"As many as 85% of those suffering from eating disorders have been victims of sex abuse."
This is what I was told when I was thinking of checking myself into an eating disorder clinic to get myself well. I was in disbelief . . . I hesitated a few moments in shock and then asked "what does that have to do with my bulimia?" . . . I had not told the person that I had been a victim.
This scared me as I just wanted to get well from the eating disorder. I did NOT want to talk about the sex abuse. But in starting to attend some overeaters anonymous meetings and some free meetings at the eating disorder clinic, I came to realize that the ONLY WAY I was going to get well from the bulimia was to work through these issues. This frightened me. I knew that I needed help and I needed support. I realized that I would need expert help, and I would need compassion and support from others facing the same issues. Eating disorders anonymous was a tremendous support group for me. And I was blessed that I found an excellent psychiatrist.
To get well from an eating disorder, psychiatrists generally agree that you have to TREAT the underlying CAUSE. And I will add my opinion that you need one or more support groups (in addition to the therapy or treatment) during this process. This website is here to help in your healing at NO COST to you. We have included on this website information and resources including links to other sites I have found that have helpful information about healing from abuse. I sincerely hope these are helpful to you in your healing journey.
If you have been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, we offer a Free LENDING LIBRARY to help in your healing process. We also have helpful links to Resources and Support Groups on our home page and other pages for you regarding addictions, Eating Disorders, and sexual abuse healing. Joshua Childrens Foundation is committed to helping victims of sexual abuse get well. Here is a link to a Crisis Intervention Hotline for helping any child currently being abused.
Let me relate my personal story with regards to healing from childhood sexual abuse. My heart goes out to help others with a similar experience.
My addiction was Bulimia. Common addictions that occur from sexual abuse are Bulimia, Eating Disorders, Anorexia, Alcoholism, Gambling etc. I had Bulimia for 19 years before I discovered this cause of my bulimia. I was struggling to get over my Bulimia because I realized the devastating health affects it was having on me. I was sleeping 1 or 2 and sometimes 3 days at a time. I would wake up, take a shower, and still feel exhausted. On my way to leaving the house to get a few things done, I would still feel so exhausted that I would say to myself 'I need a nap for 30 minutes', only to wake up the next day. Maybe you are at this point, or something similar.
I started attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings and found two meetings that were held at local hospitals that had eating disorder clinics. I thought about checking myself into one of these clinics as I really could not take care of myself. But insurance did not cover it, and I would have had to sell my home to pay the cost. Not only that, I talked to several women who had gone through the clinic one or two or three times and still not seeming to make progress with their eating disorder.
In my initial conversation with the eating disorder clinic who told me that as many as 85% of Bulimics have been sexually abused in their past, and then in talking to more specialists in Bulimia I came to learn that indeed most Bulimics have been sexually abused in their past. This totally STUNNED me, and I asked "what can that possibly have to do with my bulimia?" In attending some of the Overeaters meetings I made some friends and realized that I needed to get into therapy. This was VERY scary to me as I never wanted to talk about the sex abuse, and certainly did not want to relive the memories of it. Although the memories had always been there, I tried to pretend that they had happened to a child and I was no longer that child and my life was separate. But I couldn't make it go away and the thought of talking about it in therapy made me think that I would literally die in having to face the memories and work through them.
I'm telling you this ONLY because I hope that my story might be of help and inspiration to you so that you will do whatever it takes to get well.
I chose the route of working with a highly qualified individual therapist in eating disorders and sexual abuse. This way I could control the costs of around $100 per visit twice a week. I decided to just kind of put my 'toe in the water' of therapy and take it a tiny step at a time. While I was going through the process of finding and 'selecting' a therapist I wanted to work with, the books that helped me the most were "Courage to Heal", and "Courage to Heal - Workbook". These have chapters and worksheets on interviewing and evaluating a therapist that is right for you. (We have these books in our lending library. We also have links to Amazon so you can read about these books and buy at Amazon or your local bookstore). I also contacted an eating disorder national association for a list of therapists that they would recommend in my city. (We have LINKS to places you can get lists of therapists)
At the same time I read every book on the list of books that we have on our home page and on the Lending Library page. These books were a TREMENDOUS help to me in handling and going through therapy and in understanding the connection and the journey to getting well. The books that helped me the most on this list are: Courage to Heal, Courage to Heal WorkBook, The Wounded Heart, and Helping Victims of Sexual Abuse.
Also of inspiration to me was Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, who is a former Miss America. In 1992 I attended one of her speaking engagements and she has a lot of 'dignity' and is beautiful on the outside. I felt no dignity whatsover - I felt ugly and overweight. It is hard to feel any dignity when you have been molested once or hundreds of times. I just felt dirty and used and worthless, even though I tried to put on a "cheery" personality when I was around other people. Marilyn Van Derbur Atler now has a book published. You can read about her book at Miss America by Day
This website is for the purpose of helping others through this journey of healing. You are not alone. You can reach out and find support in several places. And our Lending Library is so that you can have these same books that helped me in your hands.
