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this article submitted by long time CASA guardian ad Litem Mike Tikkanen

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Two of my dearest friends have killed themselves & we all should know more about helping others deal with suicidal thoughts and depression.

When I wrote INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005, a 70 year old friend asked me out to lunch. After the meal he explained how he told no one of his abuse at the hands of a priest when he was a twelve year old boy and how finally at 45, after 2 failed marriages and several failed business partnerships, he sought out a therapist.

He was still seeing that therapist…   25 years later.

Of the children I’ve worked with as a guardian ad-Litem, a high percentage of them have been sexually abused. I have seen the horror of child sex abuse and how 10 or 25 years later, a troubled being still fighting the darkness every day. Six year old foster child Kendrea Johnson hung herself and left a note (not far from where I live) as did seven year old Gabriel Myers in Florida.  Gabriel’s note was a clear indictment of abuse and psychotropic medications.

Child sex abuse may be the most under-reported crime in America. It could also be the most under-treated horror in America. As a guardian ad-Litem, my first visit to a hospital suicide ward to visit a four year old girl that had been horribly abused was never made public.  No one knows the stories of children I worked with in child protection – the prostituted seven year old, or any of the self harming and suicidal behaviors of the children I worked with.

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This is the most powerful and articulate suicide note I’ve ever read and it has great meaning to me for its power to relate these two incomprehensible sorrows (abuse & suicide).

I could not read Bill Zeller’s last letter without feeling the terror, physical and mental impediments, and daily reminders of his childhood nightmares, adult confusion and suicide.

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Bill Zeller, Princeton Grad Student And ‘Brilliant’ Programmer, Dies In Apparent Suicide

First Posted: 01- 7-11 08:40 AM | Updated: 01- 7-11 03:16 PM

Bill Zeller, a Princeton Ph.D candidate and renowned internet programmer, died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a suicide attempt. He was 27.

Zeller stunned the programming community with a 4,000-word suicide note detailing a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, which he had never before disclosed to anyone.

“I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions,” Zeller wrote. “… I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.”

According to the Daily Princetonian, Zeller posted the note on his website and e-mailed it to friends before taking his own life. The note in full can be seen below.

Zeller was a programming whiz kid, responsible for creating applications such as Graph Your Inbox, which visualizes Gmail use over time, and myTunes, which enables users to download others’ iTunes music. Zeller made the latter program while an undergraduate at Trinity College.

Zeller’s death has prompted an outpouring of grief on the internet, from those who knew him and those who didn’t.

“I’d first encountered Bill online years ago when he made a blog posting app, and then re-meeting him at a Princeton event last year, he’d begun by saying, ‘You probably don’t remember…,'” One user wrote on MetaFilter. “But we immediately reconnected about the cool project he’d done back then. More amazingly, he was doing super, super brilliant work at Princeton, which I found really inspiring and was so excited to see how far this young guy had come from such promising roots.”


Zeller’s note:

I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision. Maybe it’s true that anyone who does this is insane by definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning.

I considered not writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up loose ends and don’t want people to wonder why I did this. Since I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely draw the wrong conclusions.

My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In kindergarten I couldn’t use the bathroom and would stand petrified whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained social behavior.

The damage that was done to my body still prevents me from using the bathroom normally, but now it’s less of a physical impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.

This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold, plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It’s the same thing I do now, but instead of legos it’s surfing the web or reading or listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.

At times growing up I would feel inconsolable rage, but I never connected this to what happened until puberty. I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time by doing things that required intense concentration, but it would always come back. Programming appealed to me for this reason. I was never particularly fond of computers or mathematically inclined, but the temporary peace it would provide was like a drug.

But the darkness always returned and built up something like a tolerance, because programming has become less and less of a refuge.
The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me.

I feel like I’m trapped in a contimated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else. It manifests itself in hours of eating or staying up for days at a time or sleeping for sixteen hours straight or week long programming binges or constantly going to the gym. I’m exhausted from feeling like this every hour of every day.

