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.
The following is an interview I recently did with fellow male survivor, Brian Cardoza. When I asked Brian to begin telling me his story, he said something that rang true to me, and I believe those of you who’ve been through a similar trauma will appreciate it…he said,
“It’s not the easiest thing to do, to intentionally recall the trauma of 20-30 plus years ago.”
Brian went on to say the abuse started after his father left the family. When he got home with his mom he went to his dad’s room (the parents were separated at the time and sleeping in separate rooms) He recalled the absence of his father in this way.
“There was not even the memory of a cigarette.”
His mom told him, “The reason he left is because you couldn’t make him love this family.”
This was the beginning of the abuse.
The emotional abuse progressed into physical abuse. And when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, he began being sexually abused. His brother’s best friend raped him. It occurred not just with the brother’s permission, but with his encouragement and instruction. It started at the fragile age of 6 and continued until around age 9.
The physical abuse only ended at 12 because that’s when Brian’s growth spurt began. As Brian told me, it only stopped because I became “too big” for them to “hurt” me.
And then, on December 14, 1989, he was thrown out of the house. This was in Anchorage Alaska. And on that first night, he almost froze to death. So, began struggles of other kinds.
D.P. What challenges do you feel are unique to male survivors of sexual abuse?
B.C. I think there are very few things that are unique to male survivors. Trauma is human-centric, not gender specific. I have never met a woman who didn’t experience the first 10-12 things that I have, guilt, denial, anger, etc.
What I do think is inherently unique, or maybe the biggest difference between male and female victims of sexual abuse is it causes a man to question himself about a fundamental issue. A person’s sexuality is core to who they are, and when a boy is sexually abused by a man, it almost always causes him to ask the question, “Am I gay?”
I have talked to many male survivors, and I’ve never met one who didn’t ask the question, “does this make me gay”. And this questioning of sexuality causes so many struggles.
They may have never had any proclivities to men prior to the abuse. They may have never had any inkling about homosexuality. But after the abuse occurs, that’s the first question they begin to ask themselves.
Especially with certain societal norms, if the abuse was perpetrated by man, it can make a guy ask himself, “Can you still call yourself a man?”
D.P. Based on that last statement let me ask you a follow-up to that; What challenges have you faced with masculinity?
B.C. I’ve said this ad nauseam; if a friend of mine drank 10 beers, I had to drink 20. If a friend of mine had a 1-night stand, I had to have 12.
I had to be “Hyper-Male”. I had to be THE Man.
I know now, through therapy and introspection, that attitude came from being thrown on that bean bag. (this is a reference to being raped by his brother’s friend) Now I realize that to prove my manhood is idiotic. I was born a man, I am a man and that’s just the way it is. I don’t need to “prove” anything.
That’s part of why it is hard for men to come forward. To admit that a man raped you makes them feel somehow less than a man.
From the time I was in preschool on, my mom would read to us stories like Tarzan and Conan, iterating to us that real men took what they wanted. Real men didn’t get hurt emotionally. Real men wouldn’t allow these kinds of things to happen.
And when they DID happen, I had nowhere to go.
Because my abuse started so early, I didn’t realize I was being abused. To me, it was just Tuesday.
D.P. What has helped you the most in the process of your healing?
B.C. Ironically is was an argument I got into with a girlfriend. It came at a point in my life when I thought I was at my best. I believed I was in a perfect relationship. I was in the best shape of my life. Everything was just as I thought I wanted it. And then, one day, she picks a fight with me.
What I actually was; emotionally numb and passionless. She screams at me, “you have no passion, you have nothing you give.” And with no emotion I replied, “yep”.
That language stuck with me and I started on a 2-day bender. So, I started asking myself. Why am I in love with the things that have made me numb? Why can’t I connect with this beautiful woman?
I finally acknowledged to myself, this may have started because I was raped.
So, I called the Boston area rape crisis center and thankfully they made me an appointment to start therapy. My catalyst for doing this was being introspective enough to look at what my girlfriend was saying to me and realizing there was a direct correlation to what happened in my childhood. When I began therapy, a lot of the extraneous stuff started to go away.
It also taught me you can never find the solution to a problem when you are in the middle of it.
