Childhood Sexual Abuse and Current Suicidality in College-Women and Men

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In previous research, adults who reported childhood sexual abuse have been more suicidal than nonabused adults, but no research has examined their cognitive deterrents to suicide. Strict definitions of sexual abuse in these studies have excluded (a) unwanted sexual experiences with peers, and (b) exploitive experiences not involving genital contact (i.e., unwanted sexual invitations or suggestions, unwanted exposure to others' genitals via exhibitionism, unwanted kissing or hugging in a sexual way). The present study compared suicidal behavior and cognitive deterrents to suicide in 266 college students using both a strict and a liberal definition of sexual abuse. Both women and men abused by adult or peers were more suicidal as adult college students than were women and men with no such history. Women reported similar degrees of suicidality as men, but greater survival and coping beliefs and more fear of suicide. Those whose sexual abuse involved touching were more suicidal, and felt less able to cope, and less responsibility for their families, than nonabused adults. Implications are that adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse that involved touching are more suicidal and have less cognitive deterrents to suicide than adults who have not, regardless of whether they are men or women or whether they were abused by adults or by peers.

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Child Abuse and Neglect





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