Words from Neesha Arter, Author of the new memoir, ‘CONTROLLED’, on Sexual Assault and Anorexia at 14 years old.
After writing my memoir, which tells my story of sexual assault and my subsequent battle with anorexia at 14 years old, I have since received many stories of other survivors. The sharing was expected, but what has been most striking is the young ages of girls and boys who have suffered from these prevalent issues all over the world.
“…this is not a ‘women’s issue,’ but rather a ‘human issue’.”
Do I have a possible solution? I have said time and time again that this is not a ‘women’s issue,’ but rather a ‘human issue’. This society is so quick to blame the victim. If you take a deeper look at the Bill Cosby controversy, many people stood by him consistently, even after more than 35 women came forward with their experience. That, I believe, is the real shame.
For me, being sexually assaulted at 14 years old changed my entire world. Truthfully, a 14 year old should not have to know what ‘rape’ means; but sadly we live in a society where they really have no other choice. So I think what must change is starting the conversation earlier.
If you have been through a similar experience to mine, it’s important to know what is wrong and you have to stand up for yourself. You can’t heal on your own and eventually you will find the people who are going to believe you. If someone doesn’t believe you, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Trauma manifests itself in many different ways. For me, it was a destructive battle with anorexia; and you can’t get through it on your own.
“…anorexia was the remnant of my sexual assault and a vehicle to satisfy my wish to simply disappear.”
It was never a matter of being skinny or fat—anorexia was the remnant of my sexual assault and a vehicle to satisfy my wish to simply disappear. Fourteen is already an age where you don’t seem to know anything about the world. In many ways, losing my innocence made me lose my identity entirely. I couldn’t figure out if I was a teenager anymore or an adult. I thought if I could look like a child again, I could be the perfect little girl I used to be before that night happened. However, I learned after months of starvation, numbers, and calories that I had only lost myself more.
I am now 24 years old and after ten years, I have learned that perfection does not exist. But I’ve also learned that you can’t get to the other side on your own. I now know how hard it is on family and friends to watch someone they love suffer and I wish I had confided in them more at the time of the incident.
“No matter how dark things seem to be, they can always turn around.”
No matter how dark things seem to be, they can always turn around. I believe in second chances and giving them to yourself. I know the hardest thing in the world can be forgiving yourself for whatever it may be; but I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past decade was how to be my own best friend.
I give a very honest account of my eating disorder in ‘CONTROLLED’, which I hope helps anyone who can relate to my story. A dear friend of mine told me during the publication process that I should focus less on it all being perfect and in the end, focus more on liking myself. And the truth is…no one is perfect. I will always be a perfectionist and have flaws but it’s all a learning experience. Above all, you have to put yourself first.
If you got curious, please read this prelude from Neesha After – December, 2006
There’s a soft sound in here, the sort of sound that no one can hear but you—the sort of sound you feel. It’s the hum you make up in your head when the boy you like brushes your hair out of your face with his fingers and kisses you. I hear something ever so faint, but it might just be the immense silence of my room. My shoulder quivers as if someone tapped me, but no one’s here. I am alone with this memory.
On my fourteenth New Year’s Eve, the only desire I knew was longing for the boy I liked to touch my hand as he walked by. I was petite and pretty then—or at least I thought I was—with long, straight, black hair and dark brown eyes against my tanned Indian skin. But on that New Year’s Eve, a chilly night in Houston, I secretly wished for even more smoldering looks. I could never have imagined that by the next morning my dreams would be shattered, my mind poisoned, and my body raped.
Before that night, a year ago now, I never once pictured myself as the victim. Yet, as I look at my familiar bedroom walls and feel the weight of pink cotton sheets on my motionless body, I’m transported back to Houston. The sheets feel scratchy against my skin, but I don’t move to adjust them. It hurts too much to look at my own body. Inadvertently I spot my kneecaps poking through the thin material, and the sight makes me tremble. The white curtains that have shut out the world remain closed, leaving me alone in my claustrophobic room. A ray of light peers through the curtains, but still this room feels like a trap. I want to escape from this room. I want to escape from that night. I can’t.
That New Year’s Eve, the threshold of 2006, brings with it the shaking apprehension I felt all last year, when I was fourteen. That night I remember shuddering, but most of all I remember the paralysis, the terror of being violated. As I toss and turn in these pink sheets, those feelings plague me once again.
My body tingles like it would on a first date, except there’s no excitement or anticipation. I rub my stinging eyes, but I cannot rub away the image of the boys’ faces. As I lie here, I don’t feel like myself. Something’s wrong. My heartbeat won’t slow down. Bubbles and bubbles fill my stomach; like adding baking soda to vinegar, they just keep overflowing, but I am here alone.”
Thank you from the REglam Team!