D.P. If there was one thing you could say to a young boy who is currently being abused, or an adult who hasn’t told anyone yet?
B.C. When I am open, up-front and compassionate with what happened to me, all I really do is “shut-up”. What I mean by that is, times where I have spoken with someone, when someone is about to reveal something to me, the feel of the room changes, their demeanor changes, and then I “shut-up” (be quiet) and let them decide what they want to do. I have found that to be the most successful. The first thing I do when someone reveals their abuse, is I thank them. I thank them profusely and profoundly. Because they need to know what they have just done is the very first step in their own healing.
So, when it comes to someone coming forward, be quiet and allow a survivor to tell whatever it is they need to say. Listen to understand, not just waiting to reply.
D.P. You’ve written a book. Why did you decide to write it and what did you hope to accomplish?
B.C. To give solace to myself. I read the story of another survivor and thought, I didn’t have it “as bad” as they did. I figured if I think this way, then there’s a kid out there who might hear mine and be able to say to themselves, I can get through what I’m going through too.
I know most of us are guilty of comparing and we shouldn’t do it to ourselves, but we do.
Ultimately, I needed to put it to bed myself. I needed to get it out. That’s why I paint and have other artistic outlets, they allow me to express how I’m feeling rather than mull over in my head.
D.P. Is there anything we haven’t covered you would like to share?
B.C. 1 Major and 1 Minor:
Major – The minute you come out and admit that you were sexually abused, make sure you find a trauma trained therapist. I also tell everyone this, there are times that this is going to suck. There will be days when you don’t want to get out of bed. There will be days when you want to drink it away again. But what I know, is if you get out of bed, if you put the bottle down, all of it will be worth it.
Minor – There are people out there who have decided their privacy is not as important as helping other survivors. If those of who have given away our privacy can help them, then we have done what we set out to do.
Thank you, Brian, for your honest and frank discussion on this important topic. Below you will find links to Brian’s work and advocacy.
As a fellow survivor, one of the things I always try to pass along are insights I have learned that have helped me personally. I feel as though this is how we can best help one another. Fortunately, I have had the benefit of some amazing therapists, learned from others trained specifically in trauma, and made sure to pay attention to other survivors who really knew what I had been through. The following article is another one of these from Dr. Andrea Brandt. I hope her words help you or someone you love. Please read and share!
Whether you witnessed or experienced violence as a child or your caretakers emotionally or physically neglected you, when you grow up in a traumatizing environment you are likely to still show signs of that trauma as an adult.
Children make meaning out of the events they witness and the things that happen to them, and they create an internal map of how the world is. This meaning-making helps them cope. But if children don’t create a new internal map as they grow up, their old way of interpreting the world can damage their ability to function as adults.
While there are many aftereffects of childhood emotional trauma, here we’ll look specifically at four ways childhood emotional trauma impacts us as adults.
The False Self
As a childhood emotional trauma therapist, I see many patients who carry childhood emotional wounds with them into adulthood. One way these wounds reveal themselves is through the creation of a false self.
As children, we want our parents to love us and take care of us. When our parents don’t do this, we try to become the kind of child we think they’ll love. Burying feelings that might get in the way of us getting our needs met, we create a false self—the person we present to the world.
When we bury our emotions, we lose touch with who we really are, because our feelings are an integral part of us. We live our lives terrified that if we let the mask drop, we’ll no longer be cared for, loved, or accepted.
The best way to uncover the authentic you underneath the false self is by talking to a therapist who specializes in childhood emotional trauma and can help you reconnect with your feelings and express your emotions in a way that makes you feel both safe and whole.
What we think and believe about ourselves drives our self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves can empower or disempower us. Negative self-talk disempowers us and makes us feel like we have no control over our lives — like victims. We may have been victimized as children, but we don’t have to remain victims as adults.
Even in circumstances where we think we don’t have a choice, we always have a choice, even if it’s just the power to choose how we think about our life. We have little to no control over our environments and our lives when we’re children, but we’re not children anymore. It’s likely we are more capable of changing our situation than we believe.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as victims, we can think of ourselves as survivors. The next time you feel trapped and choice-less, remind yourself that you’re more capable and in control than you think.
