Childhood abuse is unfortunately a common problem. In 2008, an estimated 772,000 children in the US were victims of maltreatment, with 120,000 substantiated cases of physical abuse and 70,000 of sexual abuse 1. The lifetime prevalence rate of physical abuse according to the National Comorbidity Survey is estimated at 16.5% (with 62.5% of the reports concerning females) 2, whereas a recent meta-analysis of studies in non-clinical samples has estimated a lifetime prevalence of sexual abuse of 19.2% among females and 7.9% among males 3.
Sexual abuse and, to a lesser extent, physical abuse in childhood have both been consistently associated with suicidal behavior 4–6. Indeed, those reporting any traumatic experience in childhood show a 2 to 5-fold higher risk of being suicide attempters compared to those who do not 5, with the relationship of suicide attempt with childhood physical or sexual abuse being stronger than that with verbal abuse and molestation 7. More physically painful abuse may also relate to a greater number of later suicide attempts than less painful abuse 7. Repeated abuse, compared to single episodes of abuse, or abuse by a member of immediate family may also heighten risk for attempting suicide in later life 8.