Three to four nights a week I have nightmares about what happened. It makes me avoid sleep and constantly tired, because sleeping with what feels like hours of nightmares is not restful. I wake up sweaty and furious. I’m reminded every morning of what was done to me and the control it has over my life.

I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions. I would be angry and lost in thought and then be interrupted by someone saying “Hi” or making small talk, unable to understand why I seemed cold and distant. I walked around, viewing the outside world from a distant portal behind my eyes, unable to perform normal human niceties.

I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.

Alcohol was also something that let me escape the darkness. It would always find me later, though, and it was always angry that I managed to escape and it made me pay. Many of the irresponsible things I did were the result of the darkness. Obviously I’m responsible for every decision and action, including this one, but there are reasons why things happen the way they do.

Alcohol and other drugs provided a way to ignore the realities of my situation. It was easy to spend the night drinking and forget that I had no future to look forward to. I never liked what alcohol did to me, but it was better than facing my existence honestly. I haven’t touched alcohol or any other drug in over seven months (and no drugs or alcohol will be involved when I do this) and this has forced me to evaluate my life in an honest and clear way. There’s no future here. The darkness will always be with me.

I used to think if I solved some problem or achieved some goal, maybe he would leave. It was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source of my problems instead of something that I’ll never be able to change.

I thought that if I got into to a good college, or a good grad school, or lost weight, or went to the gym nearly every day for a year, or created programs that millions of people used, or spent a summer or California or New York or published papers that I was proud of, then maybe I would feel some peace and not be constantly haunted and unhappy. But nothing I did made a dent in how depressed I was on a daily basis and nothing was in any way fulfilling. I’m not sure why I ever thought that would change anything.

I didn’t realize how deep a hold he had on me and my life until my first relationship. I stupidly assumed that no matter how the darkness affected me personally, my romantic relationships would somehow be separated and protected. Growing up I viewed my future relationships as a possible escape from this thing that haunts me every day, but I began to realize how entangled it was with every aspect of my life and how it is never going to release me.

Instead of being an escape, relationships and romantic contact with other people only intensified everything about him that I couldn’t stand. I will never be able to have a relationship in which he is not the focus, affecting every aspect of my romantic interactions.

Relationships always started out fine and I’d be able to ignore him for a few weeks. But as we got closer emotionally the darkness would return and every night it’d be me, her and the darkness in a black and gruesome threesome. He would surround me and penetrate me and the more we did the more intense it became. It made me hate being touched, because as long as we were separated I could view her like an outsider viewing something good and kind and untainted. Once we touched, the darkness would envelope her too and take her over and the evil inside me would surround her. I always felt like I was infecting anyone I was with.

Relationships didn’t work. No one I dated was the right match, and I thought that maybe if I found the right person it would overwhelm him. Part of me knew that finding the right person wouldn’t help, so I became interested in girls who obviously had no interest in me. For a while I thought I was gay.

I convinced myself that it wasn’t the darkness at all, but rather my orientation, because this would give me control over why things didn’t feel “right”. The fact that the darkness affected sexual matters most intensely made this idea make some sense and I convinced myself of this for a number of years, starting in college after my first relationship ended. I told people I was gay (at Trinity, not at Princeton), even though I wasn’t attracted to men and kept finding myself interested in girls.

Because if being gay wasn’t the answer, then what was? People thought I was avoiding my orientation, but I was actually avoiding the truth, which is that while I’m straight, I will never be content with anyone. I know now that the darkness will never leave.
Last spring I met someone who was unlike anyone else I’d ever met. Someone who showed me just how well two people could get along and how much I could care about another human being. Someone I know I could be with and love for the rest of my life, if I weren’t so fucked up. Amazingly, she liked me. She liked the shell of the man the darkness had left behind. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t be alone with her.

It was never just the two of us, it was always the three of us: her, me and the darkness. The closer we got, the more intensely I’d feel the darkness, like some evil mirror of my emotions. All the closeness we had and I loved was complemented by agony that I couldn’t stand, from him. I realized that I would never be able to give her, or anyone, all of me or only me. She could never have me without the darkness and evil inside me. I could never have just her, without the darkness being a part of all of our interactions.

