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.
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.
I’m reaching out to all our friends and those who have been helped by Together We Heal. GoodTherapy.org is seeking the best resources on the web for psychology, mental health, therapy, and wellness topics.
At the end of each year, GoodTherapy.org recognizes the best websites in a variety of categories–such as abuse, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and ethics–with GoodTherapy.org’s Top 10 Award. We are asking that you let them know how we are a valuable asset for Abuse Survivors.
In order to do this it will only take about 5 minutes or less of your time. We have provided the link and the four questions they ask: your name, email address, the together we heal website URL, (already provided) and why you recommend TWH.
Please take a moment to submit why you think we are deserving of recognition. And thank you for helping us to help even more of those in need. We could not do it without you! Submit Your Recommendation Today!
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.
I am proud to announce a new partnership has been formed between TWH and the Victim Services Division of Palm Beach County.
In addition to the services, support and guidance we already provide here at TWH, we will now have additional resources available to current residents of Palm Beach County who were victims of sexual crimes anywhere in the U.S., or for those who were victims of sexual crimes that occurred in Palm Beach County.
I met this week with the Therapy Coordinator of the division and I can say with complete confidence and greater joy, they have an outstanding group of therapists and advocates who genuinely care for the welfare of survivors. I consider it an honor for TWH to be working with them and I saw first-hand what a valuable addition we will be to each others organizations. Our focus and goals are the same, as is our desire to help survivors of sexual abuse any way we can.
And most importantly they have the same model as TWH, they do not charge for ANY of the services they provide. Here are the new resources TWH now has access to, in addition to what we already provide:
* Education and information about Victims’ rights
* 24 hour crisis response to hospitals, law enforcement agencies and crime scenes
* Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and a Forensic exam site ~ The Butterfly House
* Criminal Justice advocacy and court accompaniment
* Assistance with filing State Crime Victim Compensation applications and
* Information and referral to community resources, including shelters and Legal Aid
If you are in need of therapy, want the aid of a support group, or just need someone to speak with about the recovery process, we now have twice as many people to help you.
The only requirement for their help is that you either be a resident of Palm Beach County, no matter where the crime occurred, or that the crime occurred in Palm Beach County and you now reside outside the county, anywhere in the U.S.
In addition to their English-speaking support groups, they also have a support group for Spanish-speaking individuals in need.
I cannot stress enough how critical this cooperative effort between our organizations is to survivors of sexual abuse. It’s one more step in extending TWH’s reach and capabilities and it’s all to aid our fellow survivors. And let me say again, just like TWH, ALL SERVICES ARE FREE OF CHARGE.
Please know if you are in need, there are people who will and can help. All you need to do is reach out and you will find open hands and hearts waiting for you. You may contact us first if you’d feel more comfortable, or contact them directly. Either way, we are both here for you.
The following is a post a friend of mine wanted to share. She has helped me realize that as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we are just one set of the victims in this crime. I’m thankful for her sharing with me and pointing out that children, loved-ones and others also suffer the consequences of the abusers actions. Please welcome her writing and the willingness to open up her heart and hurt with us.
When you’re growing up, you look up to your parents for wisdom and to see how you are supposed to be when you grow up. Parents are the ones you’re with the most and they mold you into who you are today.
Parents aren’t perfect, even though when we are young we think they are. We tend to place them on a pedestal and never recognize the tarnish and wear, or what may be going on inside of them. Let’s face it, our job as children is to have fun and play and try to obey our parents because in our minds, we trust they know what’s good for us.
For me, childhood was probably a little more difficult than an average child. It seemed I could never do right. I couldn’t say the right things or be the right way. Yet, somehow inside me – I still would seek out approval from my mother. Call me a glutton for punishment, stubborn, hard-headed, etc., I’ve been called worse.
My mother and I were two independent, head-strong individuals and we clashed like most teenagers do with their parents, but then there were times when I would be on the receiving end of some pretty hateful comments. It wasn’t until I was older that I came to the realization of what was really going on.
Growing up constantly being told you’d never amount to anything isn’t easy to take, nor is hearing how I’m so pathetic. Thousands upon thousands of children hear this at some point in their life. I’m not saying that I’m that different just that I have scars from the verbal abuse I endured.
So why am I on a victims of CSA website and blog? Simply put, I’m a victim of a victim.
No, I was not sexually abused but I did suffer from the effects of CSA, the effects they had on my mother. Because she chose not face the things that happened to her when she was younger, this played a huge role on how she interacted with others. Her relationships with her family and extended family suffered.