When children grow up in households where there are only unhealthy expressions of anger, they grow up believing that anger is unacceptable. If you witnessed anger expressed violently, then as an adult you might think that anger is a violent emotion and therefore must be suppressed. Or, if you grew up in a family that suppressed anger and your parents taught you that anger is on a list of emotions you aren’t supposed to feel, you suppress it, even as an adult who could benefit from anger.
What happens if you can’t express your anger? If you’re someone who suppresses your upset feelings, you likely already know the answer: Nothing. You still feel angry—after all, anger is a natural, healthy emotion we all experience—but instead of the resolution that comes with acknowledging your anger and resolving what triggered it, you just stay angry. You don’t express your feelings straightforwardly, but since you can’t truly suppress anger, you express your feelings through passive-aggressiveness.
If you were neglected as a child, or abandoned by your caretakers, you may have buried your anger and fear in the hope that it would mean no one will ever abandon or neglect you again. What happens when children do this, though, is that we end up abandoning ourselves. We hold ourselves back when we don’t feel our feelings. We end up passive, and we don’t live up to our potential. The passive person says to him or herself, “I know what I need to do but I don’t do it.”
When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves. At the time, that may have helped us. But as adults, we need our feelings to tell us who we are and what we want, and to guide us toward becoming the people we want to be.
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., is a marriage and family therapist located in Santa Monica California. Andrea brings over 35 years of clinical experience to the role of individual family therapist, couples counseling, group therapy and angermanagement classes.
As someone who writes, occasionally I come across words that I’ve read and think to myself, “why didn’t I think of that?”
The following blog post is one such set of words. While doing the work we do, I have had the good fortune of meeting, working with, even being able to call many of our fellow advocates “friends”. Folks like Svava Brooks, who is not just a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but has dedicated her life to helping fellow survivors.
So take a few minutes to read her words. Share them with someone you know who might have been impacted by a similar trauma. As we say around here all the time…together, we heal…
Why Can’t I Heal?
This is a question I asked myself for a long time. So many people could diagnose me. So many people could tell me what was wrong with me. But few could actually help me heal.
Why? Because my healing wasn’t the task of these other people. It was my job. I had to take all the information I had gathered about recovering from child abuse and trauma and move that knowledge from my head to my heart. In other words, I had to do the tough, messy work of applying it to my own life.
Today, I’m going to make this task easier for you. Here are the seven steps child abuse and trauma survivors need to take in order to heal. Apply them every day.
Establish Safety. Figure out what makes you feel safe. This is your first priority.
Develop Courage. Eventually, your willingness to heal will develop into courage, as you take more and more healthy risks.
Create a Mindfulness Practice. Connecting with your body is essential for healing. As abused children, we learned the toxic skill of disconnection. Mindfulness will help you reconnect.
Express Your Emotions. Learn how to identify, listen to, feel, and express your emotions in a healthy way. All of them: the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Change Your Negative Beliefs. You created these toxic beliefs as a way to survive an abusive childhood. But you’re an adult now. Change your story (beliefs) to what benefits your adult life.
Practice Self-Care, Self-Love, and Self-Compassion. Put yourself first on your To-Do list. Every day find a way to lovingly care for and celebrate yourself.
Build a Support System. You can’t do this alone. Healing doesn’t work that way. Surround yourself with nourishing friends who support your healing goals.
Just the act of implementing these seven steps is a major move forward on your healing journey. Stick with it, and you’ll experience a positive shift sooner than you think. Why? Because these steps are more than a decision. They’re a lifestyle change.
And that’s how you heal. Finally!
Svava isn’t saying that healing is easy. But if you take to heart what she’s shared, I promise the path to healing will become illuminated. And as she mentions in her original article, if you’re still having difficulty healing, reach out and find someone trained in trauma to help you. You can find Svava’s contact info here. Other survivors like Rachel Grant can help also. But no matter where you go, go forward and gain the help available to you.
Below you’ll find the link to the original publication of this article as well as some bio information on Svava. Thank you Svava for sharing these straightforward tips for your fellow survivors and for being a friend in this work we do.
