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.
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wanted to start it off with an interview I had the privilege of doing with Rachel Grant and her amazing resource for survivors, “Beyond Surviving”.
Do yourself a favor, check out her website. Rachel continues to teach me so much that helps in my own healing journey.
This particular podcast we cover subject matter that’s had an immeasurable impact on and in my life. Both as someone who was victimized by a minister and now as someone who is working to make faith communities safer for children.
In this Beyond Surviving Podcast, (Look for S6 E3 – David Pittman) we’ll discuss why I partnered with GRACE, and how that work is transforming faith communities so they can better protect children, better identify predatory behavior, and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed.
Today, we’ll answer these questions and I’ll have some questions for you to determine if your faith community is properly prepared.
Is Your Faith Community prepared to properly respond to sexual abuse?
How would they respond to the perpetrator and how would they respond to the victim?
Why would it matter to me if I’m not religious?
Where can we find resources to educate our church?
This week Together We Heal, as an organization, and myself, David Pittman as an individual, have joined forces with Justice For Anne, For A Time Such As This & several fellow advocates. Together we have issued a statement that was most perfectly articulated by fellow advocate Ryan Ashton:
“If you please, read the joint statement myself and fellow abuse survivors and advocates delivered to the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) yesterday regarding their announcement of a sexual abuse study group:
“We all have a decision—to become more polarized and distrustful of one another, hide, build barriers, and perpetuate numerous injustices. Or we can face this evil together, choosing to create a culture where healing and safety are the norm, where love and compassion dwell, where children and families flourish, and the hope of the gospel maintains its integrity. We sign with that hope, committed to a future where no one in the Church has to say “Me Too” ever again.”
Everything we do at Together We Heal and GRACE is because of the past and current failures of those within the church to better protect children and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed. It is our hope that the SBC will begin to live up to the call of Christ they espouse and not be just another one of those “cast to the bottom of the sea with a millstone around their neck”.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
The time is long overdue. The ball is in your court SBC leaders and church members. Do you truly believe the scripture you preach and teach? Then BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS and quit giving lip service and protecting sexual predators.
This year I have decided to provide something new to the Together We Heal blog. In addition to my own writings, I wanted to offer some new voices with their own survivor perspectives. With April being “Child Abuse Prevention Month” we are honored to have a fellow survivor contribute. She has taught me much about healing and I am grateful to call her my friend, Rachel Grant. Join me in reading her words of encouragement today!
But I’ve tried to get over this before!! Shouldn’t I be better already!? I know other people have healed, why can’t I?
Often the first hurdle to jump over in this journey is to put to rest (or a least put on mute for a while) your inner critic and doubter. I know you’ve been to therapy, I know you’ve read books, I know you’ve tried just about everything under the sun and you’re still running in circles. Don’t worry, I did, too! Or maybe you’re just for the first time ever admitting to yourself that the abuse happened and that you need to deal with it. Either way, there is likely a part of you that is wondering if you can get better! I invite you to allow yourself to embrace recovery as an adventure, an exploration. Be curious, check things out – and try to leave off stressing about end results. We each have to walk our own path of recovery. Sometimes, it takes just one thing to make things fall into place. Sometimes, it’s a variety of things.
For me, I tried all sorts of things before finally coming upon the ideas that I’ll share here that made the difference for me. I hope you can be open to the journey and remember there’s a lot to learn from turtles.
Lessons from a Turtle
“Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, because they are looking for ideas.” ~Paula Poundstone
How fabulous is that! I know I’m still certainly wondering about what I’ll be when I grow up, and I know many of the folks around me are thinking about this, too.
For me, though, there are the added questions of, “Is it too late?” & “Shouldn’t I have accomplished more by now?” I took a bit more time to finish my undergraduate studies than usual; then I spent some time roaming the halls of an elementary school trying my hand at teaching and learning a lot about myself.
When I came to California, I focused on child development (and napping) as I nanny before turning my attention to psychology & coaching. Seems a bit schizophrenic, but each stage has in some way built upon the previous one. Now, most days, I appreciate my wiggly journey. Still, I do sometimes agonize about this, because I am many paces behind those who followed the straight and narrow.
When we feel the pressure to make our mark, crave the pride of achievement, desire to experience ourselves at our best, or want more than anything to be fully recovered, our first point of reference for measuring where we stand is often what others are doing or have done. Is there real value in this exercise of comparison? Well, I suppose it depends on what your ultimate goal is.
To my mind, I see two possible outcomes from engaging in this sort of reflection (to be sure, there may be others). If your goal (though possibly an unconscious one) is to reinforce negative ideas you have about yourself as being less than, incapable, flawed, etc. – comparing oneself to others is like a gateway drug to self-deprecation. There can be real value in seeing how you measure up to others, but if you can’t compare yourself to others without becoming depressed, self-critical, exasperated, defeated, pitiful, and chagrined then this is not a healthy choice for you.
