Ben Story

He left behind a 4,000-word suicide note which began: “I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I will never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision.” In the note, Bill Zellar described how repeated sexual abuse as a young child haunted him for the rest of his life. He said in his note: “Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.” Zellar, a 5th-year graduate student in the computer science department at Princeton University, died on Jan 5, 2011 at the age of 27 as a result of a suicide attempt. If you want to read the entire 4,000-word suicide note that he wrote over the course of a year, click here: Bill Zellar Suicide Note. Bill posted his suicide note on his personal website and e-mailed it to friends Sunday, Jan 2nd. Not long after his note was posted, first responders discovered him in his apartment. According to the note, he never discussed the incidents of his abuse with anyone. “This darkness,” Bill wrote, “which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me.” Friends and colleagues were shocked by the note’s content. “We didn’t know about 80% of what he wrote.” Bill excelled in his studies. He was a very caring person. His computer work always focused on creating concrete ways to help people using technology.

Young Boy

When I was 11 years old, my family decided to move from South Florida to North Florida. The family that was buying our trailer in South Florida needed some work done on their yard. They invited me to do the work and make some money. I gladly accepted. We were pretty poor, so any money at all was appreciated. As I started to mow their lawn, the wife started to walk around without a shirt or bra. She would take showers and open the windows so I could clearly see her. It made me feel very uncomfortable. We realized that there was no way for me to get the whole yard mowed in one day, so I stayed the night at their house. Eventually, she put on a robe with nothing underneath. As I was laying in the living room, she would come over and find reasons to kneel down over me where I could see everything. Because of my parents, it was not the first time I had seen a lady with no panties, but it was the first time in real life. My parents had made me watch the Playboy channel, and I was not allowed to get up. After that, I found my dad’s magazines. I knew what a woman looked like, but never had I been with a woman. Remember, I was only 11 years old. This woman was at least in her mid-30’s! It eventually got to the point that I took the hook and started doing things. I felt very pressured. Well, the next day was more of the same. She wouldn’t stop playing with me. She and I were the only ones at her house. When her husband finally came home, I told him about it, thinking he would be very mad at me. He ended up yelling at her and forcing me to be very aggressive with her. As it turns out, they were in it together. After that, they took me home. I was so embarrassed that I never told anyone until after college. I would encourage anybody who is being abused to tell someone as soon as possible.


I just read your newsletter on “Do Babies Remember” and it brought tears to my eyes. I’m sickened by what sin does to this world and how it affects children. You see, at around 3-4 years old, I was sexually abused. Like that little girl in the article who will never have the memory, I do not have a memory of the incident, but for years have lived with the results of the psychological and emotional damage that has ravaged me. All my life I had lived with a sense of anger and unexplainable yet paralyzing shame and guilt. Self-hatred had consumed me for a very long time. My parents never understood it, but saw the kind of depression and hopelessness I have had to suffer through all these years. In 2007, I attended a Stewards of Children training and much of the information resonated with me. I wondered why, when I watched shows of sexual abuse, I could weep with the people and feel their pain. I started asking myself if anything had happened to me. In speaking with others I learned that the feelings that I felt and what I thought of myself resonated with that of an abuse victim. So I began going to therapy. During this same time, my mother began asking herself, “Has something happened to my daughter that I don’t know about? Because I can’t understand the kind of pain and hatred she feels about herself.” My therapist helped me to understand that, though I have no memory of the incident, my emotional scars point to a previous sexual abuse. She explained it this way: “It’s as if you have come home and found your house ransacked, missing valuable objects, and strewn about. You immediately know that you have been robbed — this is not a fire or a flood because the signs point to a robbery. But you weren’t there, so you don’t know how it happened or who did it. You don’t even have the leisure of holding them accountable. But the damage remains and you can choose to live in a robbed house, or you can start again and pick up the pieces.” The last three years have been a long, painful, joyful, sobering, and hopeful process of picking up the pieces and healing the wounds. In 2006 I learned that my grandfather was an accused pedophile and a sexual predator to mentally handicapped women. I do not know if he is the person that abused me, though my parents and I have found peace in the not-knowing. He passed away in 2005 and I believe he came to know the Lord then . . . or at least I pray. Anyways, I didn’t plan out to share my story with you today, but I felt compelled after reading your newsletter. I pray that the Lord would use it for his glory. Thanks for letting me share.