Svava Brooks is a survivor of child sexual abuse and the co-founder of a nationwide child sexual abuse prevention and education organization in Iceland called “Blátt áfram.” She is also a certified instructor and facilitator for Darkness to Light Stewards of Children, as well as a certified Crisis Intervention Specialist, a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, a BellaNet Teen support group facilitator, a Certified TRE® Provider, and an Abuse Survivor Coach.
The mother of three children, Svava has dedicated her life to ending the cycle of child sexual abuse through education, awareness, and by helping survivors heal and thrive. She is a certified facilitator for Advance!, a program created by Connections to restore authentic identity. Every week she writes about healing after trauma on her blog, and also leads a discussion forum on Child Sexual Abuse Healing and Recovery online.
Impotent Georgia Act Protects Sexual Predators, Baptist & Catholic Churches and the Insurance companies that underwrite their policies.
Usually when my wife and I travel to Atlanta it’s for visiting friends and family. Atlanta is where we grew up, were high-school sweethearts and eventually where we wed. (Even if it did take me over 25 years to muster the courage to ask her to marry me!)
But this week my wife and I will be in Atlanta with an additional purpose. Actually it will be a two-fold mission.
As with almost every Together We Heal event/conference/etc., we will be teaching parents, guardians, and adults of various leadership and authority positions over children, on how to talk with kids about childhood sexual abuse and better identify the grooming methods of sexual predators.
In addition to this, we’re going to have the opportunity to lobby local representatives and their constituents about making a change that would have permanent, positive benefits for all of the children of our home state. We want to help them see how imperative it is that they pass a law eliminating the statute of limitations on all sex crimes against children.
I know, sounds like a no-brainer, right? Tragically, you’d be wrong. When myself and my wife were sexually abused as children, not one single state had such a law on the books. And it’s only been in last few years that states started passing said laws. Sadly, the pressure from “higher powers” had a greater hold on state assemblies than did the courage to do the right thing.
Based on Together We Heal’s non-profit designation, Federal law limits the amount of time we are able to spend lobbying for laws to protect children and assist victims in attaining any measure of justice. Therefore, we quite literally must make the MOST of every second of time we put forth on this type of effort.
So this week, we will be making one such effort at a DeKalb Women’s Meeting with 2 legislators in attendance. It’s our hope, that since we will be speaking to people who live where our abuse occurred, it will resonate with them on a more personal level.
That being said, here is the reason why Georgia needs to eliminate statute of limitation laws regarding sex crimes against children. And by the way, my personal example is just one in millions that have happened. I’m telling you my story so you can know that this happens all too often.
When I FINALLY gathered enough strength to come forward, name the man who sexually abused me as a child; I did what I was told to do, I went to the police because everyone said that’s what you do and certainly they would help me.
I went to DeKalb County Police Headquarters, the original one on Memorial Drive, and spoke with a detective in the Major Felony division (now called Special Victims Unit). After over 2 hours of excruciatingly painful memories being drawn out, vile detail by vile detail, it finally came to an end.
And that’s when she asked me the question she should’ve started off by asking, ”when did this crime take place?”
I told her from 1981-1984. That’s when she said the words that ripped my heart and stomach COMPLETELY out of my body and threw them in the sewer.
Her reply, “Sorry, but we can’t help you. You waited too long to report this crime.”
WHAT!? I WAITED TOO LONG?! How could I have done anything WRONG here?!?!
She said, “it’s not that you did anything wrong, you just didn’t know. There’s a law called statute of limitations. And in Georgia, since you didn’t come forward by the age of 18, the time limit is up and he can no longer be criminally prosecuted for the offense. No matter what he did to you. No matter how many times or for how many years. You’re just too late.”
Tragically the police, even when they genuinely want to help, have no way of doing so because of the laws OUR legislators keep on the books.
Ask yourself this simple question and let logic dictate the answer.
Why would OUR representatives allow such laws to protect the perpetrator and further victimize the abused???
Recently a piece of legislation was passed in Georgia called the Hidden Predator Act (HPA). It was spoken of as some amazing Act, enabling any and all previous victims to come forward and get the justice they were for so long denied.
