Survivor Spotlight: Julianne

Sexually abused by her father and uncle, Julianne was taught at an early age to consider herself an object. Her father showered her with gifts and considered Julianne’s beauty to be irresistible to him. She began to hate her body, leading to eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder later in life.

“My body was always a battle for me, keeping up the facade of being perfect. I always had a fear of not being loved if I wasn't perfect,” Julianne said.

Julianne struggled with anorexia as a teenager. She ate very little, abused diet pills and laxatives, and worked out excessively to lose weight. In her late 20s, Julianne was in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. She then developed bulimia as a way to relieve the pain she was feeling.

“The assaults made me very uncomfortable in my own skin,” Julianne said. “The fear of fear itself and being hypervigilant for all of my life has wreaked havoc on my immune system, which resulted in lupus.”

Julianne has found a combination of biofeedback, yoga, meditation, and multiple kinds of therapy, including somatic and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, have been most helpful for her healing. Along with support from her husband and inspiration from her two young daughters, she also received help from an inpatient treatment facility, which helped her regain the health and confidence she needed.

“I left [the program] finally seeing my beauty at the age of 35,” Julianne said.

Additionally, doing activities with friends helped Julianne feel positive and cared for. Some of her favorite activities have included participating in charity walks, skiing, or taking painting classes with friends. “These activities helped me not be alone, bring me in touch with nature, and build confidence,” Julianne said. Julianne also urges anyone who may be struggling to reach out to someone and tell them what happened and how they are feeling. “You are only as sick as your secrets. Speaking about it can be very validating,” Julianne said.

February 21-27 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Learn more and get help from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and, y en español: