Former 90210 star AnnaLynne McCord sold her body "for love" after she was sexually assaulted at the age of 18.
The actress opened up about her ordeal in a 2014 Cosmopolitan interview and she has since become an advocate for other rape victims, often speaking at self-help events across America.
Attending the Rape Foundation Annual Brunch in Beverly Hills on Sunday (25Sep16), the actress, now 29, told People.com her ongoing recovery has been helped by girls and women who have thanked her for coming forward with her story.
"Someone makes one decision one night, and it changes the rest of your life. You don't forget," she tells the outlet.
MCCord reveals she has been battling self-worth and self-esteem issues for years following her sexual assault, adding, "I often say, 'I didn't sell my body for money but I did sell it to feel some feeling of love'. Because that's what we need. We're all the same, we want to be loved."
The young star, who made her debut in new U.S. drama Secrets & Lies on Sunday night (25Sep16), reveals she has received thousands of emails and messages on social media since talking about her rape experience in Cosmopolitan - and she has responded to everyone.
"Eighty per cent of them have told me (they were raped) for the very first time - a complete stranger, someone they don't even know, a random actress in Los Angeles - because I said, 'Hey, I was raped too and it's OK!' The 'it's OK' part is the most crucial part."
MCCord has launched an interactive web series to raise awareness about sexual assault. The Truth web series offers victims the chance to join the show's conversation in real time.
Launching the project last year (15), she said, "Nothing is off limits, and I won't back down from any topic. This is live, so we're uncensored, unfiltered and, most importantly, completely open, honest and real. Absolutely no topic is off-limits."
The series premiered on digital platform Smiletime on 1 October (15).
She also wrote and directed a short film, called I Choose, which addresses consensual and non-consensual sex, suggesting the latter is like a slave act.
"My point is, if someone is having amazing, beautiful Fifty Shades of Grey sex, shut up! They have that right when it's consensual," MCCord explains to People. "When you don't have a choice, I have a problem."
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