I will never be able to be at peace or content or in a healthy relationship. I realized the futility of the romantic part of my life. If I had never met her, I would have realized this as soon as I met someone else who I meshed similarly well with. It’s likely that things wouldn’t have worked out with her and we would have broken up (with our relationship ending, like the majority of relationships do) even if I didn’t have this problem, since we only dated for a short time. But I will face exactly the same problems with the darkness with anyone else. Despite my hopes, love and compatability is not enough. Nothing is enough.

There’s no way I can fix this or even push the darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy feasible.
So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn’t last because of the darkness and didn’t want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I’ve ever been able to talk about with anyone.

Losing her was very hard for me as well. Not because of her (I got over our relationship relatively quickly), but because of the realization that I would never have another relationship and because it signified the last true, exclusive personal connection I could ever have. This wasn’t apparent to other people, because I could never talk about the real reasons for my sadness. I was very sad in the summer and fall, but it was not because of her, it was because I will never escape the darkness with anyone.

She was so loving and kind to me and gave me everything I could have asked for under the circumstances. I’ll never forget how much happiness she brought me in those briefs moments when I could ignore the darkness. I had originally planned to kill myself last winter but never got around to it. (Parts of this letter were written over a year ago, other parts days before doing this.) It was wrong of me to involve myself in her life if this were a possibility and I should have just left her alone, even though we only dated for a few months and things ended a long time ago. She’s just one more person in a long list of people I’ve hurt.

I could spend pages talking about the other relationships I’ve had that were ruined because of my problems and my confusion related to the darkness. I’ve hurt so many great people because of who I am and my inability to experience what needs to be experienced. All I can say is that I tried to be honest with people about what I thought was true.

I’ve spent my life hurting people. Today will be the last time.
I’ve told different people a lot of things, but I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me, ever, for obvious reasons. It took me a while to realize that no matter how close you are to someone or how much they claim to love you, people simply cannot keep secrets. I learned this a few years ago when I thought I was gay and told people.

The more harmful the secret, the juicier the gossip and the more likely you are to be betrayed. People don’t care about their word or what they’ve promised, they just do whatever the fuck they want and justify it later. It feels incredibly lonely to realize you can never share something with someone and have it be between just the two of you.

I don’t blame anyone in particular, I guess it’s just how people are. Even if I felt like this is something I could have shared, I have no interest in being part of a friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the damaged and contaminated person that I am. So even if I were able to trust someone, I probably would not have told them about what happened to me. At this point I simply don’t care who knows.

I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need to stop this. I need to make sure I don’t kill someone, which is not something that can be easily undone. I don’t know if this is related to what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this decision should indicate what I’m capable of.
So I’ve realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others.

I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.

I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to give.

I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly. I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget about me quickly.

There’s no point in identifying who molested me, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.

You may wonder why I didn’t just talk to a professional about this. I’ve seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I’m positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was.

And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both because I know it wouldn’t help and because I have no confidence it would remain secret. I know the legal and practical limits of doctor/patient confidentiality, growing up in a house where we’d hear stories about the various mental illnesses of famous people, stories that were passed down through generations.

All it takes is one doctor who thinks my story is interesting enough to share or a doctor who thinks it’s her right or responsibility to contact the authorities and have me identify the molestor (justifying her decision by telling herself that someone else might be in danger). All it takes is a single doctor who violates my trust, just like the “friends” who I told I was gay did, and everything would be made public and I’d be forced to live in a world where people would know how fucked up I am.

And yes, I realize this indicates that I have severe trust issues, but they’re based on a large number of experiences with people who have shown a profound disrepect for their word and the privacy of others.

People say suicide is selfish. I think it’s selfish to ask people to continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won’t feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it’s also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.

Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people have it worse than I do, and maybe I’m just not a strong person, but I really did try to deal with this. I’ve tried to deal with this every day for the last 23 years and I just can’t fucking take it anymore.