However, if your goal is to do something about your current situation and to move forward despite time, age, circumstances then it might be possible to become inspired, motivated, encouraged, and educated as a result of comparing where you are with others who have acquired the same things you now desire but don’t have. In other words, through curiosity and studying their very straight journey, you may add some arrow-like qualities to your own path.
My point is, I can look to a coach who is my age, has my education but is much further along in building her business and making a living and think to myself, “Damn it, see, if only I hadn’t…” or I can look to see how this person got to where she is and learn – and, perhaps, learn fast! Likewise, we can keep ourselves in a loop of comparing where we are in our journey of recovery to others or lamenting that we aren’t there yet, or we can set about doing the work and learning from those who have gone before us.
We only have one life journey. Whether it be a wiggly one or a straight & narrow one – it’s ours. So, for all my wiggly friends out there – move, be active, learn and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by self-deprecating thoughts.
Just as we might discover who we want to be when we grow up from kids, we also do well to remember the age-old Aesop fable The Tortoise and the Hare. It’s not how quickly you can get to where you want to be – it’s whether you get there at all.
Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. She works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken, unfixable, and burdened by the past. She helps them let go of the pain of abuse and finally feel normal.
Her program, Beyond Surviving, has been specifically designed to change the way we think about and heal from abuse. Based on her educational training, study of neuroscience, and lessons learned from her own journey, she has successfully used this program since 2007 to help her clients break free from the past and move forward with their lives.
Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. She is also a member of San Francisco Coaches.
September is Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor Awareness Month. So it’s appropriate that I tell you about a recently published book I believe is a must-read. Anyone who has read this blog knows I am not a pitch-man for any product, but when we come across a great resource we let know about it. This book is one we consider essential.
The book is titled, Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries, and it was written by Basyle Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits. I tell you the authors names because I know one of them personally and have worked with him professionally. The importance of that information is so you will know what I know; that he is dedicated to protecting children and helping those who have been harmed by sexual predators.
If you are person of faith, have a position of responsibility within your local church or have a ministry of any kind or size, you need to read this book. It will provide you a foundation to better protect those most vulnerable within your care, the children.
This is not just some online checklist of “things you should or should not do”. This is a comprehensive resource that covers just about anything you can think of, and some things you aren’t even aware you should know.
Whether you have already developed a child safeguarding policy and are looking to find additional resources to update your knowledge base or you need to start from the beginning and build it from the ground up. This book covers the spectrum from understanding what abuse is, the indicators of abuse and those who harm children, all the way through developing best practices, how to properly respond to abuse and training those within a ministry.
I have read this book from cover to cover and I can tell you, from a survivor’s perspective, this is what is needed for those within the church to use as a “bible” for better protecting kids. I don’t mean that as hyperbole, that comes from my heart.
**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.
With the hustle and bustle of families and travel during the holiday season, it’s taken me a little longer than normal to write about the conference Linda and I attended in Austin, TX. Because its message and the message of this time of year are so simpatico, I knew now was the right time.
As many of you know by now, last month Linda and I attended The Child-Friendly Faith Project Conference and had the honor of speaking on Day 2.
To say we met leaders, advocates and what I consider “giants” within the community wouldn’t do it justice. It seemed like every time we turned around, heard another presentation, or were able to sit and talk in a small group, there was a striking similarity…
…We were all in one accord; We all are working to see faith communities, government agencies and private individuals connect to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and to better protect all our children from the sexual predators traversing amongst our respective communities, and in many cases “hiding in plain sight”.
It drove home the point that events like these and so many others are the launching point for the work needed to accomplish our common goals. So much so that Jan Heimlich, the Director of The CFFP said to me, “let’s begin soon working on another event of some kind where we can go into even more detail about the topics we discussed here over the last two days.” And I couldn’t agree more with her! It seemed as though we had just begun to scratch the surface and based on everyone’s responses, they wanted to hear more as well!
On day 2, we started with a video presentation from Boz Tchividjian, Founder of GRACE, who expressed his desire to see us all, coming from whatever faith background, or no religious faith, join forces for two primary purposes. First, to protect all our children from the clear and present danger of sexual predators. Second, to assist those already harmed by guiding them along a path of healing, rather than making them feeling shamed or shunned.
The conference began with two questions/objectives:
1) How can we better address child maltreatment that occurs in faith communities?
2) What should we do when religious or cultural practices are unhealthy for children?
In following Boz’s request; no matter whether our faith is based from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, from a non-denominational or non-faith background, we received information on both days about those two questions with real, actionable directives and practical ways to answer and address both and to resolve the problems. In doing so, I saw the questions being transformed;
**What now? What will we do with this information and the answers to tough questions? HOW and WILL we move forward knowing what we know?**
It would take several pages to go through all of the impactful speakers and presentations, but I’d like to highlight a couple. The folks listed are all prestigious experts in fields related to child advocacy. What I appreciated was how they were both enlightening and had practical applications.
