Some topics are difficult to discuss, but they are important. One of these for me is sexual assault, a polite way of saying rape. Rape is real and if you believe the statistics one in four women on college campuses are raped. Even more important are the after-effects of rape. They can be long-lasting and damaging not just to the victim but her loved ones as well.
Why is this important to a woman who has lost 115 lbs? In 1987, I was raped. I got drunk at a concert and got in the wrong car with the wrong men and bad things happened. Recently, I was asked by someone who knew of this event if I have fears of being raped again now that I am thin. My immediate response was, “No, I don't put myself in risky situations, I'm happily married, I seldom go out after dark.” With that I thought I put the question behind me.
A few weeks later I was walking through a restaurant in Arlington before work. I was feeling attractive, dressed in a new outfit, and walking with a sassy sway. Then it happened... I caught a man staring at me. I freaked internally and walked immediately to the bathroom. After I pulled myself together, I dropped the sassy sway and ordered my tea, then left with a hurried, head down walk. I couldn't believe it after all these years: I could still be unnerved by a man's look.
I've sat with this experience now for over a month, contemplating whether I used weight to hide from men after my rape or not. The truth is that after the rape I used alcohol and food to help me survive the trauma and I probably put on 20 pounds in the months immediately following. I never considered I was hiding in my fat, just that I couldn't lose what I had gained (which is the story of my life). However, looking back on the past 15 years I can honestly say that I did not consciously hide with weight. For example, I remember specifically being coached early in my professional career to wear higher necklines so that I would be taken seriously and later (in my 30's) to show some cleavage when dating (both excellent pieces of advice).
Since then, I realize that my initial response was honest, but naïve, I am working on finding that balance between safe and sexy. If you have been assaulted (or know someone who has), I encourage you to get help. Call a hotline or a therapist, find a support group, talk to a friend (I have done all of these over the years), just don't keep it inside (a secret). It may not make you hide in fat, but it can cause emotional harm.