Proud2Bme | Neesha Arter is Breaking the Silence around Sexual Assault and Eating Disorders

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Neesha Arter is Breaking the Silence around Sexual Assault and Eating Disorders

By Laura Porter--Neesha Arter is raising her voice and speaking out about an issue that is too often left out of the discussion—the correlation between sexual assault and eating disorders. Speaking at The George Washington University during NEDAwareness Week, Neesha read excerpts from her memoir Controlled, sharing the connection between her sexual assault and her anorexia.

Trigger warning: Descriptions of eating disordered behavior and sexual assault. 

At just 14 years old, Neesha was sexually assaulted and struggled—as many do—to cope with the aftermath of such a violation. As she tried to find a way to regain some semblance of control of her body, Neesha developed anorexia. The eating disorder became a tool for survival and an attempt to “undo” the hurt she endured.

“My biggest question I had for myself was, ‘am I a 14 year old kid, or am I an adult?’ I told myself I had to choose,” Arter said, “and that was when I started to try to morph back into what I was before, to protect myself.”

Neesha’s story is one that too many people can relate to, but it’s also a story we rarely see. Looking for information on the connection between sexual assault and eating disorders, one could assume the two exist in separate realms. Sexual assault is frequently mentioned in isolation, and stories of eating disorder recovery are still trying to break free from stereotypes that the illnesses are based in vanity.

In Controlled, Neesha shares her story, connecting the impact of rape and the development of an eating disorder. She adds her voice to an all-too-empty discussion about these issues, something she realizes is significant.

“I think it’s important to share my story because not enough people do,” Neesha said. “These are topics that have such stigma and they’re not openly discussed—they’re pretty taboo.”

Neesha knows that the impact of her voice and story reaches far beyond starting a conversation. The narrative she shares with the world offers support for those who are struggling, just as she was, to cope with the incredible pain left by trauma.

“I want to provide a tool for survivors and their families and their friends—anyone who knows someone being affected by these issues,” Neesha said. “I want to create change. At the end of the day, I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t share the story.”

Neesha continues to share her story; her strength has no doubt inspired those who have heard it, and her recovery story will continue to inspire many others. Knowing the importance of speaking out, Neesha’s strength and insight offer support to those struggling to find their own voice.

“Shame keeps you silent, and it shouldn’t be a thing for something that wasn’t your fault.”

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

About the blogger: Laura Porter is a senior at The George Washington University majoring in political communication. After taking three semesters off of school for her own mental health struggles, Laura became passionate about advocating for increased awareness of mental illness among college students, specifically eating disorder awareness. Laura served as the president and founder of the organization Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at GW (SPEAK GW) for two years and is a proud former communications intern at Active Minds Inc. 

For more about Neesha, check out:

Writing for Recovery: An Interview with Author Neesha Arter

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