Turns out it was smoke and mirrors to make one Georgia representative appear good, but the bill is toothless and practically worthless. Although literally a couple of survivors have been able to utilize this bill, in a state of over 10 million, the VAST MAJORITY of Georgia victims will receive no such justice. Meanwhile, their perpetrators, and the ones protecting them, will remain happy all the live long day.
Why? Because the Southern Baptist Convention, Georgia Baptist Convention, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Roman Catholic Church and the Georgia Lobby for Insurance made it so. They “persuaded” YOUR representatives to remove all language that would give victims the ability to go after the churches, institutions, schools or companies that had any role in enabling, hiding or protecting the predators. By doing this it eliminated the possibility for almost any survivor to get representation. And with no attorney, no justice. Just all of the predators free and clear, to continue abusing, molesting, raping children and murdering their innocence and souls.
Most victims don’t have the strength to come forward, if they ever do, until their 30’s or 40’s, and by then it’s “too late” with the existing laws.
Sexual predators, Baptist & Catholic leaders, the Chamber and Insurance companies know this statistic, so their bean counters and leaders “convinced” legislators to orchestrate the law to read as it does. With the current language, it protects THEIR INTEREST.
And what, might you ask is their interest.
M-O-N-E-Y, NOT Y-O-U.
If these leaders actually cared about their constituents, parishioners, etc., this would not be the case. So to these “so-called” groups of faith and elected officials I say this…
“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
If we work together to do what’s right, protect potential future victims and enable justice for past ones, then we must pass a LAW, not a temporary bill like the one that expires in a little over a year, that does what should’ve been done already.
That’s right, the current HPA expires July 1st 2017, and at that time Georgia goes back to being one of the WORST states in the union for protecting child victims of sexual abuse.
So pass a law that ELIMINATES the statute of limitations on ALL sex crimes against children. And include language that allows for another 2-year window, only this time enable the revival against organizations & institutions and cap the claims at victims aged 53 (18 + 35). Georgia’s current bill allows victims to pursue litigation against the perpetrator only, not the people or organizations that covered it up or assisted them in any way. This is the only way to truly begin to stop this epidemic of abuse, to punish their enablers. If these predators had no protection, they most likely would’ve been caught.
Some very smart folks, who could explain the math about capping the age at 53 much better than I, have set that age for the reasons of how long it takes for most victims to be able to come forward and the age at which the perpetrators would be at that time. This gives the best chance for as many victims as possible to get the Justice that’s been denied them.
And maybe just as important, to expose the predators so that they can’t harm another child. Litigation shines the light and truth on them and that’s what they fear the most. And contrary to what certain church leaders and media members would have you believe, Pedophiles do not “age out” of abusing children. Fr. John Geoghan in Boston was abusing children in his 80s. The only 2 things that stop them are incarceration and death.
And to the people who inaccurately claim that enabling this 2-year window would inundate the court system with copious amounts of claims. I refer you to Marci A. Hamilton’s website for the facts – If you look at the “Relative Success” document and especially at the chart at the bottom, http://sol-reform.com/data/
you can see (1) the civil revival windows that have been opened against individuals AND institutions have not resulted in an avalanche of claims; (2) there are no false claims that have made it through the system; and (3) Georgia’s window has been relatively ineffective so far because it is only capable of being brought against individual perpetrators and aiders and abettors.
Want to know how many victims in Georgia have been able to file litigation against their abusers?
That’s 9 in a state of 10 million with AT LEAST 2 million victims. So far the Baptist & Catholic churches, Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Insurance lobby is winning. And Georgians are losing.
Going back to the question I had you ask yourself, what is the logic in these representative not already passing a law like this. What do THEY have to hide or be afraid of? If nothing, then it should pass unanimously, if not, then please give SERIOUS consideration to replacing your current legislator. Unfortunately, that’s the only language most lawmakers understand. Only when told they won’t be reelected will they actually listen to THEIR constituents.
I wish I could expose my abuser through the courts, but it’s too late for me. And because of this, he has gone on to molest, abuse and rape AT LEAST 7 others. Those are just the ones I know of. God and Frankie Wiley are the only 2 who know how many little boys’ childhood’s he’s murdered.
