Camila Mendes Shared That She Was Sexually Assaulted And Spoke About The Tattoo That Has Helped Her Heal
Camila Mendes recently revealed she is a sexual assault survivor. The 25-year-old “Riverdale” star opened up about her assault while attending college in the October issue of Women’s Health. Mendes, who covers the issue, has been an outspoken advocate of women’s issues. The Latin American actress has previously talked about her experience with disordered eating and body image issues.
Unfortunately, Mendes isn’t the only “Riverdale” cast member who has dealt with abusive behavior. In 2017, Mendes’ co-star Lili Reinhart revealed that when she was a teenager when a man in a position of power attempted to force himself on her. At the time, Reinhart chose to remain silent in fear of retribution, losing her livelihood and ruining her reputation in Hollywood.
While the #MeToo movement has unearthed dozens of accusations of abuses of power in Hollywood, for most women these abuses of power are commonplace at work, home, and school.
According to RAINN, in the United States, about 23.1% of undergraduate females experience rape or sexual assault, while 5.4% of undergraduate males experience rape or sexual assault. Moreover, 11.2% of all college students experience rape or sexual assault. Consider that in 2017, there were roughly 19 million people enrolled in colleges in the United States— these numbers are alarming and illuminate the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
Camila Mendes covers Women’s Health
“This cover means so much to me. it took me a while to view self-confidence as a product of physical & mental health, instead of appearance and thinness. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spread that message; I could have used it way earlier in my life,” Mendes wrote on Instagram.
Camila Mendes tells her story.
While attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Mendes was slipped the common date rape drug colloquially known as a “roofie.”
“I got the tattoo after my freshman year,” she says, of a tattoo above her rib that reads: to build a home. “I had a very, very bad experience; I was roofied by someone who sexually assaulted me.”
Mendes vowed from then on to only allow things that made her feel safe and comfortable into her life. She didn’t reveal much more about the experience, but she doesn’t have to. That’s the entire principle behind the #MeToo movement founded by Tarana Burke. All you have to do is say “me too” to a survivor, and it is the revelation, not the personal details, that provides comfort.
“On one side, it’s a bold, declarative statement that, ‘I’m not ashamed,’ and ‘I’m not alone,'” Burke said. “On the other side, it’s a statement from survivor to survivor that says, ‘I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I’m here for you or I get it.'”
Sexual assault can be isolating and lonely, yet we are surrounded by survivors every day.
On body positivity:
In 2018, the Brazilian American actress opened up about her struggles with disordered eating and bulimia.
“They feel like watching somebody else who has gone through it gives them hope that they can recover on their own and come to terms with their own problems,” Mendes said of the warm reception she received in sharing her struggles.
“It’s something that’s still a curse to me. It’s not like that ever goes away. Whenever I do feel insecure, I go back to health. What can I do that’s healthy? Health is what’s important, not appearance. That mentality is what takes me out of the insecure, anxious thoughts.”
Latinxs and sexual assault:
According to the 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey, 1 in 6 Latinx females ages 13 and older are victims of sexual assault.
The Office For Victims of Crime revealed that Latinx girls are more likely to stop attending school activities to avoid sexual harassment than other girls, that Latinx married women were less likely to identify forced sexual acts by their spouses as assault, and that 77 percent of Latinx women, surveyed by a 2009 Southern Poverty Law Center study, claimed sexual harassment was an issue at their workplace.
And finally that, “For the increasing numbers of women who make the journey across the Mexico-U.S. border, rape has become so prevalent that many women take birth control pills or get shots before setting out to ensure that they won’t get pregnant.”
When sexual assault survivors become more visible, no one can deny the collective trauma. Sexual violence affects men and women all over their world, it is only when survivors speak their truth that actionable change can happen. Yet, survivors are so often revictimized when they share their stories. Kudos to Mendes for sharing hers.