Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. We provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal. We work to expose sexual predators and their methods of getting into our lives.


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Is Death The Greatest Loss In Life?

In my life I have learned a valuable lesson…

“Keep your eyes and ears open because you never know what surprises, good or bad, are around the corner and from where they might come.”

In today’s lesson, I heard something that struck a deep chord and of all things while watching a TV show. Today’s TV is not your mom and dads TV. By that I mean if you’re looking for brilliant insight into humanity you’re probably fishing in the wrong hole. But to my surprise I heard an insightful quote while watching the show, “Criminal Minds”.

This little nugget of introspection came from Norman Cousins, a noted American author, professor and journalist. He says:

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies inside of us while we live.”

Do yourself a favor and re-read it. Then read it again. And really consider what he’s saying.

I have read, re-read, mulled over and marinated in these words. And I have related them to being a victim and then survivor of childhood sexual abuse/molestation/rape. From that very first night of abuse, I died inside. The innocence of childhood, my faith in the goodness of people, my belief that I had self-worth, feeling as though I had a purpose in life, my trust in the clergy and for a long time even my belief in God, much less a God of mercy, justice and love…all of that was gone, it was gone and dead.

I would wonder, what kind of a God would or could allow such atrocities to happen to a child? I now understand, or at least hold the belief, that it isn’t my God that allows this to happen, it’s men and women with a free will who choose to commit these heinous crimes.

Right now my abuser walks free, with not so much as a blemish of a criminal record. All because of laws that protect sexual predators rather than the children’s lives and spirits they destroy. And every day I live with this pain, this loss, and even though I’ve developed tools to help me work through my own trauma, it has still killed a part of me. A part that feels rotten inside. Meanwhile this monster still has easy, open, unlimited access to little boys and at times it feels as though there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. And this boggles my mind. I wonder every day, how many other little “me’s” are being groomed for the same destruction? How many other David’s, Christopher’s and Andy’s is he building up, just to tear them down from the inside out?

And that’s when I gained some understanding of what Mr. Cousins meant when he said, “The greatest loss in life is what dies inside of us while we live.” I know all too well that feeling of being dead inside. The feeling as though my core is more like a zombie; rotting, oozing out a putrid smell of guilt, shame and self-blame that for so long I felt there was no help. I was already dead inside so I might as well do my best to finish the job Frankie started. He killed my inside so I’ll kill the outside. And as many of you know who’ve read or heard my story, I set out on a path of self-destruction via narcotics.

It wasn’t until I realized there was a reason I was being self-destructive, that I also came to understand I could begin to heal that inner side, I could even resurrect it. While it would never be the same, because wounds are wounds and they leave scars in spite of any healing that occurs. I DO have worth, and I could begin to have some semblance of a life once again.

So while I agree with Mr. Cousins, as it pertains to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, our greatest loss is what died in us while we were still alive, I also believe we can heal, there is hope, and even justice for some. But not without work; challenging, wrist-wringing, memory shaking, tear-filled, anger-filled, fist-clenching work.

It’s with these thoughts I began asking myself some questions.

1) What died inside of me?

As I mentioned before, there is a laundry list of things I felt had died: the innocence of my childhood, my faith in the goodness of people, my belief In myself and that I had worth, feeling as though I had a purpose in life, my trust in the clergy and for a long time my belief in God, believing that I was a good person. I felt as if I was dirty, filthy and used.

2) Why did it die?

Betrayal, denials of those in a position to help, lies, being treated as though you are to blame, abandoned, feeling totally and completely alone,

3) What are the consequences of the death?

Substance abuse/addiction, suicide, loss of jobs due to inability to maintain focus, inability to maintain healthy relationships, never have opportunity to have children/family, no stability, loss of sanity, DID, the list is virtually endless…

4) Who is affected by the death?

Victim, family, children, future friends, future intimate relationships, spouse, employers.

5) Where does that death lead us or leave us?

Alone, feeling powerless and incapable of moving forward or healing.

6) What does this death feel like? How do we describe it to those that haven’t been through what we have?

I think for most of us, the death is both instant and lengthy. The moment the abuse begins, the death occurs…that’s the instant part. But then comes the pain; the extended, ongoing cruel torture inside us. It’s like a long, drawn out illness, only instead of seeing a gradual decline as in a long term cancer, it’s more like having your head cut off by a guillotine that goes very slowly, making you feel every millimeter. It’s an agonizing pain that continues until the head is finally severed from the body. The only difference is we’re still alive, enduring the pain and with no relief in sight.

7) When this “death” occurs, when do we recover…do we recover? And the million dollar question…When is it “time”? When do we begin to heal?

