chapter  7
18 Pages

Physical and Sexual Abuse and Neglect and Eating Disorder Symptoms

ByMark F. Schwartz, Paula Gay

Once a child suffers a traumatic stress, there is injury to the sense of personal boundaries, esteem, trust, power and control; and if the abuse is sexual, to the genital sexuality, gender, and pair-bonding capacities. Sexual trauma involves simultaneously knowing and not knowing. Many adults who suffered from sexual trauma during their childhoods have partial or total amnesia regarding the abuse incidents, or else minimize and distort their histories. Child victims of sexual abuse refuse even to acknowledge their traumatic losses, because these losses threaten their very survival. Yet this disavowal prevents survivors from mourning the physical, material, and psychological losses sustained through sexual trauma. To utilize a metaphor apropos of eating disorder, to a small child, the experience of sexual trauma is incomprehensible, undigestible. Selected eating disorder clients have developed symptoms as functional, yet distorted, survival strategies to overwhelming, chronic, inescapable stress and acute trauma in childhood.