The link between childhood sexual abuse and suicide isn't a surprising one, but that doesn't make the reality any less tragic -- not to mention difficult to talk about. That's why we should all be grateful to 18-year-old Aaron Fisher, otherwise known as Victim Number 1 in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, for coming forward and admitting how horribly damaged he really was by the former coach's abuse (as well as the doubt and ridicule he was forced to deal with when he finally gathered the courage to tell).
Fisher says he was, at times, "extremely suicidal." He also wore "long sleeved shirts because I cut myself, I did a whole bunch of things I wouldn't have normally done." So even though Fisher was trying to hide his behavior, he was still sending warning signs to the people around him: Something isn't right.
But no one picked up on his signs -- perhaps because they didn't know what to look for. How can we make sure we don't do the same thing to anyone in our own lives who might be victims of sexual abuse? Of course every case is different, but here are some common symptoms to watch out for ....
Changes in behavior including fearfulness, crying without provocationand/or nightmares
Regression (bedwetting, thumb sucking)
Changes in eating habits
Sudden unwillingness to spend time alone with a certain person
Unusual interest in or knowledge of sexually related matters
Self-destructive behaviors (cutting, unprotected sex, etc.)
Intimacy issues (fear or or obsession with attaining)
If you suspect someone in your life might be a victim of sexual abuse, seek the help of a mental health professional right away -- before confronting anyone involved. This is delicate territory; the more qualified support everyone has, the better.
Are you surprised by any of these symptoms/signs of current or former sexual abuse?
Image via Samantha Marx/Flickr