To answer these questions I must also acknowledge some other questions we as survivors ask ourselves and ask each other. When will I start feeling better? When will I begin this healing process you talk about so much?

And to answer those questions I have to tell you a story about my most beloved dog. A Rottweiler named Chelsea who was the best dog I ever had. She was the most loving, sweetest dog and everyone loved her and she loved everyone. True story, my next door neighbor came over one day while throwing a pool party and asked if Chelsea could come over and play. Honest to God! They said I could come too, but who they really wanted was Chelsea. So I said sure and off they went…8 hours later I go over and Chelsea is still hopping in and out of the pool, playing with everyone and having a great time. So there’s your back story of this amazing dog.

As happens with all our pets, one day we learn they are not going to be with us much longer. In my case, I learned Chelsea had bone cancer. A very painful type of cancer, so I’m told, and so I asked the veterinary oncologist the same question I’m asked about recovery…when will I know “it’s time”?

In the most caring way he could verbalize he said, “because you have been with her for so long, almost her entire life, (which at this point was 10 years), only you will be the one to know when that time comes”.

I didn’t understand so I further questioned him and he said, “let me put it like this, one day you will see, one day you will know it’s time and only you will know when that times comes. I can’t describe what that day will be, but when it occurs, you will know it’s time.”

At this point, it only further frustrated me. So a few months went along and Chelsea was doing ok. She would have a moment of pain where she would yelp, but then hop right back up and all was for the most part ok.

Then came “that” morning. I woke up and noticed she wasn’t in the bed beside me or on the floor next to it. I called out for her but heard no jingle of her collar or clicking of her toenails on the tile floor. So I knew immediately something wasn’t right.

I went into the room, called out her name and as she tried to get up, she wailed in agony and fell back to the ground. She tried this two more times with equally painful cries so I ran to her side and kept her from trying to get up so she wouldn’t continue hurting herself.

There it was…just as the vet described it…the moment I knew Chelsea couldn’t handle any more pain, and to put her through anymore would be inhumane. So I made the call every dog lover hates, the one letting them know that your beloved and most faithful companion must be put to sleep. Fortunately I had an amazing vet who didn’t require me to bring Chelsea to the clinic. She and vet tech drove to my home and they did the procedure in her own home where she would feel as safe as possible.

I laid with her the entire time so she didn’t have to move around. When the vet arrived she gave me all the time I wanted, but it’s never enough. She shaved a spot on her leg, placed the IV in and let me know when I was ready, to say goodbye. And for the first time in Chelsea’s entire life she did something she’d never done…when I said ok to the vet, she let out a quiet growl directed at the Vet. It was as if to say, “dad, if you do this, I can’t protect you anymore.” It broke my heart and I cried like a baby. I gave her a kiss, and she gave me one last, big, wet slobbery one. Then, in a quiet, peaceful moment, she was gone. With no pain and without a noise.

So why did I tell you this story? Because for those of us working through the emotional struggles of CSA, the same is true…only we will know when the time is right. Only we will know when we are ready to move forward, to heal, to grow. And no one can tell you when it will happen. I know that’s not the answer anyone wants to hear, but it’s the truth.

Fortunately I have some good news to end this story. As the doctor told me, only you will know when it’s “time”. And when that “time” comes, hope and healing will follow. I promise.

“There are things in my past that have made me afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not sure what will happen, but whatever it is, it’s better than being afraid.”

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Marginalizing the Abused: Six Ways Survivors are Treated as Insignificant

The following article was written by “Boz” Tchividjian. It is an extremely insightful article explaining how survivors of childhood sexual abuse are made to feel by those in power within religious organizations.

Boz is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
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“He has worked hard to convince everyone that I am crazy.” These were the words of a woman who was speaking about a relative who had sexually abused her as a child for years. This well-known and “respected” relative has been successful in keeping her abuse disclosures ignored for many years by convincing anyone that listens that she is an irrational and troubled individual.

After years of being labeled “crazy” and being ignored, this survivor became silent and even found herself struggling with whether or not the baseless label was legitimate. Do you see what happened? A person who is well liked and well-respected in the community is accused of horrific behavior that the community prefers not to believe.

The perpetrator provides the community with exactly what it wants in order for it to look the other way. Believing that the complainant is “crazy” gives the community the excuse to marginalize the victim and the disclosure, all the while showing support to the “unfairly” accused offender.

