Child Abuse and Suicide Are Related – but That Relationship Is Often Hidden
My husband took his life after years of carrying the weight of being sexually abused — physically and emotionally — by the people who were supposed to care for him as a child and adolescent.
As he got older, the physical sexual abuse stopped, but the emotional and psychological abuse continued, even morphing into new forms of control, like financial exploitation.
He never allowed himself to get help for the trauma he endured as a child, which carried over into his adulthood.
At 34 years old, he took his own life because of it.
How Adults Hide the Pain of Childhood Trauma and Abuse
My husband was the kindest, gentlest, most capable human I know.
He spoke four languages fluently. He had a master’s degree from one of the top engineering programs in his field in the world. He won scholarships to study abroad. He was a talented athlete. He loved animals, was the most reliable friend, and was a loving, compassionate husband.
In the 13 years we were together, I never met anyone who had anything negative to say about him. He was hilarious, brilliant, and someone everyone wanted to be around.
Neither Abuse Nor Suicide “Look” a Certain Way
Abuse doesn’t “look” a certain way. Neither does suicide.
This is because both are often hidden by a mask of false perfection, carefully curated and projected to hide pain, shame, and trauma.
My husband lived under the guise of perfection — a façade curated by the abusers and upheld by the survivors, which worked to keep the abuse a secret.
Underneath his mask was excruciating pain, shame, and guilt which he carried for all of his life. The life he curated was his way of coping with the horrific abuse that no child or human being should ever be subjected to.
The Reality of Childhood Sexual Abuse
One in every four girls and one in every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Just as both girls and boys can be abused, both men and women can be abusers.
In 93% of cases of child sexual abuse, the abuser is known to the family or is a family member themself.
Abusers often come across as stand-up people to the public. This is part of the façade used to conceal their true nature and keep the abuse shrouded in secrecy.
Adults who were sexually abused as children are at least three times more likely to take their own lives.
Pathways to Healing
Although the effects of childhood sexual abuse are devastating, abuse is not life sentence. Healing is possible, as is living a full, joyful life.
Organizations like 1in6.org and MaleSurvivor provide support and information for men who have experienced unwanted sexual experiences. Such support includes an anonymous, real-time, online chat group for men, offered by 1in6. RAINN.org offers free assistance for survivors of any gender.
Further, as we begin to understand more and more about childhood trauma, abuse, unwanted sexual experiences, and their effects on the body, mind, and spirit, the array of healing options available to survivors is growing.
Somatic Experiencing, for example, offers a body-centric mode of healing that goes beyond the limits of traditional talk therapy, addressing underlying trauma stored in the body. Another therapeutic process, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), uses eye movements, sounds, and repetitive motions to help clients resolve traumatic memories without having to verbalize them.
At the heart of all healing is the critical first step: Breaking your silence and telling someone. That someone can be counselor, a therapist, an anonymous chat room, or someone you trust.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, you don’t have to reveal any more than you’re comfortable with.
Yet the moment the silence is broken, the moment you begin to reclaim your power. This is the first step towards healing.
Follow this journey on The Alchemy of Science & Spirit.
Photo by Max Ilienerwise on Unsplash