Suicide Risk Increased in Sexually Abused Teens

By Amy Norton

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 – NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Teenagers who have ever been sexually abused appear to have a higher suicide risk than their peers, but their families may be able to make a difference, a large study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 84,000 Minnesota adolescents, those with a history of childhood sexual abuse were much more likely than their peers to have contemplated or attempted suicide.

suicide.jpgHowever, the study also found that several protective factors seemed to buffer abused teenagers against this risk — most importantly, a sense of “family connectedness.” Teenagers who said they could talk to their parents about their problems, for example, or who felt their families generally cared about them were less likely to be suicidal.

“The findings suggest that there might be ways to lower the suicide risk among young people with a history of sexual abuse,” Dr. Marla E. Eisenberg, the lead researcher on the study, told Reuters Health.

She and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis report the findings in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The researchers evaluated survey data from 83,731 students in the 6th, 9th and 12th grades. Overall, 4 percent said they’d been sexually abused by someone unrelated to them, 1.3 percent said a family member had abused them, and 1.4 percent reported both forms of sexual abuse.

In general, the students with a history of sexual abuse were more likely than their peers to say they’d thought about or attempted suicide at some point. At greatest risk were those who said they’d been abused by both a family member and someone outside the family; more than half of this group said they’d tried to kill themselves.

However, having positive relationships with adults seemed to reduce some of this risk, the study found. Abused teens who said they had teachers or other adults in their lives who cared about them were less likely to report suicidal behavior.

The most important protective factor was a sense of family connectedness — which the study measured by asking teens the extent to which they felt their families cared about and understood them, and whether they could discuss their problems with their parents.

“If connections with family members, teachers or other school personnel, or other adults in the community were strong, young people had a much lower risk of suicide, even if they were particularly vulnerable due to sexual abuse,” Eisenberg said.

The implication, she and her colleagues write, is that strengthening these connections for abused teenagers could help lower their suicide risk.

According to Eisenberg, some potential ways to improve family connections could be to encourage parents to listen to their children’s problems and talk to them in a “non-judgmental” way, or to simply spend more time with them.

SOURCE: Journal of Pediatrics, November 2007.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_58133.html

My 2 Cents:  For some reason, as a survivor sexual abuse, this article bothered me.  I felt I should post it, even though I am bias.  It just painted a nicey-nicey kind of story of stats and a nice article outcome.  Always a sore spot with me; suicidal risk (attempts) connected directly/indirectly to sexual abuse.  Not everyone who has been sexually abused will attempt suicide, but as the study shows, the risk is high.  I agree with that; I did.  Maybe they should have come across a little tougher or stronger sounding in the article.  After all this is sexual abuse not bunions.

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13 thoughts on “Suicide Risk Increased in Sexually Abused Teens

  1. Hi, I am can empathise with you rdaugher as I was sexually abused aged 3. Obviously she must have had a similar experience, most probably more severe judging by the harm it has had o her. The best thing I can think of is if she can just try and reinvent herself. Maybe this will work, is will draw her away from dwelling on the past. I’m now 17 and am seeking councilling and possibly hypnotherapy. The only thing I can think of is to only seek this sort of helpwhen she feels mentally and physically prepared, as most of us know- a massive factpr is getting back the control you lost to these viscious predators and in i assume in alot of cases; poeple who are themselves in the hands of mental illness; not to discount what they did to your daughter.

  2. Hi I am the mum of beautiful girl who was sexually abused by a non family member when she was about 11. Since then she has been in and out of hospatal with mental health issues and is an alcoholic and substance abuser and has been in a lot of trouble with the law. She is now 18 and I still love her even though she does not love herself. Is there anyone out there who can relate to this cos it is really hard finding sum1 who has been in a similar position.

  3. I was sexually abused when I was 13 by my cousin’s best friend. I tried to commite suicde then I realized that my mother really cared about me and I could talk to her about anything. My father walked out of my life when he found out I had been raped. He said it was all my fault. I didn’t know what to do. It will be 3 years ago on May 19, 2009. So I can relate to this.

    • You may find a couple of articles in my blog helpful dealing with my experience with sexual abuse also. My parents believed me for an instant, however, the predator was the next door neighbor and of course denied that it all happened. I was ordered to apologize for this whole thing; the predator accepted the apology.

      You too have been made to take the blame and chastised for something that you had no control of. Imagine attempting suicide over an incident that was no fault of yours. Please don’t dwell on the date of May 19th, it will just bring back horrid memories and that isn’t fair to you. Take really good care. Deb

  4. This article offended me very much. I was raped and abused sexually for four years and my predator walked away scot free. I have tried so many times to kill myself. I’m close to my family, friends and I go to therapy. All that won’t stop people who have been forced to live with this not to try to end their life. It take away your freedom and basically can ruin your life like it has to mine. It make an article that paints a pretty picture is horribly offensive to those of us that are trying to survive and those that are going through this now. You all need to do a better job, better research and tell things how they are. show how sexually abuse is really a problem and maybe start something that will end it so no one else will have to look in the mirror in the morning and feel physically sick at what they feel and see. For many people waking up in the morning is horrible because their dreams and nightmares are better then our realities.

    • I agree totally by what you said (see my comments under article). I too was sexually abused and the predator got away with it, because in the ’60′s whoever heard of a 6 year old child incest/sexual abuse “victim” taking her abuser to trial. I heard a few years ago that he died, most likely giving no thought as too how he ruined my life.

      You are correct also, this was really a lame written article. Either the research was lame or article poorly written. With such a serious topic I think someone out there should have had used their noodle, had compassion and maybe spent a little more on research. Why not ask the people who have lived with this?

  5. This article was too simplified and generalized for such a sensitive and complex issue.First of all, the offender is usually a family member, if not a parent, and the non-offending spouse or other family members may not believe the child, may minimalize what happened or ask the child to recant to protect the family member. If it was outside the family, all the family support in the world can’t guarantee a smooth legal process that re-traumatizes the victim. Third, where is the recommendation for therapy-which should be mandatory for all victims?
    I am a psychotherapist for trauma survivors as well as an educator training professionals.
    I specialize in training therapists to prevent harm done in the aftermath.

    Yes children recover and heal when family is supportive but that means more than “spend time with them..” And what of those children removed to foster care???

    • I agree with some points, however, just reflecting on the harm that psychotherapy did to me, I advise others to seek information on this type of therapy before beginning. It has helped many people of course, but for me it catapulted me into such a depression, I was stuck in black mud for 9 years. Sometimes the past is the past and leave it alone. Perhaps when mentally stronger now I can begin to talk about this with a therapist, but that would not be the entire focus of my visit. In retrospect though, I think the therapist who I saw for childhood sexual abuse was in way over head with my case and should have sought a more experienced therapist.

  6. Once again, a sore subject with me. Childhood abuse robbed me of so much of my life; a life sentence for me, scot free life for my abuser. He walked away, possibly and most likely without a conscience. They are predators. I attempted suicide four times during my very depressive years, first prompted by therapy uncovering sexual abuse.

    I am so sorry about your son; his life with a suicide attempt just isn’t fair. Unfortunately, the abusers always get off. I’m sure mine went to his grave probably living a good life.

    Take care.

  7. im a little offended. our son was abused by a neighbor boy and of course our son attempted suicide. we are very close to our son and very open with him in all areas of his life. i think that just because your close to your child doesn’t mean they will not attempt suicide. child sexual abuse is enough to throw anyone over the edge including the secondary victims. the abusers are the individuals are the people that need to be blamed….

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