I recently watched the acclaimed Norwegian film, King of Devil’s Island. Based upon a true story, this movie was about the Bastoy Boy’s Home for delinquent boys located on an island off of Norway in the early 20th century. During the course of the film, a housefather named Bråthen sexually molests one of the resident boys who ends up committing suicide. Another resident eventually reports Bråthen’s abuse to the corrupt superintendent, Bestyreren, who confronts Bråthen. What follows are scenes that vividly illustrate some of the appalling ways sexual abuse survivors are marginalized by our communities:

Don’t Listen: When initially confronted about the reported abuse, Bråthen responds, “You can’t listen to them. They say whatever they want.” Survivors are marginalized when communities are all too willing to accept the claims made by perpetrators and their supporters that the individual disclosing the abuse is “crazy” and should be ignored. Disregarding the claims of a survivor communicates insignificance.

Helpless Souls: During the course of the confrontation with Bestyreren, Bråthen claims, “The only thing I have done is to try and help a boy who could not help himself.” Survivors are marginalized when perpetrators and their supporters paint them as helpless souls. Perpetrators are heralded as compassionate and the survivors are pitied as their disclosures are largely ignored.

Supporters Maligned: At one point, Bråthen identifies the boys who reported the abuse as “animals”, claiming that they were the real source of the victim’s harm. Survivors are marginalized when those who support them are maligned as being irrational and harmful. All too often this becomes the needed validation by some within the community to disregard allegations of abuse.

My Reputation: Just when we think that Bestyreren is going to report Bråthen to the authorities, Bråthen pulls out his trump card. He threatens to report that Bestyreren has been misappropriating funds for himself and his wife. In perhaps the most decisive scene of the film, Bestyreren makes the deliberate decision to protect his own reputation instead of reporting the abuse and protecting the lives of the other boys under the supervision of Bråthen. Survivors are marginalized when those within the community value their own reputation over the life of the abused. One way this happens is when an institution fails to report an offender out of fear that its own reputation may suffer. When speaking about the failure of boarding schools in the United Kingdom to properly respond to abuse disclosures, attorney Alan Collins recently told the New York Times, “…when teachers were discovered abusing pupils, they tended to be moved on quietly to avoid public embarrassment and damage to the school’s reputation.”

Disingenuous Response: The scene immediately following the confrontation between Bråthen and Bestyreren, shows Bråthen leaving the island with his suitcases as the boys look out their dorm window visibly rejoicing. At first it looks as if Bestyreren did the right thing. It is not until later in the film when Bråthen returns to the island that we learn the real reason for his initial departure. The Bastoy Boy’s Home board of directors had scheduled its annual inspection of the facility and Bestyreren did not want the boys reporting Bråthen’s abuse, fearing that it would get him fired. The best way to keep their silence was to make the boys think that he had terminated Bråthen. Tragically, the plan worked. The boys remained silent, Bestyreren kept his job, and Bråthen returned shortly after the inspection. Survivors are marginalized when a community is disingenuous about its responses to abuse disclosures. All too often such responses are not driven by the need to serve abuse survivors and pursue justice, but to create a positive public perception and to protect jobs.

Misplaced Focus: At the end of King of Devil’s Island, the boys begin a revolt when discovering that Bråthen has returned. Eventually, the armed forces are called in to put down the revolt by beating and capturing the boys. At no time do the authorities address the horrific abuses perpetrated by Bråthen and the fact that he was responsible for the death of a boy. Instead, the authorities focus on silencing those who were simply crying out for justice. Survivors are marginalized when the community misplaces its focus on behavior of the abused instead of the abuser. This belittles and re-traumatizes survivors, while conveniently keeping the spotlight off of the offender, where it needs to be.

The heartbreaking reality is that the marginalization of survivors is all too common in the Christian community. I have encountered many abuse survivors who want nothing to do with Jesus because of being marginalized by the very community they had hoped would care most, the Church. Just like the Priest and Levi in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are often so quick to embrace ‘rational excuses’ for why we walk away. When we do this, we marginalize the very lives that God sees as beautiful and infinitely valuable. When we do this, we marginalize Jesus.

You can read the article at it’s original post here:

http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/03/20/marginalization-sexual-abuse-survivors/

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You can learn more about Boz and the organization he founded at:

http://netgrace.org – GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

While Together We Heal, Inc., has no ties to any religious organizations, we gladly promote any group that works to protect children from sexual predators and it is clear this is the focus of GRACE.

Founded by Basyle ’Boz’ Tchividjian, J.D., a grandson of Billy Graham, he is leading by example on how churches should respond to childhood sexual abuse. We are honored to be partnered with them in efforts to help survivors of CSA, and educate any who seek to better protect all children.

The Mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize and respond to the sin of child abuse.

