Proud2Bme | Dear Lesley: What’s the Connection Between Eating Disorders and Sexual Trauma?

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Dear Lesley: What’s the Connection Between Eating Disorders and Sexual Trauma?

Dr. Lesley Williams is a certified eating disorder specialist, family medicine physician and positive body image advocate. She co-owns Liberation Center, an eating disorder treatment facility, in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Williams is dedicated to ensuring that all women and men who struggle with eating and body image issues receive the help that they need to overcome and live happy, healthy lives.

Dr. Williams regularly educates other healthcare professionals about the diversity and dangers of eating disorders. She has made several media appearances as an eating disorder expert and regularly speaks at national conferences. Her most recent body image advocacy project is writing the children’s book, Free to Be Me. It encourages young girls and boys to love their bodies, no matter what size, and is scheduled to be released later this year.

What's the connection between eating disorders and sexual trauma and why don't we talk about it?

One common connection between eating disorders and sexual trauma is shame. Victims of trauma often struggle with overwhelming guilt and shame regarding how and why something like that could happen to them. They don’t feel empowered to tell others about their struggle or seek help. Yet, they are plagued with an internal battle of emotions. The eating disorder becomes a way to cope with the pain and shame they feel. It can also serve as a way to communicate to others that they are hurting, when they can’t find the words to communicate it themselves. 

Despite the known prevalence of sexual trauma, it still remains a struggle that many suffer in secrecy. People are afraid to let others know that they have been hurt in that way. They are often concerned that they did something to cause the trauma or fearful of how others will perceive them once others are aware.

Thanks so much for bringing up this topic. The more we speak openly about it, the easier it is for those who struggle to come out of the shadow, share their stories and get the help they need to overcome it.   

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