Time Magazine just named the #MeToo Silence Breakers as the 2017 Person Of The Year. As the Clinical Director of BALANCE, I have been surprised that more people are not making the link between the #MeToo stories, and how surviving a trauma like sexual assault and harassment can put you at risk for the development of an eating disorder.
In my ten plus years of research, working with clients, and speaking on this topic, I have noticed six surprising links between surviving sexual assault and an eating disorder.
I am keeping this short; please know if you would like more information you can check out the websites below.
6 Surprising Links Between Eating Disorders and Sexual Assault
Shroud of Secrecy:
After Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o shared her #metoo story, she said: “I didn’t know there were ears to hear me.” She’s not alone. There is so much shame and stigma surrounding both survivors of sexual assault, and those who are in recovery from an eating disorder. The vast majority of our clients share with us their shame and embarrassment that comes with having an eating disorder, and the exhaustion that comes with keeping a secret for years, and sometimes decades.
Eating Disorders as a “Successful” Coping Mechanism after Trauma:
While deadly, many people develop an eating disorder as an unhealthy way to cope with a past trauma. We need to support people who are doing the best they can to adapt, keep going, and protect themselves.
Don’t Go It Alone:
Did you know one in ten Americans are diagnosed with an eating disorder at some time in his/her/their lives? Personally, I’m a private person. I used to think, if this happened to me, I couldn’t share this with others. Yet I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of groups. And I’ve witnessed the power of understanding you're not alone. The importance of being validated. How you feel matters. And the importance of having support, instead of feeling so isolated.
The word ‘victim’ gives the perpetrator power. And keeps the focus on the past, and the awful things that were done to us. The word ‘survivor’ focuses on the future, and how we’re going to move forward.
Silence Doesn’t Mean Someone Doesn’t Have a Story:
Don’t assume that because someone is not contributing to a conversation, that they have not had experience with that issue. People are at different stages of readiness to address and express what they’re dealing with. Much like with an eating disorder, if someone does not “look” like they have an eating disorder, do not assume the person is not struggling with one. Many of our clients share their frustrations that since they “look” healthy, their loved ones assume they’re recovered.
Don’t Put The Burden of Responsibility on Survivors to Fix the Issue
It’s like triple jeopardy – this was done to them, they’ve suffered as a result, and somehow they're supposed to be the ones to fix this. This is not fair. Do your part. Take a few minutes to educate yourself so that you are helping, rather than ignoring.
If you know someone who is dealing with this issue, you might want to share this post with them. And, check out these resources or contact us here:
Perhaps most importantly, please keep in mind the wise advice of Christine Langley-Obaugh: “We repeat what we don’t repair.”
Whatever happened to you, please understand, there are people who care, there are ways to get past this, there are ways you can become the person and have the quality of life you want, need, and deserve.