Obedience to Christ dictates that the Christian community must learn how to respond to those children and their families who cry out for help when they are victimized. This obedience begins with the education and training of those within the Church regarding the sin of child abuse and how to respond to such disclosures in a God honoring manner.

GRACE is an organization whose sole purpose is to equip and assist the Church and those within the Christian community to fulfill Mark 9:36-37.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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What’s Wrong With This Number?

As you may or may not know, April is Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month. So we will be posting several articles on a variety of topics about childhood sexual abuse all month long.

This morning I sat down to “go over the numbers” of the website. I do this to drill down in order to find out what survivors want to know more about, how I can better and more effectively reach and help those in need. And it’s how I learn who is reading and from where they come.

Initially I was “elated” about the numbers I calculated. Then the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.

As of today, April 1st, 2014, the Together We Heal (TWH) website has been read in 146 countries with over 45,000 views. There are a total of 196 countries in the world. Which means that 74.5% of countries in the world have visited the TWH site in search of information on matters of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). As I admitted to you, I was elated with this statistic. Although “elated” is not the appropriate word to describe how I felt about almost 3 quarters of the globe reading, learning, accessing assistance, etc., from our web pages.

It was at that moment I was reminded what the numbers truly mean.

Consider this: We have been online since October of 2012. Which means in a relatively short amount of time, people are either finding or finding out about TWH, what we do and how we try to help. In 18 months our site has been accessed from the majority of countries on this big blue marble.

What this means is that children are being sexually abused, molested, and raped, and survivors are coming forward about the abuse they endured as children from all over the world. This is not a social, political, economical, racial or any other “al” issue/problem/challenge…this is a HUMAN problem. In spite of what some delusional leaders claim, childhood sexual abuse happens in every country, to kids from every walk of life and background. While it may occur more or less in some areas or regions, it nonetheless occurs everywhere.

And this is why I write, and write and write, and give talks and lectures and presentations. This is why we go on radio and TV and give interviews. It’s why you find us posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other social media outlet we’re able. It’s why we do fundraisers, special events, news conferences and demonstrations.

We as an organization, and myself as an individual survivor of CSA, do all of these things because children are still being victimized and having their lives shattered, innocence stolen and future permanently altered by sexual predators and pedophiles who care for nothing but their own twisted desires. And sadly, there aren’t enough people standing up to protect them or help those left with the carnage if they make it to adulthood.

So we push on. And we request, implore and beg that others join us in this fight against actual, undeniable, destructive evil. We ask because we cannot do it alone. We ask because without your help children won’t find the protection they need and darn well deserve. We ask because adults who are living with unwarranted guilt, shame and self-blame, desperately need guidance, acceptance and sincere, natural, authentic love. We ask because sexual predators know if the majority of society remains silent, they can continue to prey upon our children.

So while I was initially “pleased” with how many countries were represented by the number of views to the TWH website, it only further exposed the need to do more and help more.

So as we begin this month of raising awareness and providing help on how to better prevent childhood sexual abuse, please consider giving of your time, your talent and/or your finances. None of these is more or less important, they are all needed in equal measure. So whichever you are able to give, please find a group like Together We Heal, or any of the others out there doing similar work, and give.

Having said all of that, I am pleased with one aspect of the numbers. They tell us that survivors from all over know we are here, that there are other groups willing to help them and most importantly – they are NOT alone. As we say…together, we can heal.

And that is something every survivor and child can count on!

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Abused Addict: CSA info too important to miss!

Radio Show Recording with David Pittman and Rachel Grant – January 29th, 2014

The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse

Discovering the Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Substance Abuse/Addiction

We cover not only abuse and addiction, but also issues with sexuality, access to counseling, sexual predators grooming kids for abuse, churches that protect sexual predators, creating support groups in your local areas and so much more! Please set aside some time to listen to what I genuinely believe is valuable information for both survivors of childhood sexual abuse and those that love them.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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3 Steps to Let Go of the Pain of Sexual Abuse – Radio Show Recording

On Wednesday, December 18th 2013, it was my honor to have facilitated a tele-seminar with my friend, colleague and fellow advocate, Rachel Grant.

In addition to the topics covered below, there was also a Q&A session that had some extremely challenging issues Rachel and I addressed with the callers that I know you will find insightful and helpful.

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Do you feel worthless, undeserving, unfixable, or unlovable? Are you ready to let go of the pain of sexual abuse?

If you are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken and burdened by the past, this tele-seminar is for you. You will be taught the three steps you need to take in order to let go of the pain of childhood sexual abuse. Rachel will also share with you her secret to becoming a ‘beyond survivor’.