One of the books in this library is "Shifting the Burden of Truth". At the time I needed to get into therapy, I had only been able to work part time (sleeping so many hours) in my business, so I was earning only a small income in the business and had not paid myself a salary for over 10 years. So I had been living off of my savings, and had downsized into a smaller and less expensive home. Because I had not earned enough money from my business to pay myself a salary for over 10 years through my devastating bulimia, I did not qualify for Social Security disability. A few people recommended that I sue my father and make him pay for my therapy. My father had plenty of money. He has a very successful business and is wealthy - my brother and other family members are afraid to acknowledge or speak of the abuse - they are aware of it - but they don't want to be cut out of my dad's will. My dad cut me out when I was still a teenager. He threatened my life at that same time if I ever spoke of the abuse. He also took away my college funds - up to that time it was encouraged that I take the necessary classes for college preparation. I had looked forward to college, and then my college future was taken away at the same time my life was threatened. When I was in therapy, I wanted to face my dad and make him apologize and take responsibility for this actions to my face. He had molested me hundreds of times during my childhood. I placed a lawsuit against my father in 1992 after testifying before the Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives to get a law change in Oregon. Several states now have laws under which you can recover damages as an adult for sex abuse done to you as a child. You can read the book "Shifting the Burden of Truth" (now out of print), which is available as a used book from Amazon.com, and is in our lending library. We settled out of court and by that time I had my own income established as I was getting well. I really did not want my dad's money. What I really wanted from my dad was an apology and some therapy sessions with him with my psychiatrist to try understand the "why". I never got the therapy session with him - it was part of the settlement, but with time deadlines and conditions set by him. My therapist told me I was not ready within that short period of his deadline, and strongly advised me against it unless he extended the deadline (which he would not do and still has not done). I really wanted the sessions with him more than the money. (I still hope for these sessions, so send positive thoughts or prayers my way, please.) ALL that money from the lawsuit (which didn't even begin to put a dent in his pocket) went toward establishing this foundation. And even more of my own money has been added to this foundation. My hope is that the foundation can help YOU!
Suing your abuser is NOT for everyone, and I would urge you to weigh this option CAREFULLY before you would decide to take legal action. First of all your abuser would have to have money. Also in many of these cases where legal action is taken against a family member, the family will split and take sides. My brother started out on my side and understanding why I placed the suit against my dad. But my brother switched sides, and didn't speak to me for 10 1/2 years - mainly because of the money issues. My brother's last words to me before his 10 1/2 years of silence were "You're suing against my inheritance" - (interesting that my brother figured all our dad's money should be his alone to inherit!). I had talked to a few others who had sued their abuser, and they had warned me that many families split and don't talk to you if you take a stand and sue your abuser if your abuser is a family member. So I was not shocked at my brothers actions. I just want you to know this happens -- it is an issue to think through carefully if you consider suing your abuser.
I am glad to see more and more people speaking up against this type of child abuse. It was the UNspoken secret. I thought (while it was happening) that I was the only one it ever happened to. My junior year in high school I told a close friend. She told her parents and one of my aunts and uncles, and told me that I could go live with her family. I panicked at that and asked her not to take any action, and not to tell anyone else as I didn't know how my mom could survive if my dad were in jail. There would be noone to take care of the family business. I pictured my dad in jail for a long time. When my dad was arrested in 1982 for abusing a step daughter, he only served 45 days of a 90 day sentence in the local country jail. A mere slap on the wrist - but at least the community was warned. And I'm glad his step daughter had the courage to speak up. I did call the district attorney and talked with him at length to back up her accusation. I had never met her, and still to this day have not met her.
I am SO glad to see more people speaking up. More laws are getting changed to be tougher against child molesters. It is being spoken of in today's social climate. And a former Miss America, Marilyn Van Derber Atler, has spoken up and continues to speak to large audiences about her experience that is very similar to my own. And her speaking up gave me the courage to speak up and also helped influence me to take the step to form this foundation as a way of 'speaking up'.
You never know who is molesting children, although that is obvious nowadays as teachers and priests are being arrested. While my father was molesting he was a respected person in our community being active in community activities and on the board or directors of the main business in our town, and had a respected and lucrative business of his own that our family all worked in. He was intelligent and invented products and ideas and his knowledge and expertise was respected throughout his industry. But at that time that I was growing up, noone knew he was a molester except myself, and now I've learned of at least one neighbor who was being molested at that time, and more girls molested after I left home. If I had known then what I know now, I would have turned him into the police at that time. But then he was arrested in 1982 he got only a slap on the wrist of 45 days in jail for molesting his 4 year old stepdaughter.
Oprah Winfrey has also been courageous in speaking up. I'm thankful that she is speaking up and taking advantage of her huge populartiy to be a platform in speaking up.
Also the press is giving this attention nowadays, and more and more people and organizations are being vocal against this abuse.
Take advantage of the lending library for the books that helped me through this. And search through the websites to which we have links under our resources and support groups on our home page.
You can read some suggestions on Finding and Selecting a Therapist Today I experience some restored health with still some challenges to overcome. Not perfect health, but I am able to work again. During the tough years sometimes I would be in bed many days at a time without the energy to do any household chores or to work. Even though I still have health challenges, I'm ALIVE (I almost died from the bulimia). I'm very thankful to be alive, and thankful for the counseling I had in recovery. Joshua Childrens Foundation is here to help you or someone you love in recovery process from childhood sexual abuse.
I now enjoy a fruitful life and have been blessed in my business, and in new and renewed friendships and activities. I wish the same for all recovering victims.
In Love and Best Wishes to you in your healing journey,
P S -- My father died on December 1, 2006. You can read here what I posted after his death . As I write this PS it is now 3 weeks later and I am feeling more relief to know that he can never harm me anymore in any way, and that he can never molest another child !!
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NOTE: Inclusion in our list of organizations, books, counselors, and other links and resources does not necessarily indicate a recommendation or endorsement. What is helpful for another survivor may not be right for you. As always, use your own judgment when contacting any of these organizations. Advice given at this website, or in conjunction with Joshua Childrens Foundation activities is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship but only as suggestion based on the founders personal experience as a sex abuse victim resulting in bulimia eating disorder and the healing journey from that. Articles, links, or content contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should it be inferred as such. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a specific condition. Joshua Childrens Foundation does not take any responsibility and is held harmless from any actions by anyone associated with the websites we link to.
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