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Susan Cowden, MS

Rape, Trauma & Eating Disorders

By August 21, 2012

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If you've been following political news this week (or any news at all, for that matter), you've probably heard that Missouri Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin recently stated that pregnancy rarely occurs after 'legitimate' rape.  There are so many things wrong with his statement.  First, there's no such thing as 'legitimate' rape.  Rape is rape.  Secondly, of course pregnancy can occur after rape.  About.com Guide to Infertility, Rachel Gurevich, has written an excellent blog post detailing and dispelling the myths and misconceptions surrounding fertility and rape.

"So what does that have to do with eating disorders?" , you ask.  Quite a bit, actually.  It has been estimated that up to 50 percent of people with eating disorders have suffered some type of physical or sexual abuse or assault prior to the development of their eating issues.  Not only can rape cause pregnancy but it can also put survivors at a higher risk of a multitude of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.

Does this mean that every rape victim will develop an eating disorder?  Of course not.  However, it is important to recognize the potentially lifelong issues that survivors may struggle with as a result of experiencing rape or sexual assault.  There is nothing 'legitimate' about it.  People who have survived any trauma need support and understanding, not victim blaming or shaming statements from politicians.

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