You will learn:

• Why sexual abuse is akin to an unhealed wound and the steps required to healing that wound.
• How your brain processes experiences and how this affects your thinking, feelings, and behavior.
• To challenge the false beliefs that keep you disconnected from your genuine self.
• To develop new ways of thinking in order to shift your focus, listen to yourself, and to use affirmations that really work.
• 3 steps, rooted in science, which will lead you out of the pain of abuse.

This show is perfect for you if:

You are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and are frustrated because it seems nothing you do is helping.

You desire to reconnect to your genuine self in order to move on with your life and be the person you were meant to be.

It is my hope and desire for you to be able to make radical and amazing changes as you take back your life and realize your ability to make powerful choices about who you are and how you live.
Please don’t miss the opportunity to listen and gain this invaluable information. As I mentioned, Rachel is not only a colleague, she is also my friend. I know how much she has helped me and I know she can help you too.

Here is the link to the show: http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/media/3-steps.mp3

If you want to learn more about Rachel and how she might help you move froward in recovering from CSA, please check out her website: http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com/brokentobeyond


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Do You Know How to Listen to a Survivor’s Story?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and having heard the stories of so many others, common questions I hear are – Why does it feel like no one hears me? Or, Why does it seem like no one understands what I’m saying or cares to get it?

I recently spoke with a survivor whose abuse, just as mine, had occurred at the hands of a minister. He said to me in no uncertain terms, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to enter a church ever again because of what they have done to me. They denied it happened, they wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. They stole so much from me and when I cried out for help, I feel like no one hears me.”

It was a rare opportunity when one person can say to another, “I know how you feel”, and genuinely mean it. And I did know EXACTLY how he was feeling. For more than 25 years, unless someone died or got married, I didn’t darken the doors of a church. Like him, I felt betrayed, belittled, ignored, and no matter what I told the church leaders, not once did I feel like anyone was listening or cared.

That is until one day, when one brave minister had the courage of his conviction to stand up and defend me. But just as important, he took the time to listen and was patient with me.

And that’s what I have tried to relay to my friend and to so many other survivors. It only takes one person taking the time to stop for a moment and pay attention. To actually listen to what the survivor is telling you. You have no idea the IMPACT it has on our lives when someone finally says the three words we need so desperately…

“I hear you.”

Even if you don’t know or understand what we’ve been through, the fact that you’re taking time to listen makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology or a license from the state to simply listen to a person in need. It does take some things more valuable though, time and patience.

Trust me when I say this, as a survivor of CSA, we don’t want pity or a pathetic look. All we want, all we need…is time and patience. Time; to hear what we need to share. Patience; to fully grasp what we’ve been through.

When those two precious commodities are given to us, it allows us to finally open up about what has snared our lives in turmoil and torture. It gives us the freedom to finally speak out about the atrocities committed against us. When given that chance, we finally have the one thing we lost as a child, Hope. And once there is hope, we now have within our reach the one thing we thought was incapable of attaining, Healing.

I wrote this article with two groups of people in mind. The first being those that know or will meet someone affected by the trauma of CSA. The second being my fellow survivors. If you are in the first group, PLEASE take a moment and give those invaluable gifts of time and patience. If you are my fellow survivor, WHEN someone affords you the opportunity to share, as challenging as I know it may seem, PLEASE be receptive to those gifts. We don’t often feel worthy of it, but believe me, you are.

When time and patience are combined, many beautiful and valuable assets are formed. As humans we look at items like diamonds and oil that require both and are valued in trillions of dollars. How much more so then, is the life of your fellow human when you give them the same care, and the same value. Time and patience, what’s it worth to you?

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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When Does The Worst Day Of Your Life, Turn Into The Best?

In sharing my story, I often mention getting arrested and having to spend 30 days in jail for drug possession. The reason I do is to bring to attention how low my life had gotten due to the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I was in so much emotional pain, the only choice I saw was to try and cover the pain by ingesting as many narcotics as I could. This led to multiple arrests and the aforementioned time incarcerated. I didn’t even know until my last arrest report came out, but I had the following drugs in my system…cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine (speed), GHB, ketamine, and heroin…all at the same time! It was a miracle I was even alive.

At the time of the arrests it felt like it was the worst thing that could happen to me. That is until it was clear I was going to jail, the only issue was for how long. Then came the day when judgement was rendered, and that seemed like the worst thing that could happen. That is, until my first night in jail.

And so began one worst day after another. While there, I encountered times where I didn’t know if I was going to make it. On two occasions my life was threatened and was moved from one cell to another until they thought I was as safe as I was ever going to be. I spent each of those 30 days wondering if I would make it out alive and scared out of my mind.

