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Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2008;16(4):248-57. doi: 10.1080/10673220802277896.

Sexual assault and disordered eating in Asian women.

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  • 1Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.


The link between sexual assault and disordered eating has yet to be clarified, especially for ethnic minority populations. Asian women, in particular, report low rates of both sexual assault and eating disorders compared to their Western counterparts, and studies suggest that these rates may be conservative. The literature indicates that there are cultural attitudes that contribute to non- and underreporting of sexual assault by Asian women and that these sociocultural factors may have an important role in the development of eating disorders as a response to sexual victimization. Research illustrates a relationship between sexual assault and eating disorders; eating disorders may serve as coping mechanisms for survivors of sexual assault by providing a mechanism for comfort, numbing, and distracting in an effort to rid the painful feelings in response to the assault. To stimulate future research, this article reviews the current literature on the development of eating disorders following a sexual assault and on the sociocultural factors linking both phenomena in Asian women, and offers avenues for investigation to increase our understanding of these relationships.

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