There are victims who never speak up. There are victims that have learned to wear a mask hiding the hurts they have experienced. There are victims who have purposely ignored the abuse to the point that they do not even remember it. There are victims who were never hurt themselves, but observed their loved ones being hurt time and time again. There are victims all around us, living, working, loving, dying without even once letting on to the pain they feel inside on a daily basis.
There are victims who die of the abuse without anyone realizing it is the abuse that killed them.
My brother, Thorn, was one such victim. As a young child, he lived in an abusive home, but was not one of the direct abuse victims. He was, nonetheless, affected by the abuse that ran like an hidden underground river through our family. When Lily’s abuse became known, Thorn was destroyed. He was only 11, yet he had a heightened sense of responsibility to protect his sisters. He felt like he had failed. He hated his own father. He was filled with fear.
He was also, suddenly, becoming a man with a horrible father image. He was being raised by a single mom who hated men. I’m sure he felt somewhat abandoned when I left home for college. God provided good men and women in his life. He was not left alone.
As a teen, Thorn was a very sensitive soul. He loved hard, he took his responsibilities seriously. He was a desperately hurting young man. Every betrayal of his love, every added hurt, every struggle to find work, it all beat down his already fragile self-esteem.
It was hard for me to see that when he was younger. To the world, Thorn presented himself as a strong, confidant young man. He knew what he wanted and he pursued it with passion. As an adult, Thorn and I set aside our juvenile sibling rivalry and became best friends, talking often, going on vacation together and more. Then he moved halfway across the country to be near Lily and a new job. We still talked. When he drove through town, we would connect.
Then there was the day Lily called to say he was missing. She had come home and found him gone, his boss was looking for him and no one knew where he was. It was terrifying. For a week we had no idea where he was or what had happened. I had nightmares he had been kidnapped, had an accident, was trapped and couldn’t get home or to a phone. I prayed desperately for answers, I prayed for him to come home. I refused to consider he had taken his own life, I refused to accept that he might have made the same choice as his father.
It was a desperate, horrifying time.
He had killed himself.
When they finally found him, he had left a letter stating that he felt like a complete, total, utter failure at life. He felt there was no reason to keep living. He knew he was loved, he left messages of love for us. He couldn’t take it any more. He couldn’t take the voices in his head saying he had no worth and would never amount to anything. He believed the abuse that said he wasn’t worth anything more, he felt he had no reason to keep living. He was tired of fighting
He was worth so much more than he believed. His life meant so much more to me and the rest of our family. His death has left a gaping hole that can never be filled. Thorn’s battle, angst, pain and fear was ended, but ours became harder.
There are no words that fully express the pain and emptiness Thorn’s suicide brought to my life.
I have reconciled to the reality of his death. I even, to a degree, understand how he could have done such a thing. I have forgiven him for leaving us in such a way. I still miss him. I wish my children could have known him. There are many things I wish for, and none of them are achievable.
Over the years, I have realized that Thorn was another victim of the violence we grew up with. It has made me aware of the many deaths, by suicide, crime, foolishness, addiction, that are indirectly caused by domestic violence. There are too many people who feel they cannot live with the memories, who cannot escape the messages of worthlessness, who flirt with death until it takes them, who seek an escape until they finally find it in the ultimate silence.
The statistics state that, in Canada, 1 of every 5 murders is related to domestic violence, translating to be one woman killed every 6 days by her partner; that’s, on average, 61 people a year (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime). These numbers do not take into consideration those who are indirectly killed by abuse.
The cost is far too high. We must take a stand together against abuse, we must speak up, we must reach out, we must show support to the victims. We must make clear the message that one death is too many.