Then came the day of my release. Truly one of the happiest days of my life. Over the next few months I slipped on and off the wagon of drugs. I woke up one day and realized that if I was ever going to hope to have any chance at a future I had to get clean…for good.

So my dad helped me with a home-style rehab. He put up with all the nasty things I said to him, he helped me as I got sick for a week and all the while wishing I was dead, or had a “fix”. I spent a total of two weeks of the “worst days” of my life going through withdrawals and all that comes with getting narcotics out of your system. Then after about a month, I was free from the drugs within my system, now I had to get the garbage I wanted out of my head. So I started attending NA, and with the help of my mom, a friend and an amazing sponsor, I was able to work through all I needed to and can say now, I’m 8 years clean.

So why am I telling you all the details of all of the “worst” days of my life? Because if it weren’t for all those worst days I wouldn’t be where I am now. Now I am happy to report my sobriety from narcotics. Today I am working with my fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse and helping them to find their own healing path. Today I work with some of the most amazing people who give of their time and talents to help others. And “today” would not be if all those “worst” days had not happened.

I couldn’t see it at the time. I never foresaw where those days would lead. All I knew was I wanted to live, or at least didn’t want to die anymore, and so I did what my program taught me, I took one day at a time and stayed clean “just for today” and it eventually led to now.

I’m telling more of the details for my fellow survivors to know there is hope, there is healing, and the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train. If I can get to where I am now, they can too. Together we can truly heal. I’m living proof.

The other reason why I’m being so revealing is due to a comment made by one of our readers…It caused me to have one of those Ah-Ha moments and led to this article. So I wanted to share with you the genesis of my thoughts:

“Thank you _______ for the reminder to be the encouragement for those in pain, the cheerleader when they succeed, and the friend when they just need…This was because _______, thankfully, reminded us to not only respond with comments to those with good news or progress in their healing and life, but also when the news wasn’t so good or as uplifting. As a matter of fact, it’s those times most of all they need to hear from us that they are not alone and we are here for them.”

So with that in mind, remember to share the good, the bad and the ugly…in doing so you never know which of your fellow survivors you might be helping, and assisting them in turning one of their “worst” into a “best”.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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Waiting To Be Found.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), I have been searching for sometime to figure out a way to summarize the challenges survivors face. But due to the levels of pain and varieties of struggles each individual confronts, it seemed like this wasn’t possible. That is until I was watching, of all things a tv show, when I had a moment of clarity. A young lady had been kidnapped and was all alone. While listening to the dialogue of the actors and imagining how a real kidnap victim must feel it hit me like a ton of bricks…

The loneliest feeling in the world…is waiting to be found.

And there it was. My own personal struggle was wrapped up in that one, simple but excruciatingly painful statement. Survivors of CSA know this feeling. We live in constant fear of people learning what we are currently going through or have been through. We live in perpetual terror that our deepest, darkest secret will be exposed. Our fear, shame and guilt is compounded daily in our hearts, it weakens our spirits and like a weight, its sits on and sinks into our thoughts – emotionally, mentally and at times even physically. It feels like an wrecking ball holding us down, preventing us from moving, from doing anything or going anywhere.

The tv show I was watching showed the kidnap victim left to die, held down by spikes in the desert, hands and feet bound to those spikes. She was all alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no help in sight. And during this time, she had no idea if she would ever be found, or if she would die alone, with this horrific secret.

And in that story is the analogous representation of the degree of despair felt by survivors of CSA. We have that same sense of abandonment, of being all alone, all the while, we need and we want more than ANYTHING, for someone, ANYONE, to FIND OUT and to FIND US!

In its simplest terms, what we need is much like the moment a child has a parent rip off a bandage from a banged up knee or elbow. When a band-aid is pulled off it hurts like hell, but then when done, there is this immense sense of relief. And the growing sense of relief is so much more powerful than the instant moment of pain. Thats not to say we don’t get that band-aid ripped off over and over again when we relive the experience by telling our story, or testifying in court or being deposed, but by engaging on a healing path, we can find a way to move froward productively. Just as a survivor feels extreme emotional trauma in the moments/hours/days surrounding the time people learn the truth about their abuse, once the initial pain subsides, the healing can begin.

I know I have said this before, and I’ll continue to say it until there’s no breath left in my lungs. If you are or have been a victim of CSA, reach out now. You are not alone. You may have been left in the desert, but you now have people looking for you and available to help you. If not with TWH, find someone, some group, somewhere. They are all around and willing to help you. And may we all find the peace we deserve.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


22 Comments

You Have Worth and Are Worthy.