They are speakers that I heard in person, have known and cooperated with for years or have some other working knowledge of their efforts to protect children. So as you have time, please take a moment to do some homework by finding their websites, reading their books and reviewing the amazing work they do for children and survivors of abuse.
Rev. Carla Cheatham
Marci A. Hamilton
Rev. Charles Foster Johnson
Rev. Jaime Romo
I’ll say it again, the conference was simply amazing! We had the opportunity to meet with people who are equally passionate about helping those who’ve been abused. It’s clear they want to see TRUE change within our various faith communities. We saw the desire to make that change in a positive way from within, not just to criticize from afar. But don’t misunderstand, while those in attendance aren’t into “church-bashing”, no one pulled any punches either. When it’s time to call out one of our respective faith communities for its failure to act, or to protect, we are the FIRST to make it known what needs to be changed and provide them the steps in order to enact said change!
Upon completing my presentation, I received an extremely positive reception and made several contacts I’ll be following up with over the next month. Dr. Jaime Romo has already made an introduction for us to have an additional resource for survivors of sexual abuse and that’s just one example of many! Linda and I had lunch with Marci A. Hamilton and we’ll continue to work with her moving forward on SOL law reform. Prior to the event, Marci and I had talked on the phone, been interviewed on the same radio show, and had spoken at length about what is needed to eliminate statute of limitation laws, but it was great getting some face-to-face time with her!
We also had the opportunity to establish relationships Pete Singer, Steven Hassan, Rev. Charles Johnson and two advocates from the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center; Autumn Williams and Dianna Smoot. We also met with Joy Ryder with “Out Of The Shadows”. They will be launching their website soon so keep checking on it! “www.outoftheshadows.today” – To say it was a success would be an understatement!!
I also spoke with the lady from Atlanta who is trying to set up a conference for TWH and GRACE to educate a team of ministers at a large metro-Atlanta church.
Thank you Jan for giving all attending a catalyst for the upcoming year as we look for more ways to raise awareness, further education and reach even more of those most in need. It was an honor and a blessing to be a part of The Child-Friendly Faith Project.
May we all find the peace and healing we so desperately need. And Together, We CAN Heal!
Last week we talked about about something all survivors of abuse grapple with, feeling alone. So now what, how do we get beyond these helpless and hopeless feelings?
What is Required to Have a Life of Hope and Healing?
The following article might seem a bit short, when considering what we are talking about. I just want to make it as straightforward as possible. Now within each of these three areas lies a multitude of layers and steps. But for our purposes, I just want it to be succinct.
I would be happy to delve into each one in more detail, and will do so in the near future. For now, I just want us all to grasp the basics for what is required.
Once you open your mind and heart to hope and healing you can begin to experience what myself and other survivors have. A life that is rewarding and fulfilling.
It requires three things; Work, Support and Belief.
Like anything in life, nothing worth having comes easy. And recovery and healing are no different. As I sat in a room with fellow survivors one evening, one asked, “when does this begin to get easier?” We all let out a nervous chuckle of sorts because we knew what they meant. We had either previously wondered this same question or were currently asking the same thing.
For those of us who were a little farther down the “recovery road”, we chimed in and said, “it’s a back and forth, up and down ride.” You’re going to have good days and bad. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve gotten things manageable and that’s when a trigger will occur and out of the blue something bites you in the tail. But no matter where you’re at; day 1 or year 20, it’s a process, and one that’s ongoing. What we all agreed upon is that the work was worth the effort. The alternatives; keeping it bottled up, ignoring it, disregarding the emotions – none of them worked long-term and would eventually lead to bad results.
So what kind of work you ask? Saying the following word is easy, following through is the work. Therapy, whether it’s one-on-one counseling, or in a group setting, it is essential. Recovery takes the help and guidance from others who are either trained and/or have been through what you have. Believe me when I say, I’ve tried doing this on my own, and I know many others who have as well, and none of us were able to make any progress until we enlisted the help of others. It’s doesn’t mean we are weak. To the contrary, admitting we needed help was both a strong and brave thing to do. It meant we cared enough about ourselves and those that love us to get that help, begin to heal and work toward becoming the person we were capable of being.
We all need it. When we first come forward about being sexually abused, how we are received can determine what happens next. So the person or people we reach out to can be key. I can’t stress this enough. Think carefully about to whom it is you first disclose. I have seen too many survivors hurt by the very ones they went to for help. That’s why we always say, please know we are here to help. And fortunately now, there are many other organizations out there who will offer this same type of real, positive and caring reception of what you’ve been through.