I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. I wonder who I’d be if things had been different or if I were a stronger person. It sounds pretty great.

I’m prepared for death. I’m prepared for the pain and I am ready to no longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do. My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.

I’d also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional, dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a better place when they’re dead–one with less hatred and intolerance.
If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week.

They live in a black and white reality they’ve constructed for themselves. They partition the world into good and evil and survive by hating everything they fear or misunderstand and calling it love. They don’t understand that good and decent people exist all around us, “saved” or not, and that evil and cruel people occupy a large percentage of their church. They take advantage of people looking for hope by teaching them to practice the same hatred they practice.
A random example:
“I am personally convinced that if a Muslim truly believes and obeys the Koran, he will be a terrorist.” – George Zeller, August 24, 2010.

If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were “saved” at some point), that’s your choice, but it’s fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him.

Their church was always more important than the members of their family and they happily sacrificed whatever necessary in order to satisfy their contrived beliefs about who they should be.

I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was literally beaten out of me. A house full of hatred and intolerance, run by two people who were experts at appearing kind and warm when others were around. Parents who tell an eight year old that his grandmother is going to Hell because she’s Catholic. Parents who claim not to be racist but then talk about the horrors of miscegenation.

I could list hundreds of other examples, but it’s tiring.
Since being kicked out, I’ve interacted with them in relatively normal ways. I talk to them on the phone like nothing happened. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like pretending I have a family. Maybe I like having people I can talk to about what’s been going on in my life. Whatever the reason, it’s not real and it feels like a sham. I should have never allowed this reconnection to happen.

I wrote the above a while ago, and I do feel like that much of the time. At other times, though, I feel less hateful. I know my parents honestly believe the crap they believe in. I know that my mom, at least, loved me very much and tried her best.

One reason I put this off for so long is because I know how much pain it will cause her. She has been sad since she found out I wasn’t “saved”, since she believes I’m going to Hell, which is not a sadness for which I am responsible. That was never going to change, and presumably she believes the state of my physical body is much less important than the state of my soul. Still, I cannot intellectually justify this decision, knowing how much it will hurt her. Maybe my ability to take my own life, knowing how much pain it will cause, shows that I am a monster who doesn’t deserve to live.

All I know is that I can’t deal with this pain any longer and I’m am truly sorry I couldn’t wait until my family and everyone I knew died so this could be done without hurting anyone. For years I’ve wished that I’d be hit by a bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more acceptable, but I was never so lucky.

To those of you who have shown me love, thank you for putting up with all my shittiness and moodiness and arbitrariness. I was never the person I wanted to be. Maybe without the darkness I would have been a better person, maybe not. I did try to be a good person, but I realize I never got very far.

I’m sorry for the pain this causes. I really do wish I had another option. I hope this letter explains why I needed to do this. If you can’t understand this decision, I hope you can at least forgive me.
Bill Zeller

Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don’t want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I’m worried that my family might try to restrict access to it. I don’t mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I’d prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.

Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.

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44 Comments

  1. This subject is a true American tragedy, no question. It is, however, heartening to note the energy devoted to the ugliness of child sexual abuse, by the many hundreds of decent professionals who focus on this very important issue. And I tip my cap to you all.

    As a physician misbehavior investigator, my perspective is a bit different. My focus is the absolutely ridiculous manner in which sexual-predator doctors are allowed to continue their scourge on society’s most vulnerable citizens – oftentimes for decades – before the legal system finally plods its way to the forgone conclusion – namely, that these monsters in lab coats belong in a cage as quickly as they are discovered.

    For those unaware, well over 1000 physicians have been found guilty of egregious sexual abuse of patients and others, just over the course of the last decade. As nearly as we can determine, about 600 of these are behind bars, with another 41 awaiting trial outcomes.

    The worst child rapists in United States history? Three different pediatricians, in Ohio and Delaware.

