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My Eating Disorder Makes It Hard to Heal from Sexual Assault

September 23, 2020 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

As a young woman, I am unfortunately no stranger to crude—and sometimes coercive—innuendos aimed in my direction. Like countless other women, I have been taught to use car keys as weapons of self-defense, and I know all the tactics designed to repel an attacker. However, not until I was sexually assaulted in 2017 did I recognize the full impact of this type of violation and the residual trauma it causes. Nor was I ready for how this would further exacerbate and complicate my eating disorder. But three years later, the truth remains: my eating disorder makes it difficult to heal from sexual assault. 

An Eating Disorder Can Add to the Pain of Sexual Assault

In my case, the eating disorder was not a response to sexual assault—in fact, I had been in the throes of anorexia for 15 years before I even crossed paths with the man who harmed me. With that said, however, it would be dishonest to claim a fierce commitment to eating disorder recovery in the aftermath of my sexual assault. For months after this incident took place, I numbed the confusion, disgust, fear, and shame with any eating disorder behaviors that would repress my true emotions.

I consumed the bare minimum amount of food, then I ran for miles until my chest burned, my stomach heaved, and my brain could not form a thought. In the midst of this reckless, furious crusade not to feel, I allowed my eating disorder to make it difficult to heal from sexual assault. There is nothing unique or remarkable about this story; I have since come to learn. As researchers in 2018 found, 91 percent of women and girls who are sexually assaulted will be at risk for posttraumatic stress behaviors.1

This comorbidity can include depression, anxiety, and other mood-related issues, as well as eating disorders. In fact, evidence of posttraumatic stress is around 25 percent higher in those with eating disorders than in the broader population.2 Because the shame and violation of sexual assault are often just what eating disorder behaviors need to intensify, these two conditions can be deeply enmeshed. I know this firsthand since my own eating disorder makes it difficult to heal from sexual assault—in spite of all the recovery work I do. But it is not impossible, as I will share in the video below.    

How I Prioritize Eating Disorder and Sexual Assault Recovery

Sources

  1. Khadr, S., et al., "Mental and Sexual Health Outcomes Following Sexual Assault in Adolescents." The Lancet, July 2018.  
  2. Brewerton, T., "Eating Disorders, Trauma, and Comorbidity: Focus on PTSD." ResearchGate, August 2007.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2020, September 23). My Eating Disorder Makes It Hard to Heal from Sexual Assault, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2020/9/my-eating-disorder-makes-it-hard-to-heal-from-sexual-assault



Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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