It’s too late for me, but there are approximately 2 million of your fellow Georgians who need your help. The only way this will happen is if YOU, make a stand, demand your representative pass this law or you vote in someone who will. It’s up to you. What will you do? Please don’t wait until it’s happened to one of your children or grandchildren. I beg of you.
Because I promise you, if you don’t, it WILL happen. The facts are the facts. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys WILL BE sexually abused by the age of 18. The only way this changes is with the ability to prosecute predators. The only way that happens is for the laws to be changed. And the only way that happens is when it matters to you. Will it be before or after it happens to someone you know; someone you love.
Don’t let this be another example of putting up a traffic light AFTER a tragedy has happened. You have the ability to do something now. Will you?
I was going through my daily activity of reading fellow advocates and survivors posts, articles, etc., when I came across one of our many online connections, Tonya Prince.
When I read Tonya’s article it reminded me of one we published early on. And I’m thankful I came across her’s because I believe we all need constant reminders about this. We cannot talk often enough with our kids about being safer from sexual predators. And it is up to us as parents to let our kids know we have their backs, that we will believe what they tell us, and that they can tell us ANYTHING, no matter what.
What follows is her article, and then some follow-up of ours with a link I believe is extremely important for parents. Thank you for taking time to read today!
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How do good parents miss childhood sexual abuse? It is tragically simple. By not asking the right questions.
One day my son went to a classmate’s home for a Halloween costume party. When I picked him up a few hours later I could tell by the ear to ear grin on his face that he had a great time. As we were about to leave, I was standing at the door with the child’s father and grandmother.
Both adults were giving me a great report about his behavior. Parent relieved. Thank goodness. No issues. No worries.
But as I drove us home I felt uneasy. Something was off. Then it hit me. I swerved into the next parking lot.
I had been here before. Except I was the child.
When parents ask children whether or not they were good in front of children and adults most children feel pressured to say “yes”.
I could recall when I was being abused by a teen relative, my mother would innocently ask me a few questions as we left a relative’s home.
She would ask, “Did you behave? Did you listen? Were you a good girl?”
What mom didn’t know is that the teen who was living there had threatened me before she had arrived. Sometimes he’d even be standing behind her balling up his fists or giving me mean looks.
Asking me those questions, especially in front of a person who was sexually abusing me reinforced in my young mind that I was supposed to do whatever I was told by the person who was watching me while she was gone.
Because I had said, “yes” at the door I didn’t think that I could change my answer later. To do so would mean I would have to explain why I “lied” when she asked me earlier.
So in that parking lot I asked the correct questions.
Perhaps you may want to consider asking these questions the next time that your child is in someone else’s care. I asked my son privately whether or not he enjoyed himself.
1) How did you spend your time?
2) What was your favorite part of the party?
3) What was the least favorite part?
4) Did you feel safe?
5) Was there anything else you wanted to share?
Try to remember to make these questions a consistent habit. Also, it might be helpful to remind your children that they can always add details about what occurred while they were away from you. My mistake that day was a common one for parents. We think as long as we ask questions, we are on top of things.
The truth is, parents have to ask the right questions, at the right time, under the right circumstances.
This article was written by Tonya GJ Prince and was originally published on WeSurviveAbuse.com.
Be sure to follow her on Twitter @TonyaGJPrince
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When we started “Together We Heal, Inc.”, I wrote an article that goes into detail how parents can talk with their kids about childhood sexual abuse. Please take some time to read and PLEASE share with any and all parents you know. It is a straightforward, 7-step, “How To”. One of the things Tonya mentioned we echo with fervor…we MUST be consistent!
Our mission is simple: Help parents better protect their children from sexual predators & Assist fellow survivors find their own path toward healing.
If you are a survivor in need of assistance or guidance, please reach out. Help is available. If you are a parent and have questions, please ask. That’s why we exist. Below you’ll find mine and my wife’s contact info so depending on who you’d feel more comfortable talking with, we’re both survivors and we’re both here to help.
David Pittman: email@example.com
This month we partnered with Rachel Grant to do a 2-part blog series and a tele-seminar, all for male survivors. The seminar can be heard here –
Below is part 1 of our combined blog series
Feeling the Weight of the World…Alone
Over the last 3 years I have had the good fortune of working with an amazing advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and someone who has become more than just a colleague, but also a valued friend: Ms. Rachel Grant. So when she asked if I would write two articles and do a tele-seminar together, as we have in the past, it was my honor to say “yes”.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it has been an arduous path of pain and healing. For over 35 years it has felt as though there have been many more “downs” than “ups”.