    For reasons that are unfathomable to me, predator doctors are customarily allowed to continue their ways unabated, until whatever authority they fall under, decides they have enough irrefutable “proof” of the ugliness.

    I – for one – see no reason why the same level of common sense – and common human decency – cannot be applied to practicing physicians, as is applied to airline pilots.

    Does it not make rudimentary sense to ground the pilot BEFORE the crash?

    It does, and we do.

  2. In regards to Patricparamedic…. what an outstanding reply to the “Suicide Note”. I very much enjoyed your comment and I’m sure you have enlightened many readers who might not of been aware of the “monsters” in the lab coats. Kudos to you!!! Kim Wygant

  3. Thank you so much Mike for sharing this emotionally powerful suicide note. I believe I will never forget it.. I had to tell myself to…breathe. Kim

  4. Powerful note. So sad as abuse is too common and the impact follows into adulthood. However, it is too bad that he did not receive counseling as it could have helped him deal with his unresolved feelings. He definitely was very depressed and the rage is evident. Depression is anger turned inward. There is always hope and healing for those who have been abused. My concern about the note is that he is giving a distorted view of Christianity. Josh McDowell states it perfectly rules w/o relationship leads to rebellion. Too strict rules w/o grace is not christianity. sounds like he grew up in a legalistic home, which is not grace. Vengeance is the Lords and he will repay. If anyone harms a child it says it would have been better if a millstone was tied around his neck. I am sorry that this talented man resorted to suicide. So sad.

  5. This was so tragic. It appears from the note that he believed relief to his suffering was impossible. However, countless numbers of people have found healing through therapy with a therapist who has specific training in helping people who have been sexually abused. What a senseless loss. I have worked with survivors of sexual abuse and have seen firsthand the amazing difference that can happen, even with short-term counseling.

    I hope the publicity surrounding the suicide note leads to awareness that help IS available for individuals who have experienced sexual abuse, and that they do not have to suffer in silence. I fear that some may read it and become convinced that their situations are equally hopeless, but I hope that isn’t the case.

  6. To Kim Wygant –

    Thank you so much for your comments. It’s gratifying to know some folks really pay attention.

    And for the record, how depressing is this?

    In the 76 hours since I wrote my note up above, another 36 doctors have been found guilty of serious misbehavior.

    It just never stops.

  7. Although psychotropic drugs are often times, the first choice to treatment for victims, these drugs are a short-term remedy. This form of treatment by itself is like placing a band-aid over wound without pressure to the stop the internal bleeding. After the sedation wear off, victims still have to deal with nightmare of their reality of sexual abuse.

    In spite of sexual abuse, a child will continue the course of growth and development trying to survive in a world; they no longer trust. Sexual abuse is probably one of the worse violations against human privacy. I cannot begin to imagine the deep emotional suffering of these victims day in and day out… not have answering to their questions. Sexually abuse victims’ tears are invisible to us because these victims learn to cope by remaining silent. Victims of sexual abuse probably find it easier to cope in silence whether to deal people who do not probably know how to show compassion and understanding.

    Unfortunately, suicide becomes an irresistible option….a choice to relieve years of internal anger, shame, and hurt. If we are not willingly to talk openly about such sensitive issues as this one, how can we begin to learn how to address the sorrowful pain that affects the lives of these victims even unto dead? A long-term plan would be useful to facilitate open discussions and support at the community level with appropriate psychotherapy.

  8. Thank you for sharing this note. I am hoping it will have a great deal of influence with psychotherapist who wish to treat individuals who have experienced such trauma. As a consumer & professional who has had to deal with this issue on both levels, I cannot begin to explain the many therapist who have been unprepared to deal with the complexities of. childhood sexual abuse. I was. Once told that my experience of early childhood sexual abuse was not trauma-after all-I “wasn’t tortured.” This from a licensed psychologist specializing in trauma. People like that do more harm than good. Despite my training, it is difficult to believe, especially when trauma therapy’s goal (at least when I was in MH) was to bring the individual to state before he/she was traumatized.

