Two cases of fathers who committed suicide following the revelation that they had sexually abused their own or other children, are described. The importance of being alert to the possibility of suicide and suicidal acts by family members following a disclosure, is emphasised. Improved liaison and co-ordination between agencies working with these families may enable vulnerable cases to be more readily identified and consequently offered appropriate support and treatment.
The revelation that the father in a family has sexually abused his own or other children often precipitates a crisis within the family. The distress suffered by the children themselves and by their mothers is well documented. (Browne and Finkelhor, Hildebrand and Forbes). Goodwin reported suicide attempts in 11 of 201 families, in which sexual abuse had been confirmed. Eight of the attempts were made by daughter-victims. In three of the five cases of mothers who attempted suicide, the abuse was intrafamilial. The impact on father perpetrators, previously a less well researched field, has been receiving more attention of late. Maisch, in a sample of 63 fathers convicted of incest reported that two fathers subsequently committed suicide. Wild has reported on six cases of suicide and three of attempted suicide by perpetrators following disclosure of child sexual abuse. The Cleveland Inquiry Report mentions one father, charged with several sex offences, who committed suicide while awaiting trial. A recent letter to The Guardian newspaper (18th February 1989) by 11 local paediatricians in that area suggests that there are now two such cases of suicide committed by alleged perpetrators.