While I could spend an entire article just listing the challenges associated with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse; for me there were two major issues that caused the most tribulation and confusion.
The first was feeling as if I were completely alone. I thought for so long I was the only person this crime was perpetrated against and therefore it was on me alone to “deal with it”.
The second was the confusion a young boy feels when sexually abused by a man.
Today we’ll start with the first…
…feeling totally alone.
Although feeling alone is not unique to male survivors, it is only from this perspective that I can speak. So I promise to talk openly and honestly about my own journey.
But before I begin discussing the challenges associated with abuse I want to first let all know who are reading this, that there is light at the end of the tunnel…and it’s not an oncoming train.
Hope and joy can be attained. It won’t always be easy, but if you work with the right folks, and believe that those who have gone before you mean what they say, healing awaits.
So let’s talk about that most awful of feelings, being alone. And I don’t mean loneliness. While in and of itself, loneliness can feel horrible, it’s not quite the same as “feeling alone”. It incorporates so much more. It’s a feeling of betrayal and dismissal. It’s as if the whole world is moving along, happy and well. And you have been left behind, utterly abandoned.
Additionally, you feel isolated and different from everyone else around you. You see others around you leading “regular”, happy lives but you feel different and separate from everyone due to the abuse.
As I wrote once before about this topic, “Feeling Alone, it’s a familiar feeling. It’s altogether too familiar. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I struggled for decades with it. I had it twisted around me like a straight-jacket of discomfort. The result was a never-ending quest for love and acceptance in all the wrong places with none of the right people.”
Here at “Together We Heal”, we work to provide support groups and counseling to fellow survivors. And whenever we get a call or email, or are contacted in any way, the VERY FIRST thing we say is…you are NOT alone. We are here for you, with you and will be as long as you will allow us. The reason for this is because of what I mentioned earlier, my own feelings of being alone. Once I finally came forward, I learned a couple of important factors.
The first thing I learned was that I wasn’t the only little boy to be sexually abused by the same man. This person was my minister, and was therefore trusted by myself, my family and all who knew him. In 1981 when the abuse began, there were no talk shows about it, no news stories reporting it, no support groups that I could open up to. Hell, I didn’t even know what to call what was happening to me because I had never heard the words “childhood sexual abuse”.
And the second was that others, both men and women, told me they had the same feelings. Once I was told the truth about childhood sexual abuse; that I wasn’t alone, it was then I felt as though a weight the size of the world on Atlas’ shoulders was finally lifted from my own.
And that was the turning point for my own healing. Once I learned I didn’t have to carry this burden alone, and that others would help me, it was then I finally understood the meaning of the word “hope”.
More than anything it is my “hope” that everyone who reads these posts or listens to when Rachel and I talk on her show, is that you can KNOW that hope and healing are a reality, and if she and I can have and live it, you can too!
Please…reach out, tell someone…we will be here for you.
Next week we’ll discuss a topic that so many male survivors struggle with but don’t feel the ability or freedom to talk about, the sexual confusion caused when abused by a man.
**UPDATE** Tammi and I were warmly welcomed by Geoffrey Riley and the staff at JPR. The recording of the interview is now available at the link below. Listen tomorrow “LIVE” on JPR as we give an in-studio interview, along with CAC Executive Director, Tammi Pitzen. The interview starts at 8:30 a.m. PT (That’s 11:30 am ET) for my folks back home so you don’t even have to wake up early 😉
JeffX, THURSDAY 6/4 @ 8:30: David Pittman began writing a blog about being sexually abused as a teenager. The blog caught on, and led to the formation of a non-profit group, Together We Heal.
TWH works to help survivors heal, and to help educate the public about child sexual abuse.