  9. This was so tragic. One point I would like to make. Many individuals mentioned the fact that counseling would have helped. I would like to remind people that not everyone has the means to pay for counseling. Yes – there are free clinics. Unfortunately, the majority of the population that would access them is not educated on the availability or alternate soloutions for assistance. Another issue may be long waiting periods to see a professional at a free clinic, lack of transportation, or availability of a telephone to make or go to an appointment, or a myriad of factors. We must remember that accessibility to health care, cars, even electronics that we take for granted is an unnatainable luxury for some individuals.

  10. This is such a shame! I am from India and I am glad such child abuse does not happen widely in here. However, women are ill treated though which is yet again a shame… not on the country but on the Human race.

  11. I can identify with much of this man’s thoughts especially as it relates to intimate relationships. It was all so hard for me, I just decided I was better off being an old maid. However, I didn’t obsess about it as this poor fellow did, but intimate relationships brought back the trauma for me, and as he mentioned it is never just you and the other person. The abuser is always there, too, in a mental sense, so that you are never truly alone to be who you really are with someone you are serious with. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse from ages 6-10 by a brother who was 7 years older. Nothing was ever done about it. He even married and had a family. I don’t know for sure if he still has this weakness. At age 25, I attempted suicide. A few years ago I participated in a research study at a local university for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It was during my involvement in this study, that I realized I have PTSD from childhood sexual abuse, and was diagnosed with PTSD. I have another brother who has been so mentally and verbally abuse with me during a lot of my adult life, that I’ve had to let it go. He will never change, and even Jesus only had to take abuse for 36 years. That was enough for me, too, and I’ve had to break the tie with my remaining brother who did not sexually abuse me, but abused me mentally and verbally. He is an alcohic. He and I are 20 months apart in age. I suspect he also was abused by our older brother. Reading what this man wrote made me think of my other brother.

  12. How absolutely awful. And yes, I can identify with just about all the comments in the suicide note. I am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and have been suicidal several times over the course of my life. Psycotherapy has helped. Writing my story in third person as if it happened to someone else helped, I still feel disconnected from most of the world and I believe the living Christ is the only true answer.

  13. Such a sad story. I echo the Christian sentiments of the last poster, Sherri. I wish my brother had believed this too. He too was a computer expert, molested as a child, who committed suicide last year. I’ll see you in heaven one day my dear little brother. Wish I could have protected you better as a boy. Wish I could have kept you alive as a man.

    “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

  14. I can identify with all the comments, because I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’ve been suicidal many times growing up, especially in my teens. This was a sad and tragic story But I’m a survivor!

  15. Every word about the pain with intimacy, I identify with totally.

    The last person I was with called it “drama” and expected me to stop it.

    I’ve essentially given up on having any relationship.

    Painful enough to have to go through the flashbacks alone.

    Don’t need someone to belittle and ridicule me for it.

  16. I hope Bill Zeller rests in peace. Life didn’t give that to him. It’s a tragedy that any abuse survivor turns to death for comfort; death sometimes holds a comfort that can seem more promising than those offered by life. I was having a horrible time of it earlier this evening, and reading his letter calmed me in a strange way. I wonder if he knew that his suicide note could have that power. I mean nothing callous when I say it; I simply mean to say that he spoke to me in a language I understand. It’s a language of suffering, and I have felt the way he once felt. Parts of me often feel like dying is the best option, but I know in my heart that it isn’t.

    Childhood abuse can effectively alter the way we grow up; if the world shows one of its ugliest faces when a person is so young and just developing, sometimes children progress in a manner so different from their peers that they no longer relate. Maybe we dislike touch, shy away from the love and affection of those who would do us no harm. We become angry at a young age, maybe scared or apathetic. We grow up without trust in the world, in anything or anyone. Maybe we distance ourselves from our friends. We grow up sad, scared, alone, and lost in a silent world of pain that we cannot articulate.

