In stressful events like rape or molestation, the victim often feels utterly powerless, and may seek new ways to improve his or her sense of control. Our culture and society place great emphasis on body image. Being thin is equated with maximum control. As a result, victims may start avoiding food or limiting intake to dangerous levels. By doing so, some survivors of sexual violence no longer feel powerless in their lives. Sadly, commercials, magazines, and advertisement that show unrealistic bodies can keep motivating a person to indulge in unhealthy eating behavior.
When survivors remember a stressful situation they can also be driven to eat more than normal. Overeating or eating comfort foods that are high caloric foods can calm the body and provide a momentarily relief from emotional stress. Overrating, like starvation, may also be used as a way to avoid intimacy and sexuality. Survivors often report feeling safer when they no longer feel that they conform to the ideal of beauty portrayed by the media and women's magazines. While much emphasis is placed on diets and new ways to lose weight, the real reasons that bring a person to use food to comfort her or his pain are still overlooked. Instead of asking an overweight or obese person, "what are you eating?" the right question would be, "what is eating at you?"
Without recognizing and dealing with the trauma it is very difficult to treat and overcome an eating disorder. Cognitive awareness can play a vital part in the recovery and healing process of a survivor of sexual violence.
If you suffer from an eating disorder as a result of your rape or sexual abuse, you deserve to heal and you are not alone. We have specific forums for recovery from eating disorders at After Silence, and we welcome you to join and to connect with others who can understand.
© 2007 After Silence - This article may not be reprinted or reproduced without express permission.