For both men and women, being sexually harassed or abused can take a toll on your psyche and trigger emotional eating as a way to relieve stress or to numb feelings. Your eating problems may be connected to violations caused by sexual harassment or abuse and eating is how you’ve been trying to cope with your feelings about it.
“Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature…it can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general…Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).” (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm
, accessed 10/2/17)
“Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder.” (American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/topics/sexual-abuse/
, accessed 11/2/17)
It is vital not to take either of these kinds of interactions lightly. Often you, the victim, might feel that you’ve done something to cause harassment or abuse. You may believe comments or behavior are a one off and that they will stop. You may feel ashamed. You may fear that you will be blamed for whatever happened or that no one will believe you. All of these things are what perpetrators hope you will feel so that you remain silent or shoulder the blame. Both of the above websites provide action steps you can take if you’ve been sexually harassed or abused.
The first thing to do is to tell someone—a friend, colleague, parent, or a therapist. I’ve had cases in which I am the first person a client tells about having been sexual abused, including rape, 30 years after it has happened. Don’t wait. It is never your shame when someone does something that demeans you or takes actions against you and your body against your will. Save yourself months or years of suffering in silence—and eating your heart out—by speaking up about your pain.