I recently read an article from childabusesurvivor.net and in it they referenced a story from the Jewish Survivors of Sexual Abuse blog. It’s a story I had heard years before in a training seminar but as the author of the blog stated, “Sometimes we just need to be reminded!”

In the room filled with more then 200 people, a well-known speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill, asking, “Who would like this $20 bill?”
Hands started going up.
The speaker said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill.
He then asked, “Who still wants it?”
Still the hands were up in the air.
Well, he replied, “What if I do this?”
And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty and asked, “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
The speaker stated: My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.
We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.
Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who LOVE you.

In the post, the author stated that, “The $20 bill is still worth $20, but once the speaker got done with it, it was different than when it started. Abuse does affect us, it does change us. It leaves scars, or dirt and creases to stay with the metaphor, but even with those effects, the value of the bill stays the same. It just takes some effort to smooth out the wrinkles.”

And I believe this is an excellent point that needs repeating. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), we often feel like that crumpled up bill. Like we’ve been run through the wringer and left out on our own. Which brings me to the point I really want to emphasize.

Alone…

It’s a horrible word and feeling for survivors of CSA. We talked about it in our monthly support group meeting this past week. We went around and talked about how each of us, in our own unique but similar ways, experience the feeling of being “alone”. Not loneliness, but truly “alone”.

As we went around I heard words and phrases like “rejection”, “not believed”, “discarded”, “isolation” and one that really stuck with me, “I felt like my core was stolen”. It was that last one that I could entirely relate. As I laid in that bed, time and time again, as the abuse continued, more and more of me felt like it was disappearing, like the core of who I was, was no more. So as the years went on I tried to fill that void with things, substances and people.

The things being objects of desire, whether it be a simple knick-knack I called a collectible or a new car. The substances were narcotics that numbed me from the feeling of being alone and pain that permeated every pore of my body. And the people were a series of failed attempts to feel loved and wanted. But no matter what I tried, nothing and no one could fill that void, that feeling of being alone.

It wasn’t until I finally came to terms with what had happened, the crime perpetrated against me that I could even begin to have some sense of who I really was, what my core was made of. And I believe most survivors struggle with this. So what do we do? How do we move forward if you, like myself and others, feel that “core” is not what it should be?

The first thing you MUST know is that you are NOT alone. Right now in the USA, there are between 55 and 75 million survivors of CSA. And that’s just the ones we can count based on statistics of those who’ve come forward. So know you have many people that have been through what you have. In addition, there are now many groups established to provide the help, support and guidance that once did not exist. Whether its Together We Heal, NAASCA, RAINN or the many others out there, you have a place to go, so please reach out, and find one that will help you.

And finally, what I found that helped me begin to move forward was getting some professional help. Therapy, in it’s many forms, is available to you. For some, you might have the funds to pay for it, or if you have insurance, utilize it. And for those that have neither, there are now groups that will help you at no cost. So whether you have the funds or not, there’s no reason to not find a therapist or group that can help guide you on a healing path. A path that will help you find your core, a path to no longer feeling alone. So take a little lesson from that $20 dollar bill…reach out and find your worth. You are worthy and deserving of it.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


39 Comments

Grooming – How Do Sexual Predators Get Into Our Lives?

After posting my story of childhood sexual abuse, I was asked an important question by a concerned parent. How did this monster get into your life?

The answer is both simple and complex. The easy part is that they don’t have the appearance of a monster. They don’t look like some James Bond or Cartoon character villain, with beady eyes, horns coming out of their heads, or a big neon sign saying, “STAY AWAY, PEDOPHILE HERE!” Sadly, they almost always look like everyone one else. The gentle minister, the encouraging coach, the neighbor always willing to lend a hand or the family member who seems to be there just when you need them.

And this is where the complexity comes in. How do you distinguish genuine care from pure evil? While there are no set in stone answers, there are some clues to look for and ways to evaluate what is going on. And though nothing is fool-proof, I hope it’s at least a start for you to help figure out friend from foe.

One of the most frightening things about pedophiles/sexual predators is that they seem so “normal”. They are notoriously friendly, nice, kind, engaging and like-able. And they target their victims, often insinuating themselves into that child’s life through their family, school, house of worship, sports, and hobbies. But don’t ever forget, pedophiles are professional con-artists and are experts at getting children and families to trust them. They will smile at you, look you right in the eye and make you believe they are trustworthy.

So let’s first define exactly what grooming is and then we will go into the steps involved.

Erika Lyn Smith, of the “Missing And Exploited Children Site”, gives a thorough explanation of what we are talking about.

