Abuse and suicide are extremely intertwined. There are many ways suicide appears in an abusive relationship, but here are a few I have identified:
- Threats from the abuser that they “can’t live without you” — implied (or stated) that they will kill themselves if you leave.
My ex frequently threatened to commit suicide if I left him. In fact, the day I told him to leave the house he said he would kill himself. He said good-bye to me and the children as if he would never see us again.
- That they are depressed and suicidal to keep you in the relationship, because how cruel would it be to leave someone who is already hurting?;
Anytime I was upset with him or needed his help, he would claim to be depressed and suicidal. He threatened this so many times that I stopped believing him. I told him that if he was truly depressed and suicidal he needed to seek professional counseling. He got angry and accused me of being unemotional, unsympathetic and uncaring. He knew that, because of my family history with suicide, that this was an effect threat to trap me and keep me in the relationship.
- They destroy your self-esteem to the point that you feel you have no purpose, you do not deserve to live.
This isn’t hard to understand if you’ve experienced abuse. You know exactly the effects of abuse on your self-esteem, your self-image. Abuse leaves victims at significant risk of depression, in many cases severe depression. Suicide.org shares the statistic that one in four abused women attempts suicide. Abused children are also significantly at risk for suicide. For children, the foundation of confidence and positive self-esteem is never built and their risk of suicide continues long into adulthood. You lose yourself in them. An abuser does their best to replace your purpose with theirs.
- They make you feel so trapped and stuck by the abuser that you see no way out, except to die.
Many women try to leave only to be caught by the abuser and punished for the attempt. They are given no privacy, no phone access, no medical treatment, no social opportunities, or at least none that provide any sense of privacy or safety. Feeling like you have no escape makes you search for alternative escape routes. Even the strongest emotional person may start contemplating death in the face of being exposed to constant abuses with no apparent way of escape.
- Even after you leave, the abuser continues to have access, through children, mutual friends, family, employment, church or other community. They continue to wear you down.
Abusers don’t stop abusing simply because you are no longer in the relationship with them. To an abuser, you are theirs, period. You do not have the right to escape. They will continue to take any interactions as an opportunity to abuse or manipulate. They know you well enough to twist the knife with every conversation, email or text. PTSD is experienced by many abuse survivors long after they find the courage to break free. Abuse has long lasting effects, and this is amplified when there is continued, forced contact with the abuser. It is not always possible to go full no-contact and these survivors of domestic violence will require support longer than victims who are able to completely cut off contact with their abuser.
- Without seeking full healing, the abuse victim is at risk to become suicidal at any time.
And, here lies the answer. Therapy, healing is the best prevention. There is no shame in seeking help. Counseling may literally be your lifesaver. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Taking the first step of asking for something that will help you take care of you breaks the hold of abuse. Learning to stand up for yourself, to take back your life…. THAT defeats the abuser in the best possible way.
Abuse erodes the foundation of a person’s psyche. Abuse causes you to question your very being, your reason for existing, your purpose in life. The abusers message is that you are less important than they are; that you are insignificant. The abusers message is a lie.
Suicide is not the answer. Suicide, ultimately, is the final, complete act of giving your power over to the abuser. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, no matter how permanent abuse feels, it is temporary. There is an escape from abuse. There is healing available to you.
If you are feeling trapped, to the point of seeing death as your only escape, please – reach out. Call someone. Talk to a professional. Reach out. Run away. Do what you have to to protect yourself. Ask God for help, cry out to Him. He will answer. He desires to save you, right now. He will sustain you until the way of escape opens up.
You are not alone.