It is a widely-known, yet little-talked-about fact that trauma in childhood can lead to the development of unhealthy and potentially-fatal coping behaviors such as eating disorders. Until a few years ago, I never spoke a word about the abuse that I had endured in my household, as well as the disordered behaviors I lived with for most of my life as a result.
That all changed when I left my high-profile modeling career, got a mentor, went through recovery, and began writing. Once I started writing, it was as if I had blown the cap off a lid of a tightly-sealed bottle of explosives; all of my memories shattered onto the keyboard, and I couldn’t stop writing about them.
When I released my memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, last year, it was an explicit tell-all of what can happen when a child is sexually, physically, emotionally, and verbally abused. Of course, everyone’s experience is unique, but I firmly believe that when we are not afforded the God-given right in childhood to be loved and cared for by our parents, it can cause us to grab onto unhealthy behaviors as a way to cope. I started to binge eat at eight years old, then purged for over 14 years, until I developed anorexia nervosa. Mixed in with all of that was drug and alcohol abuse, sex addiction, psychosis, depression, suicide attempts, and the overall belief that I was never good enough for anything.
My modeling career was a direct result of wanting to fit in because I never understood where I fit in. Sexual abuse stole my identity and left me scarred. I looked for validation and love in all the wrong places, and thought that I could find that in the entertainment industry, which is notorious for hiring people who are abusive, because the business is not currently regulated. One day at a supposed “casting,” I was raped, and instead of dealing with the trauma, I coasted along, binged and purged, and didn’t report it. My actions were a mirror of how I handled the trauma in my childhood, and how I used my eating disorder and other behaviors to negatively cope with everything in life.
Thankfully, I’ve learned how to cope with my life in a positive way because of the gift of recovery, and spirituality, writing, and advocacy have been huge components of that. These past few years, I’ve learned so much about what it means to give back to others, which helps me to get out of myself. I think that disordered behaviors thrive in solitude, and advocacy has helped me to break out of isolation mode and be a part of something so much bigger, like serving my country.
Last year I worked on AB 2539 with Assemblymember Marc Levine in California, and this year I am collaborating as an executive board member of Peaceful Hearts Foundation with Stop Abuse Campaign, Gary Greenberg, Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, and Governor Cuomo to help pass S809, The Omnibus Child Victims Act, which seeks to eliminate New York’s Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal court and civil court, and gives adult victims a year in which they can sue their abusers and the institutions that facilitated their abuse. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that I am using my former suffering to bring about change, and you can, too. Sign the petition and share to send a message to Governor Cuomo and legislators that every child in New York deserves to be protected from sexual predators. By doing so, you are helping thousands of children this year, assisting in preventing co-occurring mental illnesses, and giving survivors a chance to come forward and get the justice they deserve. Thank you.
Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, advocate, and ambassador. Her debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, details her recovery from trauma, severe mental illnesses and the dark side of the modeling industry. Nikki has been featured on television shows and networks such as The Doctors, The TD Jakes Show, CBS Los Angeles, and the Oprah Winfrey Network, and profiled in publications such as People, LA Times, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, and Inquisitr. To find out more about Nikki, visit nikkidubose.com.