    The cold reality of this pain is that, while it can get better, it does not go away. Existence is a battle that I fight every single day, and I say this during the only time in my life when I feel that I am doing well. I still chastise myself for my own struggle, thinking that surely I live a life more privileged than many other earthly beings, asking what could possibly blind me to this privilege. Truth be told, the help I have sought for the sexual abuse in my past has done more harm than good; I continue to seek it, though I cannot always keep up faith that it will have any effect at all, let alone a positive one. This too is not an uncommon problem that sufferers of abuse face: The lack of good, solid counselors available and minimal knowledge in some professionals of abuse’s effect on the mind. There is a language of the abused; I believe it should be taught to anyone who seeks to aid the recovery from abuse. Sometimes we just can’t say what we mean or feel outright, and people miss the true meaning behind our words and actions. This is incredibly common in small communities like my own. Encountering therapeutic methods that further wound the mind is counterproductive; it creates a loss of faith rather than inspiring hope as should happen in treatment.

    There is hope. There is always hope. More people would end up like Bill Zeller if there was none to be found. If there were more people like those who run this website — people who obviously care enough to sound out a message — maybe that hope could reach the ones who need it most. It seems to me that a good place to start for younger children is within the school system. The signs of abuse (sexual, verbal, emotional, physical) are not obscure ones. Perhaps in cities and larger communities, schools already employ staff members trained to recognize signs of abuse; I don’t claim to know, but I do believe that it could be beneficial to many youth if someone were watching out for them in that capacity. Children need a quiet voice sometimes to ask the right questions and a trained ear to decipher the responses. I surely know that if someone like that had been present in my childhood, it could have spared me a great deal of pain throughout adolescence and onward.

  17. This letter touched my soul because I was sexually abuse when I was 10 and since I realized what happened not a single day has past without suffering for me. I have to deal with therapist who have told me I’m overreacting, I believe those specialists in mental health are in reality supporting pedophiles, because they are the ones society listen to regarding this issues and unless they have lived an experience like that they don’t know how it kills your happpines, your peace; so they underestimate it, maybe because they want to believe they are useful and they need their job. And with so called specialist denying the importance of child sexual abuse we only get light condemnations for pedophiles, they are so into themselves that they don’t say a pedophile can’t be cure. The true is this crime is worse than murder because it leaves you in great pain for the rest of your life, just wandering how happy could you be if you hadn’t been abuse. I’m also going to kill myself and I want you all to know if therapist were honest our society would be in its way to condemn sexual abuse as it should be
    So once someone has been identify as a pedophile should never get out of jail. But that is not going to happen as long as the so called experts don’t put this crime in its real dimensions, its as bad as murder, it just leaves you leaving a torture for the rest of your life. Fuck you to all the therapists that had treated me, you just did more harm and I wish you nothing but the worst. The reality is sexual abuse in childhood kills people, its a torture on a child, and that’s the reality no matter whatever stucked up therapist says.

  18. I did not take the time to read the entire letter. However, I was looking for information online regarding the connection between child sexual abuse and suicide and found this. My sisters and I were all sexually abused by our stepfather before the age of 10. They have both committed suicide and I am the sole survivor. I feel moved to speak out against this crime in their behalf as well as mine. It alarms me the so few people ever talk about this incredibly common and profoundly destructive crime. My mother is still married to the man who abused us and they went on to be foster parents for many years. Her denial about the abuse is incomprehensible to me. Yes, she will admit that it happened, but doesn’t think it has any relevance to today and doesn’t want me to ever bring it up. He was never charged with a crime. My sisters and I all dropped out of high school and moved in with our boyfriends as young as we could to get away from our stepfather. We all became pregnant in our teen years and found ourselves in abusive marriages. The thought of prosecuting our abuser never really entered my mind as I was simply trying to survive my marital situation and care for my children day by day. I have no desire to bring charges at this late date (nearly 40 years after the abuse occurred) but I do wonder how many other victims there are among his foster children and I would be more than willing to testify in their behalf about my own experience with this man. If I thought it would bring back my dear sisters, I’d take almost any step. But I cling to the Bible’s promise of a resurrection of the dead and it brings me great comfort where they are concerned. This problem needs to receive much greater attention and I am doing what I can to raise awareness.

