“Its amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman
I have been working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse in a professional setting for a few years now and I’ve noticed something that worries me. There seems to be some sort of inability for all of us to work together as groups of survivors. It’s almost as if there is a competition, rather than working together in a spirt of cooperation.
I don’t have any explanation or understanding of it, but there’s one thing I do know – we need to be working together any way we can, to pool our resources for the benefit of all survivors of CSA everywhere and for the benefit of protecting children all over the world. This is much too important, our children are in too much danger and survivors need our cooperation.
I understand these are tough economic times. And I also understand the challenges each and every 501(c)(3) non-profit, public charity, and private foundation faces in times like these. I lead one, so I know it first hand. But what I also know is the very reason we formed Together We Heal was to help our fellow survivors. That’s why I am honored to work with people and organizations like SNAP, Ark of Hope for Children, The Lamplighters, Voice Found, Survivors Chat, Maryland Children’s Alliance, Victim Services Departments from Palm Beach County to Utah, Marci A. Hamilton of SOL-Reform, Rachel Grant, Jim McKenzie, Svava Brooks and soon to be working with GRACE, just to name a few. (Please forgive me for those I’ve not listed as it would take up the entire article.)
I believe with all my heart, if we join forces, we can and will see real, long-term and measurable change in the protection of children and prosecution of sexual predators.
There’s an old saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. And if we are to defeat the evils of childhood sexual abuse, we must work cooperatively.
The reason being: The forces that oppose us are larger, stronger and more well-funded than what we have in our smaller joint alliances. Even the largest of our groups receiving the most donations have bank accounts and organizational structures that pale in comparison to those we are fighting against. In order to take down these Goliath’s, we need the combined talents of all our efforts to be the “David” that slays this monster called Childhood Sexual Abuse.
The reason I’m reaching out and asking that we all work together is simple:
Our common foes – the sexual predators, pedophiles and those that protect them have most certainly “circled their wagons.” You can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV, radio or open a web browser and not see or hear of ANOTHER case of these monsters being moved, freed of prosecution, given promotions to move them away from the threat of prosecution, given reduced sentences or flat out being given immunity from all wrong doing. The only way we can ever hope to make real, substantial change is for us to become as one, united in our efforts, and not wavering one iota.
We must be as zealous in defense of those wronged and in the protection of all children from potential crime as the Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptists and Penn State, (just as examples) either were or currently still are in defending these monsters hiding within their walls as a haven for hunting.
And that’s the sad thing, they aren’t even hiding anymore. Once upon a time the powers that be would send them from one location to another. Long enough to destroy a number of lives before sending them onto the next location for more destruction. Now they just deny and/or defend. They are so well funded that they will sacrifice whomever it takes, pay whatever it costs, knowing they still have more in reserves and they don’t care how many children go down the tubes or how many lives are destroyed.
So I’m sending out an S.O.S. Please, let us all unite together. Put down the chains of competition and take on the yoke of cooperation. If we aren’t willing to take the steps necessary to be bound together, our children and the adult survivors of CSA don’t stand a chance. Together we have the talent, means and will to make our collective dream a reality, to make it so there would be no need for what we do.
How much greater a legacy would it be to say, we all had to find a new line of work because we had eradicated Childhood Sexual Abuse, just like we’ve eradicated other evils of society. But…
“Remember that, wherever there’s a will, there’s usually someone that’s in the way.”
Please don’t let that last quote be our legacy…
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
April 10, 2014 at 3:03 pm
David, thank you for addressing this issue. Yes. I have noticed this same problem. I believe the reason for it is not that everyone doesn’t want to unite, I believe it has to do with the different stages of healing and TRUST. Abuse survivors don’t trust. I get that. You get that. I genuinely believe that we should unite with those that are “ready.” Patience is key in all of this. Those that aren’t ready, will be at a later time. Remember that survivors have many fears to overcome and that makes it difficult; may even make it look like competition. Just know, it’s not. We need to keep forging ahead and allow for those that aren’t ready now, to grow. Keep doing what you are doing, my friend. Those of us who have overcome the fears can do what we can until others find their courage to join us.
April 10, 2014 at 4:06 pm
A wonderful, wonderful essay. The good news is that the issue of non-cooperation is not unique among CSA nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.
Nonprofits have a tendency to turn their mission statements into competitive goals, believing that if they cooperate with other organizations, they will dilute their effectiveness. Most importantly, they feel like they will lose power in a world where everyone already feels a little powerless.
Change begins with one person. And a little inclusiveness. And essays like this.
