

"I was like, 'What a great storyline, let's do this,'" she recalls. "We dove in and we did the scene. It didn't trigger anything." But then, filming the aftermath of the rape with costar Jessica Stroup, "I just broke," says McCord. "My heart, which was made to feel like love was a bad, dangerous thing, was just broken."

90210
AnnaLynne McCord and Shenae Grimes on 90210
| Credit: Everett

Despite the recognition, McCord still didn't come to terms with the pain of her past until finally, during therapy in 2018, "the bubble popped," she says. "I was able to connect to my sexual abuse and face it."

Now, "I'm grateful to be on the other side," says McCord. "Healing can be terrible. But I love my life."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.