Sometimes, not always, I get so tired of fighting a battle with those who are supposed to be the one doing the protecting…
Sometimes, not always, I get so tired of losing said battles to churches, fundamentalist “Christians” and other so-called “people of faith” who seem only to care about the money in their church coffers and potential lawsuits against their precious denominations. Tragically and simultaneously these same folks don’t appear to give a rat’s ass about the innocence, lives and souls of children…
It feels like everyday we turn on the news and hear of another case. This week was no different with Josh Duggar from the TLC show, “19 Kids and Counting” and the news he admitted to sexually abusing at least 5 girls in his family.
It’s 6:24 am and I’m tired. No that doesn’t accurately describe how I’m feeling. In truth, I’m exhausted. Exhausted because I’ve been awake since around 4 a.m., due to screaming myself awake from ANOTHER nightmare of seeing Frankie Wiley’s face over mine and feeling him holding my childhood frame down while he sexually abused me over and over, just as he did for almost 3 years.
I have no doubt this was triggered from the reports of the Duggar family doing more to protect the offender than the victims. Much the same way I feel how the Southern and Georgia Baptist Convention treats myself and countless others who’ve fallen prey to predators they continue to protect.
The only solace I had this morning was my beloved wife, Linda. Because of her, I was once again gently awakened with her loving touch and soothing voice before the nightmare became too much for me to handle.
She asked if I wanted to talk about but at that moment it was simply too much. So I’m doing now what I’ve always done since I began therapy for the sexual abuse I endured, I write. It’s one of my few true releases from the torture, torment and pain.
And in some small way I hope it reveals to other victims/survivors who’ve been through a similar trauma that they are not alone, that we are not alone…that I am not alone…
With every post or article I publish, I try to extend some measure of hope and potential for healing for what we’ve been through. And this one will be no different. It’s just that in the moment I’m too tired to feel like much of an encouragement. Instead, this time I sure would like to hear from you. To hear you say, I know what you mean David.
Over the next 2 weeks I’ll be standing in front of countless numbers of parents, guardians and other adults, looking to me for answers. And I will provide guidance, solutions and direction. I will do so with confidence, conviction and courage. But right now, at this very moment I’m just tired, hurting and scared.
Thank you to all of my friends, family and fellow survivors and advocates. It’s because of y’all I can manage to move forward on my own healing path. And for this same reason you can too.
Thank you for “listening” to me today. This is another example of why it’s so VERY important that we all be there for one another. We all need each other because as we say here…
Not alone, but…together we heal…
Thank you to our TWH family. You mean so very much to me. You’ve helped me through and to overcome so much. This is the 8th year since I first came forward about having been sexually abused as a child and in October I will celebrate 10 years of being clean from narcotics. None of this would’ve been possible without your love and support and I genuinely love and appreciate you all from the core of my being and bottom of my heart.
While I had hope that House Bill 17 in Georgia, also known as “The Hidden Predator Act”, would be able to finally give some measure of justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse, the truth is, the bill finally signed into law was practically GUTTED.
These are the follow-up stories that get buried on the 24th back page of the Atlanta-Journal or are posted to the online-only section of a WSB-TV site. And this is why politicians and your local churches are getting away with murder of your children’s future…and souls.
But don’t take my word for it, please read what these two investigative journalists discovered.
Sadly and tragically, the bottom line is this. The Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, Insurance lobbyists and The Georgia Chamber of Commerce chose to put money before children.
Nancy Stanley told Stockman. “Anyone that would put money above children’s lives and these heinous acts that are being done to them, it’s just despicable.” And it is that very thing — Despicable!!!
And one more thing, if you think or believe…”well I don’t have anything to worry about because I don’t send my child to a Baptist or Catholic Church so my kids are safe”…think again…
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in the U.S., NOT JUST BAPTIST OR CATHOLIC, ALL KIDS, will be sexually abused by the age of 18.
It literally breaks my heart that once again victims of this most heinous crime have been re-victimized by the very organizations and people who are supposed to be there to protect them.
What will it take for folks to finally wake up and realize what is happening to the future generations? How many children’s lives must be ruined before REAL action is taken?
Maybe when it happens to YOUR child or a child YOU KNOW, then maybe you’ll understand why I keep shouting this from the rooftops! But by then you’ll find out, there’s not a damned thing you can do about because you waited too late…
But don’t take my word for it…PLEASE, READ FOR YOURSELF…