April 10, 2014 at 5:11 pm
David… woke up at 5am could not sleep cause I had this concern and wrote my PR associate this below letter. David It seems we feel the same vibe!
Are you free Friday or Monday to chat. I want to discuss a long term PR campaign that unites the country with a national common message of awareness but also allows individual agencies to still maintain their autonomy. I believe it is possible to use synergy to make an impact nationally and bring large numbers together.
I am feeling one of my strengths might be in the ability to inspire diplomacy between organizations whose political and personality conflicts of indifference and competitiveness can be bridged for the good of all parties, firstly the kids. The country is confused, scared and conflicted. I think a joint non threatening message of unity among us all would serve all agencies well in the big picture. Instead of like the Milk counsel, with “Got Milk” as a slogan, I want to unite a counsel of elders across the country with a common thread.
My inquest into discovering why we are moving so slowly and ineffectively is due to too many campaigns or too many cooks standing over the stove bickering over what spice to use. I believe this could be done in a short period and funds raised to launch a campaign and combine our (yours, mine and any other PR team member) with experienced PR instincts to design a campaign to supplement your workload long term in addition to other projects you enjoy.
I am finding that I am meeting persons who are not commonly connected and am being welcomed as IM not a threat economically as just an advocate in voice and not competition and would like to inspire unity for this one mission and pray for ego’s to take a competitive holiday for the sake all agencies. Im sure more milk is sold as a result of a neutral milk counsel. I believe in this direction and have the contacts now to bridge a swift dialogue I feel. Let me know your thoughts and your availability to speak.
Best Regards, Alan
April 11, 2014 at 9:21 am
Mother Teresa — ‘I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.’ Thank you Dave.
April 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm
What an Awesome quote Paulabrave and oh so true… we as a community are harming our self when we can be so much greater. I have combined 3 independent PR agents from a neutral base ready to unite a central message. We are all not connected to to any one charity but to a broad range of many. It’s time to unite. Mother Teresa was a wise woman!
Love the quote! Alan Fountain
April 11, 2014 at 7:26 pm
Dave, I agree wholeheartedly. My nonprofit is aggressively attempting to partner with several like minded nonprofits. I highly encourage it. Thanks for your tireless work. Leslie A Abbey, LSCSW
April 22, 2014 at 9:40 am
Dave – this is such an excellent piece, and it is an issue that I have often spoke about, and one that is almost constantly on my mind.
I have been in this movement for over 30 years. I have a historical perspective that many others do no share. I have observed times of great cooperation among groups and individuals, but I have also seen others completely exploit other survivors for their own personal gain. I have seen celebrity “newbies” to the field walk on the backs of the survivors who came before them and laid so much groundwork, just so they could get to the top. It, sadly, became a competition of visibility and credit, and material that we painstakingly researched and prepared by one advocate even ended up in the work without permission of another group. It was stolen. I know because I saw it happen before my very eyes. It saddened me, and made me feel a sense of distrust that has not left me. I saw other groups discount what this person was doing just because there was celebrity status involved, and they wanted that support and visibility. I could not go along with these betrayals of our mission, and I could not sit back and say nothing.
The problem, as I see it, is that abuse dymanics often get replayed in the larger movement because of the different levels of recovery that are occurring among survivor activists. If survivors are vocal about their objections to certain patterns that they are observing in the community, they are often chastised and/or scolded for making waves. What others don’t seem to understand is that they don’t feel safe, and if they don’t feel safe in our own community, then the effectiveness will be diminished. For a survivor to say nothing when they feels others are being exploited in some way goes against our very recovery and mission. It is important to acknowledge these wrongs, and to not allow anyone — no matter their status — to walk on the backs of others and to treat this movement as a competition. Too much harm has come to these survivors, and I beg of each and every one of us to protect other adult survivors in the same way that we would want to be protected.
We cannot all agree on the best approach to obtaining safety and justice for our kids, but we can all agree that it needs to be done. Let’s find the things that we agree on, and work on those together, and then work to find common ground on the differences. But please never, ever ask anyone to overlook the exploitation of another within the movement just to keep the peace — as that’s what we had to do as children. That’s what triggers us. That’s where things breakdown and we don’t get things done. We need ways of dealing with issues that arise in healthy ways. Not just in ways that get the survivor/activist to be quiet and keep the peace. That’s the core of so many of the problems that arise, as so many of us are not in this work to be retraumaized. I have so many footprints on my back that it isn’t hardly recognizable to me anymore, but I keep going. Stopping this work is not an option for me.
There will always be competition — we just need to find a way to work within that awareness and to make it work for us. Keep up the great work, Dave. You always inspire me, and this piece is excellent and something that is truly though-provoking.