The act of grooming a child involves spending time, energy, and money to make a child and even the parent or parents feel comfortable with the relationship. Only after a trusting relationship is established will the child predator start to become more intrusive and to test the boundaries of the relationship by pushing limits. These violations may include hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, and invading a child’s privacy while showering, dressing or toileting.

Initially a pedophile will begin to violate the physical boundaries, by accidentally touching the child through his or her clothes to see what kind of reaction he or she receives. If a child or parent questions the action the predator will likely back off and regain the trust of the child or parents before proceeding.

By befriending the parent or parents, the pedophile gains the trust of everyone in the family. Children are less likely to tell when the relationship turns sexual if the adult is someone he or she knows personally or is a friend of mom or dads. In addition, mom and dad may be less likely to listen to a child when it involves a good friend of the family.

Single parents, especially mother’s will be looking for a positive male role model if there is no father involved. Single mothers are more likely to accept offers from a child’s coach or school for help when offered. All parents needs to be vigilant when it comes to allowing someone access to his or her child, and question friendships or relationships that take up a lot of a child’s free time.

Signs that a pedophile may be grooming your child include:
• Telling a child, he or she is a “special” friend
• Bringing a child special mementos or gifts
• Talking to a child about adult issues like sex or marriage problems
• Giving a child alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
• Inviting a child to spend the night or go camping

A former F.B.I. agent named Kenneth V. Landing wrote about 5 steps he identified as the general process most sexual predators use in grooming children to be their ext victims. Below you will find this listed.

Stage 1: Identifying a Possible Victim
Although pedophiles differ in their “type” regarding age, appearance and gender, all pedophiles will look for a victim who seems in some way vulnerable.

Stage 2: Collecting Information
The next step is for the pedophile to collect as much information on the targeted victim as possible. This is most commonly done through casual conversations with both the child and the parents or caretaker.

Stage 3: Filling a Need
Once the individual has the information he needs, he then becomes part of the child’s life by filling a need. If the victim is poor, for example, the pedophile will provide him/her with expensive toys. If the victim is lonely, the pedophile will act as a friend.

Stage 4: Lowering Inhibitions
The pedophile will then start to lower the child’s inhibitions concerning sexual matters. He may come up with games or activities that involve getting undressed, make sexual comments or show the child pornographic images or pictures.

Stage 5: Initiating the Abuse
At this final stage, the pedophile begins to sexually abuse the child.

Another technique used by these predators is called the 4 “F’s”.

Friendship, Fantasy, Fear and Force.

“Friendship” is built through nurturing a relationship through bonding. The adult will usually give the child gifts, take them on special outings and show them a lot of attention.

Once a child trusts an adult, the adult can influence the child’s attitude regarding sexual behavior. Grooming may include introducing sexual content to the child as an example of what the perpetrator desires and to give the impression that the depicted acts are acceptable. If the child thinks that sex between children and adults is ok, it’s easier for the pedophile to victimize the child.

Then they will introduce “Fantasy”. They will manipulate the child with a false sense of security. They will pay a lot of attention to the child’s problems and personal matters and offer advice and counseling. They will tell the child how much they love them and that they want to have a long term, loving relationship with them.

Once the child has opened up to the pedophile, they will begin to instill “Fear” by threatening to share the child’s secrets with their classmates or their parents. Sometimes they will even threaten the life or safety of the child or of their family and friends It’s all a manipulation tactic to get the child to do what the pedophile wants them to do.

Ultimately, the pedophile uses “Force” to sexually exploit the child.

While these are by no means the only ways sexual predators work their way into ours and our children’s lives, they are at least a beginning place for parents to be on the lookout. The more information you have and the better educated you become, the more you will be able to best protect your kids.

Knowledge truly is power and we cannot give over our power to these heinous criminals. They will use every trick in the book so you have to know what they’re doing. Even more frightening, pedophiles and sexual predators work together to help each other figure out ways to gain access to our kids. Don’t believe it, read this article about a 170 page, “How To” publication put together by and for adults who prey on innocent children. They are making a concerted effort to help each other so we have to be more vigilant, more active and tireless in our work to combat these predators.

http://www.wbtv.com/story/18124513/underage-grooming-guide

I hope this is a good start on helping you to protect your children. God knows I wish my family had been told this when I was a child. Maybe they would have been able to stop my abuse before it began. So please take a page from our family history book, educate yourselves and talk with your kids.

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References:

Kenneth V. Lanning, Special Agent, F.B.I.

Erika Lyn Smith

America’s Most Wanted

WBTV

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal