Why doesn't she eat anything? Is she hurting herself on purpose? She probably just wants attention.
I heard it all growing up. When I was 16, I was raped by a stranger. As a 16 year old perfectionist, I blamed myself. I had already struggled with body image issues and eating disorder tendencies so when the assault happened, I spiraled.
My best friend had stopped talking to me. I am sure the eating disorder was too much for her. I starved myself until there was only a shell left. You see, that night in June of 2007, a stranger took something from me that I will never get back. I felt like I had lost complete control over my body. I had never hurt like that before. Starving my body - controlling what went in my body and controlling my weight - made me feel like I had that control back.
For months, I continued this pattern. I scratched myself to feel something. I vividly remember sitting in chemistry class one day thinking about how nothing my teacher was talking about mattered anymore because I just wanted to die. I felt alone.
Finally, I was sent to treatment for the eating disorder. I did what they wanted. I went through the motions. A week later, they sent me home. My best friend who had stopped talking to me suddenly wanted to be my savior. But I welcomed it. We ate lunch in the classroom together. I didn't feel quite as alone and I tried to take better care of myself.
And one night, while she was spending the night at my house, just before we fell asleep, I said out loud what had happened to me for the first time. And I will never forget the silence that followed. And the fact that she never spoke to me again unless she had to. Looking back now, I know that was a lot to throw on my teenage "friend". But at the time, I felt that people's love for me was conditional. I had to be perfect. Perfect grades. At church every time the doors were open. Constantly doing for others.
I rebelled in every way possible until I found myself a teenage mother. But I persevered and graduated college. I raised that little girl and had my own family. The eating disorder thoughts were always in my head taunting me, but I ignored them for my daughter.
Then, I had a son. He was stillborn. And the spiral started again. I was assaulted by a different person 4 months later...someone I trusted. I held myself together for my daughter I found out I was carrying shortly after. But I was broken. The world felt dark.
She was born and I was dying. I spiraled and spiraled until I finally admitted myself to full time treatment. For the first time, I found my voice. I spoke my truth. I told the world what happened to me. I claimed my life back and I fought for it.
Far into my recovery journey, I began volunteering as an advocate for survivors. I became a safe space for others to use their voices for the first time. And I saw the power in telling my story.
Sexual violence was a taboo topic for so long. My journey to finding my voice happened in the midst of the #MeToo movement. We have a long way to go, but our voices have power. And if we continue to use them, we will continue to move forward.