Camila Mendes Opened Up About Surviving Sexual Assault As a College Freshman

Camila shared her painful story with Women's Health.

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Riverdale star Camila Mendes has a tattoo on the right side of her chest, reading, "to build a home." It represents a bleak moment in her life, the actor told Women's Health: While a freshman at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, she became a survivor of sexual assault. "I had a very, very bad experience; I was roofied by someone who sexually assaulted me," she said.

Camila explained to the magazine that she had no real sense of home as a child, moving over 12 times both because of her parents' separation and her dad's career. "I’ve always, always wanted nothing more than stability," she said.

"Moving around throughout my whole childhood was a bit traumatic," she added. "You’re constantly saying goodbye to people, and you’re constantly being removed from your identity. When you start to feel like you’re connecting with a group of people, an environment, and a home—a physical home—it can be destabilizing when you’re uprooted and taken somewhere else."

After being assaulted, Camila got the tattoo as a pledge to herself. "The tattoo reminds her to strengthen both her sense of self and the environment around her," Women's Health wrote. Camila explained that the consistency of her habits (she sticks to the same cafés, hotels, and exercise studios when her career forces her to travel) is her method of creating home wherever she is. "If you don’t have that literal box, you have to create it in your habits," she said.

Exercising and sticking to a strict sleep schedule help too: "Whenever I feel like I’m going through something difficult, I think about what I can do physically for myself," she said. "People sometimes put working out first and don’t give their bodies rest," she added. "I’ll always choose sleep first. I think it’s just so underrated." (I couldn't agree more.)

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Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.