Study Links Child Abuse to Adult Obesity in Black Women

I am not a big fan of reality TV especially the programs that deal with psychologically fragile individuals. So imagine my surprise when I became addicted to a show called My Strange Addiction. The individuals in this show don’t really have addictions but have a combination of eating disorders, anxiety disorders and objectophilas. What is unusual about this show is several episodes that feature black women. The commenters on several of these episodes indicate how little empathy there is for the suffering of black women. One woman had a case of a germ phobia obsessive compulsive disorder so severe that she cleaned close to 8 hours a day. Commenters suggested that she get a job as a maid. Another woman had Pica, a compulsive eating disorder which manifested, in consuming dry wall. Many commenters said that she should just get a construction job. The case that really tugged at my heart was a woman who carried he childhood pillow everywhere she went. She, along with many other of the women featured on the show had a history of child sexual abuse. I cringed when her white fiancee called her pillow black & dirty. Many commenters stated that he should just grab the pillow & burn it. The majority of these black women featured eating disorders, a set of illnesses that are seen as the purview of white women in popular culture. My Strange Addiction not only featured African American women who ate dry wall, but scotch tape, fabric softener sheets, toilet paper and couch cushions. Sadly, over a third of the black women featured on the refused to follow up on treatment even if they had life threatening conditions.

Black women have to live with the stereotype that we are preternaturally strong, often to our detriment. Black women do not report sexual abuse because they can face scorn instead of support from friends, family and community. Desiree Washington, teenager Amber Cole and the 14 year old that R. Kelly attacked were vilified and thier perpetrators defended. The rape of black women was legal until 1975 and sex crimes against black women have the lowest follow up rate of all ethnicity/races. The century’s long belief that black woman are hypersexual harlots also contributes to blame the victim mentality around African America sexual abuse survivors. To make a long story short, a great many black women are living out Precious’ story in real life.

The incidence of child sexual abuse in the lives of black women has not been subjected scientific observation, but a recent study indicates that child sexual abuse may be a significant factor in growing obesity epidemic in black women. The study conducted by Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, of Boston University concluded that severe physical and sexual abuse in childhood or the teen years predicted 29% higher risk of overall and abdominal obesity than the female population in general, but nearly 58% of the African American women reported at least one instance of sexual or physical assault or witnessed violence by age 18. The study used a sample population of readers of Essence Magazine whose audience represent a wide cross-section of African America women. The self-report measures utilized may be biased towards underreporting, so a larger study is needed with a would yield more accurate adults. Further work in this area is vital to combat the idea that black women are simply lazy or even worse metabolically unable to benefit from diet and exercise. Instead of scorn and ridicule, black women need support to tackle these trauma based eating disorders so they can live the long healthy lives they deserve. If you or someone you love has experienced child sexual abuse here are some sites to help you in your journey to recovery.

Recognizing Child Abuse & Neglect

Parenting a child who has been sexually abused

Medical News: Study Links Child Abuse to Adult Obesity – in Primary Care, Obesity from MedPage Today.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest Network

Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

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