Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Free From Shame Project

Angela here with the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I wanted to let you know about a new project we’re launching here at the Institute.

Recent events have left many people feeling vulnerable or threatened. One group in particular that we’ve been hearing a lot from in recent weeks is survivors of sexual assault, rape, incest, harassment, shaming, and other forms of sexual violence.

Thousands of women from our online community have reached out to the Institute, especially in response to Emily Rosen’s frank writings on this topic, to share their stories and to express their fear that the cultural climate today is one in which acts of sexual wounding are allowed to go unchecked. While women across the nation are speaking up about the ways they are feeling unsafe, their voices are in danger of being drowned out by powerful commentators who insist this is “no big deal.”

In such times, we know that many people want to do something to help, but they don’t know where to go or what to do, and they may feel powerless to make a difference by themselves.

And that’s why we’re launching the Free From Shame Project.

The Free From Shame Project includes 3 key initiatives:

  • A beautiful site where we’ll share real stories from real people who are willing to take the courageous step of speaking their truth to the world
  • A private online community where people who’ve dealt with these issues in their own lives can break the silence and find connection, encouragement, and inspiration
  • Alliances with great organizations that are providing services to survivors and helping to prevent further abuses

The Free From Shame Project is our way of saying –

We care, and we stand with survivors.

Will you stand with us?

Please learn more below…

Share Your Story

So many survivors of sexual wounding feel pressured to keep quiet about their experiences.

We want to change this culture of silence.

We want to share YOUR story.

If you’re a survivor and you’re willing to speak out, we’d love for you to be a part of this project:

  • Simply reply to this email to submit your writing
  • Use the subject line “Free From Shame Submission”
  • Your submission can be up to 500 words
  • Do your best to describe what happened and how the experience impacted your life
  • Please also include one sentence where you sum up what you want the world to know or learn about this experience
  • You can choose whether you want to include your name with your submission or not
  • Your piece may be edited for clarity
  • We’re also accepting photos and artwork – to contribute artwork, send a high-resolution image as an email attachment

Submissions will be collected on the Free From Shame site, which we will share widely as part of our effort to raise awareness and catalyze both prevention and healing.

Join Our Community

As part of the Free From Shame Project, we’ve created a private Facebook group just for people who have experienced sexual wounding. No matter how this issue has shown up in your life, the Free From Shame group is a place where you can connect with other survivors and be part of a supportive community. By sharing our wisdom, encouragement, and understanding, we can find strength in unity and reclaim our power.

This group is a place for:

  • Sharing our stories in a safe and loving environment
  • Witnessing each other’s journey with kindness and compassion
  • Expressing ourselves through creative writing and art
  • Uncovering new insights and offering inspiration

To join the group, simply go here. We’d love to meet you!

Donate Now

We’ve selected 3 great organizations that are working to create a world where sexual violence is no longer tolerated.

They’re just a few of the many groups that are doing important work to assist survivors and change the rules of the game so that this issue can become a thing of the past.

We encourage you to join us by making a donation to one of these organizations. And to show our appreciation, we have a special thank you gift for anyone who donates.

Simply click one of the links below to make your contribution. Then, forward your email receipt to us at and we’ll send you a link to download The Future of Healing, one of our most popular online conferences. It features over 70 expert interviews and plenty of cutting edge content.

Rights4GirlsIn the US alone, an estimated 1.5 million children are victims of human trafficking, and kids living in vulnerable situations are most at risk. Rights4Girls is a national organization that uses policy initiatives, community education, survivor support and advocacy programs to combat the trafficking of teens and young girls for sex work and to help survivors of sex trafficking heal and rebuild their lives. Go here to make a donation.

Victim Rights Law CenterSurvivors of sexual assault often face daunting obstacles if they seek justice, and some of the biggest are the cost of legal support and the scarcity of well-trained, sympathetic legal advocates. The Victim Rights Law Center offers free legal assistance and advocacy while also providing nationwide trainings for lawyers who want to be part of the solution. Go here to make a donation.

One Billion RisingEve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and an outspoken advocate of global human rights, founded the organization One Billion Rising to encourage women everywhere to join forces and build supportive communities where the truth about sexual violence can be spoken. One Billion Rising unites art and activism to empower women worldwide. Go here to make a donation.


The Power of Your Story:

Authenticity, Sexual Wounding, And Eating Psychology

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we’re big believers in the nutritional value of Vitamin A: Authenticity.

In a popular episode of IPEtv, Emily Rosen defines authenticity as “being real, honest, truthful, to the point, saying what you really feel, saying what you really mean, being willing to speak what’s on your mind even though it’s likely that others won’t necessarily be all warm and fuzzy with you. Authenticity means we dig a little deeper into who we really are, and we let go of anything that’s in the way of expressing our real self.”

Abundant research and decades of clinical experience have made it crystal clear that if we want to have our best possible metabolism and our strongest digestive health, we need more than just the right balance of micro- and macronutrients.

We also need to feel safe in our body and free to express our true self.

But for so many people, these key conditions are taken away by acts of sexual abuse, violence and shaming.

In our work in the field of food, body, and health, we consistently find that an extraordinarily high percentage of the people who seek out coaching for disordered eating, weight challenges, digestive issues, and other eating concerns are survivors of some form of sexual violence.

When we explore the root causes of lifelong struggles with food and body, far too often, some form of sexual abuse, assault, or harassment turns out to be at the core of the concern.

This can include rape, incest, sexual harassment, any form of unwanted sexual attention, or even witnessing sexual abuse.

One of the reasons why sexual violence has such a huge impact on a survivor’s relationship with food and body is that there’s so much pressure to keep the experience secret.

Survivors may be threatened with further attacks if they speak out. Often, when they do share their stories, they’re made to feel as though they were to blame for the assault. People who are desperately trying to keep painful secrets inside themselves often find themselves unconsciously using food as a way to suppress “unacceptable” thoughts, feelings, and memories.

The body itself may store extra weight as a barrier when intimacy or “being seen” are perceived as dangerous. Other people may respond in a different way: feelings of despair, hopelessness, shame, and worthlessness lead many women to starve themselves or engage in other self-harming behaviors after experiencing a sexual abuse.

That’s why we’ve created the Free From Shame Project: to offer a safe and loving space where people can publicly share their stories, and to support the organizations that are doing healing and advocacy work in their communities and around the world.

For so many of us, recovery begins only when we’re able to speak about what happened, and begin to release the burden of secrecy.

The more survivors can share their stories with the world, the harder it becomes for us as a society to look away from this issue.

And the more we shine our collective light, the closer we are to creating a world where we are all free to share our greatest gifts and live the life we’re meant to live.


The Free From Shame Project was inspired in part by the conversations that Emily Rosen’s poetry sparked among the members of our community. Click on the images below to read some of the powerful pieces that got people talking:

Unspoken Horrors



Thank you so much for joining us in this important endeavor. When we stand together, we can change the world. We look forward to connecting with you!


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