When I was on 90210 a few years ago, the character I played, Naomi, was raped by someone she knew. I welcomed the story line, thinking it was important for viewers. I memorized my lines and rehearsed the scenes. I felt ready to go. Then when the cameras were rolling on an intense scene — a fight with an unsupportive friend after the assault — I broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. My castmates thought I had done a great job playing the part. They had no idea that I had actually been sexually assaulted by someone I knew in real life.
For you to understand what happened to me and my reaction to it — burying the assault deep down inside — first you need to know a few things about my life. I’m telling my story now because I think it’s time to talk about the truth. When I was a kid, my candor got me in a lot of trouble, and I learned to stay quiet, to keep my feelings to myself. But no more. I’m in spiritual warrior mode.
I grew up in an extremely religious and conservative family in Georgia, mostly in the small city of Monroe, near Atlanta. My dad was a nondenominational Christian pastor. My mom homeschooled my two sisters and me. My sisters and I rarely got to watch TV, mainly just old episodes of Little House on the Prairie. We could never watch anything like Harry Potter because it had witches in it. We never talked about sex. We weren’t even supposed to kiss until we got married. It was like we were living in 1902.
My parents believed in strict “discipline,” as they called it — I would call it abuse. The punishments were painful and ritualistic. We would have to bend over the bed, sometimes with our pants down, arms outstretched, and get spanked — with a ruler in our younger years and later with a paddle that my parents bought when they thought the ruler wasn’t strong enough.
I found it all very confusing. I knew my mom and dad loved me, and I loved them too. I still do. My dad always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. But at the same time, my parents hurt me, which told me they hated me. I know they were doing what they thought was right to discipline their kids. But it really messed me up. One day, I would suffer a punishment, and the next, my family would have a lovely day at the beach and I would tell myself, Maybe it’s not so bad.