If you are reading this post, please click on the title of this entry before reading. This will allow you to read the entry and then click “share” it at the end. When you click “share”, a small Facebook icon will appear, and it will allow you to immediately post it to your Facebook profile. I can already sense your hesitation, trust me. Will people think I was abused if I share this? Will I offend someone? Will I stir up something unnecessarily? Will I invade someone’s privacy? The answer is no. Progress demands boldness. Unlike currently incurable diseases like Cancer, Autism, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Multiple Sclerosis, the Sexual Abuse of Children already has a cure: us. The more we talk, share, and communicate – the more we as a society take a stand against childhood sexual abuse – the faster we will eradicate this disease. So, please, don’t hesitate, embrace boldness and share this story.
I’ve been documenting my recovery from sexual abuse as a child for almost a year now. It hasn’t been easy, but I am slowly making well my body and mind – a challenge that so many of you reading this are familiar with. The statistics are horrifying. One out of every four women in the U.S. knows this challenge. One out of every six men.
Last week, one of these men, Bill Zeller, a brilliant, successful computer science graduate student at Princeton University, put an abrupt end to his challenge. He wrote a 4,000 word letter sharing his darkness of a sexually abusive childhood for the first time, he posted it on Facebook, and then minutes later, he hung himself. Rather than summarize his story, I have included his letter here. He requested that the letter be disseminated in its entirety, so that others can learn from his story in his succinct and powerful voice.
If you read the letter, it will change you forever. You will understand his darkness and feel some of his pain, if only for a brief minute. You will better understand how hollow life can be for a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
If only Bill would have found a way out of his darkness, he would still be with us. If only there was a way for him to feel less alone, he would still be with us. If only our society freely talked about sexual abuse, not in taboo whispers, but in bold, compassionate, charged proclamations, Bill would still be with us. But, we don’t feel comfortable doing that. We hesitate, and then we play it safe.
I played it safe for over twenty years. It was all I could do at the time. I didn’t have the tools or the surroundings I needed. I didn’t have enough people letting me know that it was alright to have been abused – that it wasn’t my fault. So, my darkness grew and grew as I flaunted a successful personal and professional life. I was maneuvering my way forward, tethered to a disease that nobody wanted to recognize, especially myself.
Strangely, I was incredibly lucky. I had a family who loved me. I had positive role models. I had great friends who loved to laugh with me. I was gifted and I succeeded at everything I put my mind to. But the disease would grab me tight at times. When it did, I would take it out on myself for not being stronger. I had no idea it wasn’t my inadequacy. Then, without warning, I would go into remission. I would feel better. This cycle continued, with every period of sickness being worse than the last – my insides were shutting down.
In my late twenties, after fifteen years of punishing myself for my past, I started thinking about how to make the pain stop. The use of chemicals was only a temporary escape. I had more and more thoughts of how to pull it off, mostly fleeting, but my most common thought was staging a car accident. This way, I wouldn’t let anyone down. It would simply be a terrible accident. I would finally be able to take a deep breath and relax.
I haven’t written much about the suicidal thoughts I had before I started my recovery. I think because I was afraid I would scare people, or unnecessarily have them worried about my current mental state. But, after reading Bill Zeller’s letter, I realized that I was hiding an important piece of my story – the part that reveals the depth of pain that sexual abuse can instill. Maybe it was more than that – maybe it was because I don’t like to think that I was in such a shallow state – it’s hard to go back there and feel what I felt. It feels like so long ago.
In the past twelve months I have learned so much about myself, my innocence, and how I deserve to be happy. I have started to feel like “the old Chris” again. It’s awkward, frightening and extraordinary at the same time. If only everyone who is suffering from the affects of childhood sexual abuse could feel what I am feeling. If only those who gave up could have found someone to share with.
Bill Zeller was one of twenty five million men in the U.S. who are currently fighting the affects of sexual abuse. His story, while tragic and terribly sad, is a portal to the cure. We are the cure. Please share.