On the outside and in public, she was a stunning, beautiful woman. Very intelligent and determined to become more – do more, no one would have ever thought she was battling with her own doubts. At home, she tended to be disconnected, cold and hard-hearted. I don’t remember a lot of hugs and kisses growing up. I sat back and watched as my friends had seemingly great relationships with their mothers and would envy their mother/daughter connection. It was hard.
Over the years, my attempts to reach out and share the events of my life weren’t received very well. I think the most intimate mother/daughter moments we shared were when I got married or when I had my child. It’s still hard – sometimes I mourn that lost relationship – the memories that could have been but never were.
In my early motherhood days, I found myself reacting to things the way my mother used to – quick to anger and disconnected. I came to realize a cycle was starting and not a healthy one. I realized I was turning into my mother and not in those funny, cute ways we joke about with our friends. This cycle of hatred at the world had begun and I had to do something about it to break the cycle or another innocent child would fall victim to this madness. Another relationship would suffer.
You see, during my late high school years, my mom had confided in me her deep dark secret. She was sexually abused as a child. I never really grasped how deep the pain was, how deeply it effected who she had become. I really don’t think the light bulb of that reality hit me until after I had my own child and knew I had to break the cycle of anger.
For those of you out there afraid to take the steps to get help, please realize, you’re not the only victim. How you react to the travesty of what happened to you can last for generations. I’m asking you to take the steps necessary to begin healing – If you don’t do it for you, do it for those you love, your wife, your husband, your children and even your grandchildren.
If you find yourself in my shoes – please know you aren’t alone. Reach out to Together We Heal or find someone you can talk to. Know you are worthy and don’t believe the words spoken in anger. I know it’s not easy to accept, but you can overcome this and break the cycle.
Please don’t ever forget – To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.
By Michelle Lea Anthony-Hopper
Michelle is not just a friend, she’s also the TWH web designer, webmaster and on the Board of Consultants. Much like she was unaware of my abuse, I was unaware of what she had been through until we started working together on projects for TWH. We are honored to have her as an integral member of the TWH team and family.
Hellen Keller was once asked, “Is there anything worse than being blind?” She replied, “Yes, the most pathetic person in the world, is someone with sight, but no vision.”
Hellen Keller said this decades ago. And sadly it’s where I believe my country, the United States of America, is at this very moment in time. We have, as a nation, all the abilities and resources known to mankind, and yet all too often we allow our most precious resource and the most vulnerable, to be continually dismissed, neglected, abused and laid to rest without a second thought…our children.
We have the ability to “see”, but have no effective “vision” for protecting our children. Not a single day passes as we read about yet another child being sexually abused. I know because I’m posting these stories on our website. I actually have to limit and keep it to a minimum for fear that people would stop reading. That, and the toll it takes on my psyche.
So why is it that with all of the abilities and resources we have, we fail as a society to protect them? I had a close friend of mine, Patrick Tomlinson, point out something to me I had not considered. He said the following, “In some ways I think the American Dream is a problem – there is an idealization by many Americans of how ‘great’ the country is – this then makes it challenging to raise some of the not so great realities into public focus. Maybe we should talk less about being great, the land of the free, etc., and more about tackling some of the serious issues that plague children’s/people’s lives?”
And then he brought up another point that really struck a chord with me because it’s an issue I had to deal with. He said, “In the writing you’re doing about the problem of religious groups covering up sexual abuse, how much cover up and denial goes on in the USA – it’s huge. If you are a pedophile you may be protected by the law, but not a drug user who might be blotting out the pain of abuse. While some perpetrators remain free, people who have committed drug related offenses often connected to their trauma, end up in prison.” It was as if he hit me over the head. My own abuser walks free to this day and sexually abused many others after me, meanwhile I became addicted to narcotics to cover the pain and ended up incarcerated for possession. But I’ve already shared that story with you and it’s not the focus of today. The point is how we let offenders go, frequently.
Just last week I posted a story about a pastor of a Baptist church in Iowa who confessed and was convicted of raping four teen boys. He was sentenced to 17 years…only to have a judge overturn the sentence to NO JAIL TIME. This is a perfect example of what Patrick was speaking. We are so consumed with consumption and the belief in this “great” nation but we are failing when it comes to protecting our children. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my county and I DO believe it’s one of the best in the world. But if we don’t change our attitudes and treatment of children, we won’t have the bright future we always hoped to have. I know it’s a cliché to say, the children are our future, but it’s the truth. And if we don’t start defending them from these sexual predators and a judicial system that gives protection to the offenders, these same children will remember when they are older and in charge and will say “to hell with you” when it comes our time to be the ones in need. And frankly, the way we are behaving now, we will deserve it.