No matter whether it’s a friend, your family or an organization; take that step, reach out and receive the love and support they are willing to provide. And build upon it. Grow your support structure. Sometimes one person might not be available at that exact moment, so develop a group of people you can turn to during those tough times or when triggered.
I’m actually ending where I believe it begins, with belief. The first part is a belief in yourself. From there, it’s a belief that hope and healing ARE possible. And you CAN believe because there are so many who have gone before you and have constructed such a life. We aren’t different from you. We are just like you.
I’d like to say there’s something special about us, or that we have some secret recipe for recovery. But like most things in life, the simplicity is the “work”. So there’s no magic potion, no secret pill.
And that means the hope and healing we are now experiencing are within your grasp as well. As I’ve said, it just takes the work and support.
Feeling Alone, it’s a familiar feeling. It’s altogether too familiar. As a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), 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.
This desperate pursuit eventually had me asking many questions about myself and my life.
Is that why I spent so many years seeking intimacy through empty sexual encounters?
Is that why I would take enough narcotics to drop a work mule and then get out on the road looking for party after party, person after person, hook-up after hook-up, connection after connection.
After I reread that last sentence it dawned on me. It’s that’s word, “connection”. I was looking for a true connection but in the most vile of environments, from the least genuine of people, and in the sketchiest of places with the most dangerous of drugs.
Sadly, when I’d meet a decent person, I’d find a way to sabotage whatever connection was made.
Over the last few years I’ve learned there are different types of “survivors” of CSA. First, there’s the type who grew up with abuse being so much a part of their lives, having no memory of life without it, that it was their “norm”. The second type consists of those who had, up until the abuse began, some sort of “regular” childhood. Once the abuse began, everything changed. Either they became withdrawn or they acted out, with combinations and variations of the two.
From listening to fellow survivors stories, It’s been my understanding that it depended on how old they were when the abuse began, how many years it lasted, who their abuser(s) were, plus a multitude of other factors. But please don’t misunderstand, whether the abuse occurred once or a thousand times, victims are left feeling alone.
To anyone looking at my life, I gave the appearance as if all was fantastic in my world! It would seem as if nothing so evil and certainly crimes so heinous could not be happening to me. After all, my abuser had total control over me. He was in the position of both male AND spiritual authority over me. In essence, he had possession of my mind, body and soul. He convinced me that no one would believe me anyway. And on top of that, the time and place where I grew up, we did not talk about anything negative and we certainly didn’t tell anyone else outside the family about such things. Who am I kidding, we didn’t even tell our family.
For the three years the sexual abuse occurred, no one knew what my youth minister, Frankie Wiley was doing to me, or to any of the boys he was molesting, abusing and raping at the same time. And since all of us felt we were the only ones to which it was happening, we felt completely alone. As I said, a feeling that would become more familiar than any other, and the driving force behind my desire to be loved, to be wanted, to feel “warm and fuzzy”, as the sex and narcotics both temporarily and falsely made me feel.
So as victims of these crimes, what do we do with this feeling of being “alone”? I have described how I dealt with it for the better part of 30 years. In doing so, I destroyed multiple careers, many relationships and almost lost my life.
Once I finally got clean and removed the fog of narcotics hanging over me, I was able to seek the help of one-on-one counseling and support groups that taught me proper coping skills. Now I know what to do when “triggered” or when I become overcome with the guilt, shame and self-blame associated with being sexually abused. I was also very fortunate to have a family willing to help me when I came forward about the abuse. Not everyone is so lucky. They assisted me in getting clean by keeping food in my belly and a roof over my head while I got my head clear.
I’m so thankful for all those who have helped me in the past and still help me to this day. And the reason I’m telling you all of this is to let my fellow survivors and their loved ones know what I’ve learned…help, healing and recovery are all possible.
As many of you know, I’m now married to the most amazing woman who loves me for who I am. Together, we work with victims and survivors. We see their healing begin and are witness to lives changing on a weekly basis.
I am now even able to be an active member of a church again. Having been abused by a minister, I had sworn at one time never to darken the doors of any religious institution. In my heart at that time, I believed God had allowed this and I hated Him for it. I eventually understood there was only one person to blame for the pain; my abuser, Frankie Wiley. And I see clearly now from his actions, he is not a Christian. A true Christian would not sexually abuse multiple boys at various churches over decades of time. Nor should I discount my belief because of what this sexual predator did to me and so many other little boys. I have decided not to allow his crimes to prevent me from receiving joy and peace from my belief.
My life now is one I had not dreamed possible. But when I opened my mind and heart to hope and healing, I began to finally experience what is possible for us all.
And that’s why I want all survivors to know THIS story, MY story, can be THEIR story. Turning your life into one that is both productive and fulfilling is within your reach, if only you’ll reach out to those willing to help you.
We are here to help. And together, we can truly heal.