The actress and Real Housewives of Dallas star hopes that by telling her story, she can give others strength.

By Sophie T. Stern and Emily Strohm
November 08, 2018 03:44 PM

There’s a reason LeeAnne Locken is so vocal about the abuse she’s suffered.

The actress and Real Housewives of Dallas star describes herself as an “oversharer” to PEOPLE and says she hopes that by telling her story, she can give others strength.

“I don’t need courage to talk about it,” Locken, 51, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “That’s me being the raw, honest, open, no-filter LeeAnne that I was born. Where it took courage was surviving it. Trying not to let it destroy me. Making sure that I learned to thrive instead of just survive.”

Tommy Garcia/Bravo

Locken, who started working on the carnival circuit at the age of 3, has opened up about the abuse she experienced growing up, including being molested by her best friend’s father.

Now a fierce advocate for many of the charitable organizations in Dallas, Locken encourages readers to “find their purpose.”

“Where there’s tragedy, I’m immediately looking for the purpose. Whereas everybody else is crying and allowing themselves to process it, I immediately look for the purpose,” she says. “It’s a different way to live, but it’s what works for me at this stage in life.”

Peter Larsen/Bravo

Her past also helps Locken put her on-screen conflicts with D’Andra Simmons and Brandi Redmond into perspective.

“I’ve been tortured my whole life,” Locken tells PEOPLE. “What these girls do to me on this show is nothing. It’s like spitballs at a battleship. I’m not gonna sink anytime soon. I’m gonna be the strongest thing on this show. That’s not gonna change.”

The Real Housewives of Dallas airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.