The issue is straightforward, as is the answer. Right now, the statute of limitation laws on sex crimes against children are so pathetic, they allow pedophiles/sexual predators to commit hundreds of offenses without fear of prosecution. We MUST make it a nationwide law, and quit trying to go state by state. Make it so there are NO statute of limitations on sex crimes against children. While this won’t help past crimes, it will begin to change the outcome of the future and will let victims know they can finally come forward when a crime has been perpetrated against them. Or if we must go state by state, then please help us do something about it. Demand of every congressman in the nation, if they don’t pass the law now, next election you will put someone in office who will. And hold them to it. Don’t say, well my congressman is good and he/she is trying…horse hockey! Hold their feet to the fire, make them get it done, or boot them out of office.
The law in the USA is in marked contrast to that in other countries. For instance in the UK there is no protection of sexual offenders who committed crimes, however long ago. This has been evident with the recent scandals regarding TV celebrities, many of them family entertainers and household names, some even knighted. One such person, who is now over 80 years old is sentenced to prison. The issue should not be how long ago did the crime(s) take place but whether the person is guilty or not. Of course, it takes a degree of bravery as a nation to have laws like this, no doubt in the UK difficulty and embarrassment have also been caused to the establishment who worked with some of these pedophiles. And then there are the potential law suits against institutions such as the BBC. So it could be argued that the powers that be would have a vested interest in limiting the occurrence of these situations – the current statute of limitations works against the victims of childhood sexual abuse who cannot always talk about the crimes perpetrated against them, until many years later. And unfortunately it does protect pedophiles/sexual predators who remain free to commit further crimes.
Today in the USA, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the age of 18. That’s ridiculous for this nation, and we as humans to allow this to happen. And we do allow it to happen by not doing enough to prevent it. The responsibility for this cannot be expected to lie solely with Government Policy, Social Work and Child Protection agencies – it is a responsibility for us as citizens, communities and society. Also of our institutions, schools, churches, synagogues, etc., some of whom are protecting these predators and we’re allowing them to do that too. They pay hush-money or deny or cover-up. And because, as Patrick pointed out, we don’t want to think our great nation has that “bad” of a problem, the reality is too painful, so we are tempted to collude and deny.
I’ll quote my friend again, “After all these years, we have the ‘greatest nation on earth’ and some of the most trusted people in society prey on and abuse children and as you have said, worse than that they can be protected by the system and sometimes those in power – this has been evident in religious institutions that have actively attempted to cover up child abuse.
Ask yourself this one question, why? Why do we continue to allow these crimes to happen? One answer is very simple, we don’t think it will happen to our kids. It’s only when someone dies at an intersection do lawmakers put up a traffic light. The same attitude is with childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The only ones you hear saying anything are those who have been abused. Unfortunately, although our numbers are staggeringly high, it’s just too difficult for most to come forward. And because generally the squeaky wheel gets the grease, victims of CSA go without justice because they are afraid to come forward. So it’s up to the rest of our civilized society. We need this great nation to finally step up, live up to its great name and be the voice for the voiceless, lend strength to those without the might and be courageous for those living in fear and shame of the awful crimes perpetrated against them. Please help. We cannot do this on our own. We need you as a nation to quit looking the other way, and be the nation our forefathers intended…one that protects its children.
If the saying is true, “the meaning of life is to give life meaning”, then what does it say about us as a nation of we fail to give our children’s life meaning, or worse, allow theirs to be stolen from them by sexual predators as we sat by and did nothing?
Act now…be the reason our children’s lives have meaning.
As recovering addicts and/or survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we often compare what we went through to that of others. It’s human nature. We think to ourselves, well what they went through was so much worse than myself, what gives me the right to complain. Or conversely, we look at another and say, oh come on, that’s all? We constantly do this.
I remember sitting in my first few NA rooms, listening to story after story and thinking, I’m not like these folks at all. I’m no crackhead, walking the streets, selling my body for a $10 high. Or I would rationalize, I’ve NEVER shot junk in MY veins or shared a needle with a disease-riddled body. Then one day I heard a story not so different from mine. It’s what therapists and sponsors call “your moment of clarity”. It’s when you finally come to terms with your own addiction and figure out, an addict is an addict is an addict. It doesn’t matter what the drug is, or the background your come from or even what you’ve done to get high. It’s when you acknowledge that you have no control over the drugs that control you.
