FCASV Insight March 2018

Partnerships with Nutritionists: Links between sexual violence, PTSD, and nutrition (in recognition of National Nutrition Month®)

Abbey N Folsom, MS, CNS, LDN
Certified Nutrition Specialist®
Licensed Nutritionist/Dietitian
Adjunct Instructor, Tallahassee Community College

Eva Fiallos-Diaz, MSW, LCSW
Rural Project Coordinator
Florida Council Against Sexual Violence

While not all victims/survivors of sexual violence (SV) experience Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD), traumatic situations can prompt many of them to adapt behaviors that are beneficial to survival in the short-term but can be harmful to their health long-term. For example, drinking, drugs, and disordered eating habits do not help heal the body from trauma. Beyond the immediate medical response, partnerships with health practitioners can help foster holistic healing. Just as many individuals may use substances to self-medicate, food can be used to fill the void victims/survivors feel the violence left. It decreases the anxiety they feel by having something they can control -- what they put into their bodies and/or how and when they purge. Food can also become a way to numb and avoid pain. Some victims/survivors may do this by building a literal ‘shell’ to protect themselves from the external world.

Disordered eating can also result from PTSD induced by SV. We have all heard of emotional eating before, but did you know that PTSD can cause changes in appetite and responses to food? While in recovery: anxiety can inhibit appetite, resulting in anorexia; people can also get into a self-deprecating habit of binge-eating or bulimia-vomiting; and/or they can experience compulsive exercising. Long-term, repetitive sexual abuse, such as the duration of childhood, can result in obesity. The link between morbid obesity and SV during childhood is shocking and health practitioners led the way to more visibility of the issue in the 1990s. As part of a precursor to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACE) Felitti at al. (1998) uncovered that most of the patients being treated for morbid obesity at an obesity clinic had been sexually abused in childhood. A follow-up presentation on the topic was met with criticism and disbelief, common with SV, by his colleagues who felt he was being naïve to believe patients who simply did not want to take responsibility for their own obesity. This prompted the ACE mega-study that followed: Dr. Van Der Kolk (2014) further explores the implications of the ACE study and ways that the memory of helplessness is stored in the body in his book The Body Keeps the Score. One way these combined issues impact victims/survivors: healthcare costs are higher for those who have experienced SV. Proactive nutritional care is a way to reduce those costs.

Wariness is normal for victims/survivors adjusting to life after SV or being diagnosed with PTSD. Trusting themselves is difficult enough. Research has demonstrated that victims of sexual assault who experience a supportive and compassionate response, regardless of the criminal justice system outcome, have lower rates of post-traumatic stress than victims who experience secondary trauma in the form of disbelief and blame (Chivers-Wilson, 2006; SAMHSA, 2014). In fact, the factors that make the most difference to survivors of sexual violence are having someone to talk to and being believed (Campbell, Ahrens, et al., 2001).

In addition to medical treatment for trauma, victims have the option of seeking dietary counseling from a licensed nutrition professional. Nutrition and food are functional tools to improve well-being. When the recovery process is one day at a time, nutritionists can help victims/survivors identify macronutrient goals for how much protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates they need on a daily basis. Nutritionists can also strategize ways to help them get through meal planning, which might seem like a daunting task. Preventing blood-sugar crashes, can additionally help with mood swings, which can be severe for PTSD victims. One suggestion is for advocacy conversations to take place over tea and snacks or a meal. Demonstrating the social aspects of support over food might make a profound impact. Advocates can further help victims by reminding them of the importance of regular meals for maintaining good brain chemistry. Consider having a nutritionist on a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and/or inviting nutritionists to lead workshops with survivors. Working with a nutritionist can foster trust as well as assist in a holistic plan of care. These interactions can create access for marginalized members of the community, including those who may not have health insurance. Honoring the body through healthful nutrition can improve self-esteem over time and help to re-establish the body-mind connection.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Weaving Our Stories Exhibit

FCASV invites you to Weaving Our Stories. The display is a clothing exhibit that will travel to different Tallahassee locations during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) April of 2018. The MeToo Movement has created national discussion and allowed people of various backgrounds to come together and share the ways that they too have been impacted by sexual violence. Our exhibit’s aim is to further unify the experiences of survivors to build momentum for change.

Our exhibit is titled Weaving Our Stories to symbolize the strength that stems from sharing our stories, creating community, instilling hope, and promoting healing and change across our entire state. This powerful display features the outfits, or similar outfits to those, worn by survivors during their assaults. These outfits represent various individuals and cities throughout the state, via our certified sexual assault centers. To learn more about sexual violence and what you can do on an individual level, please come out to one of our events and visit us online.

LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts

Hoover Gallery
Exhibit: April 3-13
Art Talk: April 7, 11am-12pm

FAMU: H. Manning Efferson Student Union

Multipurpose Room
Exhibit: April 16-20

FSU: Strozier Library

107-K Study Room
Exhibit: April 23-27
Talk-Back: April 25, 7-8pm

Program Highlight: Palm Beach County Victim Services & Certified Rape Crisis Center

Survivor Action Team: A SART committee of PBCVS

The first Survivor Action Team meeting was held on April 7th, 2015, the national “Day of Action.” Our purpose was clear: “Through coordinated planning of special events, the Survivor Action Team can raise awareness, media attention and national momentum for ending and preventing sexual violence. And…to change the world!”

Members are sexual assault survivors who want to reach out to the community and help bring awareness to these issues. All genders are invited!

The Survivor Action Team is designed to be mutually beneficial for survivors, Palm Beach County Victim Services, the Sexual Assault Response Team, and the community at large. We offer survivors a platform to express their continued healing journeys that go beyond therapy. We offer opportunities to join forces with other survivors and harness our collective energy to effect social change.

Here are a few of the ways we amplify our voices:
• Attend the Survivor Action Team meetings
• Attend our Sexual Assault Response Team meetings
• Give survivor aspect on bills being considered for legislation or new laws and how to implement
• Participate in SART subcommittees
• Design a Survivor Action Team event or project; examples: survivor retreat, television show
• Speaker panel: present at conferences, campus classes, train law enforcement, hospitals, and other multi-discipline agencies
• Participate in outreach activities; examples: tabling events, flash mob, movie screenings
• Receive and provide trainings in areas of expertise; examples: survivor media training, presenting at our media day to local press
• Find support for agencies or projects through networking
• Provide media interviews
• Link to each other’s social media accounts: PBC Victim Services and other Survivor Action Team members

Embraced by Palm Beach County Victim Services & Certified Rape Crisis Center, the team is a source of referral and input on a myriad of matters during this MeToo movement.

Some of the highlights of our activities include:
• Creation of a “Telly award” winning PSA: Public Service Announcement inviting survivors to reach out for services: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX70niENNtY
• Our Survivor Action Team interview and inclusion process was included as a resource in the 2017 National SART Toolkit
• CNN is highlighting one of our Survivor Action Team meetings and Julie Weil, co-leader, in a documentary to be released in June 2018. Watch for the Chris Cuomo presentation of “Sexual Assault in America”
• The public is able to request presentations from our team specific to their topics, such as: campus rape, incest, gang rape, etc. While this may seem quite direct, our team is hardy and energized at the opportunities to share their healing journeys while advancing the movement

The most outstanding aspect of this team is the community we have created. We are each other’s supporters, friends, and sisters. In a world where realities can be harsh, we’ve created a trusted place of inspiration and much needed TLC.

For any inquiries, please contact:
Sharon Daugherty, MS
Sexual Assault Outreach Coordinator
Palm Beach County Victim Services & Certified Rape Crisis Center

Julie Weil, Director of PBCVS-Nicole Bishop, Sharon Daugherty


Reminder: Register Now for the Summit!

Early registration rates end April 11th. Late registration will remain open until May 30th.

Hotel rooms are filling up quickly! Remember to book your hotel stay by May 11th to receive the group rate.

Come together with others in the field taking a stand in the anti-sexual violence movement.

Click here to register now!


Upcoming Events and Trainings

Sexual Assault Awareness Event: Weaving Our Stories Exhibit

LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts

Hoover Gallery
Exhibit: April 3-13
Art Talk: April 7, 11am-12pm

FAMU -- H. Manning Efferson Student Union

Multipurpose Room
Exhibit: April 16-20

FSU -- Strozier Library

107-K Study Room
Exhibit: April 23-27
Talk-Back: April 25, 7-8pm

For more information about these displays, visit fcasv.org.

40-Hour SANE Training

June 11-15, 2018
Naples, FL

For more information and to register, visit fcasv.org.

One-Day Advanced SANE Training

June 12, 2018
Naples, FL

Morning session: Anatomy Review and Variation Recognition / Injury Identification
Afternoon session: Discharge Planning and Prophylaxis Medication

For more information and to register, visit fcasv.org.

Reaching Out, Coming Together Summit

June 13-15, 2018
Naples, FL

Are you committed to re-energize the movement against sexual violence? We challenge you to take a stand and join us at our Biennial Summit at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.

For more information and to register, visit fcasv.org.

This project was supported by subgrant No. COHK4 awarded by the state administering office for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.