  19. Reading all your post it is clear that any abuse is wrong. The help of various specialist can be an essential tool. I was abused and will say that suicide is a common thought (daily)I am fighting to overcome what happened to me but if I am not able, suicide is the ultimate solution. I am fighting on a daily basis to survive for the effects of sexual abuse but there is a point were we must make a choice (good or bad there is a point of no return) the pain left to the victims of childhood sexual abuse is so painful whatever out they choose is acceptable. When you have been abused then you can judge that person. Every day reliving the pain is something that can not be understood. Death may be the peace we are looking for. Everyone must choose there own path whatever that may be. (I wish only happiness to all)

  20. I had been planning on writing a letter much like Bill’s letter and widely distributing it as he did so my death would have meaning. Had I read his letter prior to June of this year, I would likely have already been gone from this world. Fortunately; Leah, someone I never expected to know outside of work, saw me at my lowest point and in under five minutes changed me enough to restore many of my better qualities and improve my life in so many other ways. All without talking about any of the issues. Some people are blessed with these great healing abilities. I have no issue with any word of the prior sentence, even though I am a comfortable atheist. I have sadly not heard from Leah since July 17. However the improvements in myself continue and suicide is no longer an option. Leah, My Precious Angel and Treasured Friend … Thank You so, so much from the bottom of my heart and soul.

    You never know when a helping hand will appear, don’t be afraid to extend yours. I have done what Leah did for me with others before and since.

    I am sorry Bill died for us to have this open forum …

  21. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am now a Child Advocate and have been blessed to work with many children, many who have been sexually abused. Often times I see these children, who were sexually abused by a family member or a family friend. I have yet, in my twelve years of being a Child Advocate to see even one of these perpetrators punished for their crime. These perpetrators are not prosecuted because the confrontation clause in the 6th amendment gives them the right to be confronted by their accuser. I believe in the confrontation clause, but believe stronger that this should be ammended to exclude children. Children who are victims of sexual abuse are not emotionally able to confront their perpetrators and their taped testimonies aren’t admissible in court. These perpetrators are found guilty in Juvenile Court, but are never charged in criminal court with a crime. Instead, they are free to find their next victim.

  22. Dear God: My heart and soul are screaming.I am going to be presenting this very topic – and my life in Springfield Mass. this August. It is to be called “Little Mercies.” I survived – frequently against my will. I made a promise to 3 boys who didn’t. (2 suicides, and one murdered). This letter is the most succinct, soul breaking, gut wrenching, heart crushing documents I’ve read in a very long time. May you be at peace, Bill Zeller. May you be at peace. – Nick Wedlake

  23. I work with male survivors and the subject of suicide runs as an undercurrent through the groups that I facilitate. Tonight we are addressing the issue head on. My goal is to bring light to the very darkness that some men have referred to as “the stain” in hopes that through open and honest discussion the option of suicide will fade and be placed in the realm of – too permanent a solution.
    To all of you that have suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of predators, please remember “secrecy feeds the shame” Speak with someone who will provide positive regard and support your reality no matter what that may be.

    Blessings & Light:

  24. I’ve read Bill’s letter with humility and empathy. My heart physically hurts for him and myself. I am a 44-year old woman who was sexually abused by her father from the ages of 4 to 16. I have recently told my mother and brothers, then also informed the Police. I have hurt all my life. I have achieved academically, been married twice, am still married, have a daughter and appear as a survivor. I was a born-again Christian too, though now I feel less close to God. We can only speak for ourselves, not for others, so I do say I relate to Bill’s thoughts and feelings. I’ve been to a number of counsellors, attempted suicide twice, and still endure depression. It’s hard to come up with reasons to keep going when the pain is so, so tough to bear. Even taking one day at a time can be too much to ask. I have no solutions and wouldn’t impose them on you even if I had them. I wish for all my fellow sufferers, male and female, peace and, perhaps, hope.

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