I Finally Told My Dad Why I Gained Weight — And I Saw The Blood Leave His Face

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sad woman thinking

My mom, dad, and I sat at the table the other night after dinner, talking about this and that, not paying attention to the winter storm out the window.

When we started talking about molestation, I can’t even remember the exact reason but I recall laughing because my mom threw out a ridiculous statistic about sexual assault. I laughed because her statistic was so clearly off.

Mind you: I do not take this topic lightly.

I have been violated, not once or twice, but four times in my life. Four times men have obliterated boundaries before my eyes. Four times men have taught me that my words were not loud enough, and my cries meant nothing. Four times I felt invisible — invisible to the outside world and invisible to myself.

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As I explained each instance of assault to my parents, I could see my dad get paler and paler. I didn’t share this trauma to make them uncomfortable but rather, to share my truth.

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to avoid myself. I gained weight to cushion myself from the harsh glare of creepy men. I could feel eyes on me, and now as a thicker girl, men don't stare as often. Gaining weight helped me numb myself to the uncomfortableness of the world. But I'm trying to regain feeling and be comfortable again taking up space.

Weight gain in my family has always felt like a failure. My parents would comment about our extended family and their weight. Or, when I would come home, they might ask a few questions regarding how much or what I was eating.

My dad has even gone so far as to tell me to put different clothes on because what I was wearing was inappropriate for my size.

When I would have any type of ailment — mental or physical — my dad would say, “go for a run.” While I agree that exercise can solve a lot, it can’t solve feeling unsafe in your body — which is too bad because if I could run off this feeling, trust me, I would.

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While I detailed to my parents all the inappropriate ways men had violated me, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to explain to my father that my weight gain wasn't directly correlated to the piece of cake I had eaten but rather a horrible feeling in my stomach that I didn’t belong to my body.

I had the opportunity to change the narrative that lives in my father’s head about why I was "fat," and so I took it.

At first, he was confused, unable to comprehend how sexual trauma and weight gain might be connected.

“So you feel unsafe in your body 100% of the time, and your weight is a reflection of that?” he asked.

"Yes, dad," I replied. "That's what I work on every single day — trying to reclaim myself."

I saw the wheels turning in his brain, connecting everything I had just explained.

He sat back in his chair and said, “Sophia, I am so sorry this happened to you. If I were there, I would have protected you from these horrible things."

Even though all of my trauma happened in the past, I knew there was nothing he could have done. But I felt a wave of relief that he was beginning to understand my situation. He understood I was hurting, and this was the best he could do.

And at that moment, it felt like he was actually listening, not telling me to go for a run.

RELATED: The Reality Of Navigating Modern Dating As A Sexual Trauma Survivor

Sexual abuse of adults is common. RAINN also reports that every 73 seconds, an American is a victim of sexual violence. As with children, females are far more likely to be abused and assaulted, and 90% of victims who are adults are women. This is especially prevalent among women who also happen to be college students, which makes their risk three times greater.

Soph Brigitte is a contributor to Yourtango. Follow her on Medium.