In the cover story for the latest issue of Women’s Health magazine, the 25-year-old actor, who skyrocketed to fame on the hit CW series shortly after graduating from New York University, recalled a terrifying experience during her freshman year.
“I had a very, very bad experience,” Mendes told the outlet. “I was roofied by someone who sexually assaulted me.”
The ordeal led her to tattoo the words “to build a home” on her lower ribcage, which she says serves as reminder to “strengthen both her sense of self and the environment around her,” according to the magazine.
Mendes didn’t reveal any more details about the incident but explained that she pledged to seek out spaces and people that made her feel the safest and most comfortable after the attack.
“I’ve always, always wanted nothing more than stability,” Mendes continued, noting that she had moved 12 times before the age of 18 due to her parents’ divorce and her dad’s career.
“Moving around throughout my whole childhood was a bit traumatic. You’re constantly saying goodbye to people, and you’re constantly being removed from your identity,” she added. “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.”
Mendes’ co-star Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty Cooper on the teen series, shared her own story of sexual harassment in 2017 during the early days of the #MeToo movement.
In an emotional Tumblr post, Reinhart recalled feeling “completely violated” as a teenager when a former co-worker in the entertainment industry tried to force himself on her.
“I’m coming forward about my own experience to further express how common these assaults are in this industry and how important it is that we take action to fight against it,” Reinhart wrote at the time, likening the experience to a “horror movie.”
For Mendes, learning how to focus on what she can do “physically for myself” has been integral to her happiness, even though it hasn’t always been easy given her personal struggles with bulimia, she said.
As a role model to the millions of young “Riverdale” fans who tune into the twisty melodrama every week, she has consistently been outspoken about issues that matter, including her battle with an eating disorder.
“I’ve only recently gotten better,” Mendes told the magazine, explaining how important a therapist and nutritionist were to her recovery. “I needed professionals I trusted to tell me things that I didn’t know.”
The actor previously explained that uncomfortable wardrobe fittings for “Riverdale” prompted her to seek therapy.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.