And being a survivor of CSA is no different. It doesn’t matter who abused you, how often it happened, what they did to you or they made you do to them. A survivor is a survivor is a survivor. One case is not “worse” or “lesser” than another. To illustrate let me share a story a trusted friend told me many years back. He asked me to answer what appeared to be a simple question.
First, a teen about to go on their very first prom date when, BAM! A huge zit appears at the very end of their nose. With no way to conceal and no time to heal, panic and anxiety set in.
Second, a young man has just been told by the Dean, his academics did not pass this semester and will be on probationary suspension for 1 term. How does he begin to explain this one to mom and dad? And did I mention, he’s on scholarship because they have no money to send him to college.
Third, a couple just received a $30,000.00 bill from the IRS. Evidently their CPA was didn’t file properly and no matter what, they are now liable for all monies, plus penalties. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it, they MUST pay and they don’t have enough savings to cover it. And oh yeah, their daughter just came home pregnant from college. Another two mouths to feed and bodies to keep warm and safe inside their home.
So the query is…which one is “worse”?
Being the bright young man I was at the time, I told him, oh this is easy! I’ve already had a “zit moment” that totally embarrassed me in high school. He or she will eventually forget all about that nonsense! As for the young man in school, I could relate. Got into some trouble in college and had to “sit out” a semester myself. No biggie! I went to Florida for that term, worked for my dad and when I’d “done my time and penance”, I reenrolled, finished up and graduated from the University! So the answer was clear, the couple with the 30k debt to the IRS. What a horrible position to be in. With no foreseeable way to pay, with a child and a grandchild returning “home” in need of mom and dads support, both emotionally and financially. This was a no-brainer.
Turns out, I was the only one with no brain! You see, we each “see” the prism of crisis through our own life experience. If we have already been through an event, we understand what lies on the other side. What potential outcomes there may be. Even what variety of options are available to us. But to each and every one of those folks, the situation before them was the “worst” they had ever faced at that point in their lives. With NO idea of how they were going to get through it. It’s truly relative when it comes to situational crisis. There is no such thing as a “bigger or lesser” problem. To whomever is going through what they are going through, at that moment, it’s the biggest challenge they’ve had to face.
So keep this in mind when working with others or when addressing your own struggles. Remember to be compassionate to those around you. And don’t forget to give yourself a break too. We all need some sympathy and empathy in our times of trials and tribulation.
One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. –Anonymous
Truth is truth, right? And if it is so, then whether we agree with it or not, it’s still the truth. You may not agree with the concept of gravity, especially if you’re like me when you step on a scale. But if you step off a second floor balcony with no net to catch your fall, you will discover a hard, cement-tasting truth.
Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno and multiple other thinkers were at one time called heretics. In the end, what they found to be the truth went against ALL popular “scientific” notions of the day, religious beliefs or merely values held at the time.
I say this to bring to light the following truth I’ve discovered in my own life –
“You must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”
I know, I know, sounds like a psychobabble cliche, but just as we call something a “generalization”, there’s a reason, that’s because they are “generally” true. So this time, with a non-judgmental or preconceived notion, let me repeat and have you read it once more…
…”you must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”
I admit it sounds a bit ominous. And while it may be hard to hear, I’m merely trying to make a point, emphasizing the truth I discovered in my own life. It wasn’t until I went back to my past; the acknowledgment of the childhood sexual abuse that I endured from ages 12-15, that enabled me to begin to work through the issues of the present of that time. Once acknowledged and beginning to heal, I finally, for the first time in almost 10 years, began to see the potential of a future that lay ahead.
Once upon a time, I was heavily addicted to multiple narcotics to numb myself from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. This led to three arrests, jail time, fines, no drivers license for a year, loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages from a career I was genuinely passionate about. And in varying degrees, it cost me a relationship of five years, another of four and even an earlier one of six years. This “past” was destroying my “present” and if something didn’t give, my “future” was going to be even more limited than it already was!
But my story is not an isolated one. It’s not even unique and definitely not as harsh, from my perspective, as some others have been through. But that’s just from my life view. We all have a different one.
So how do we do accomplish this task? How do we get from point A to point B? That is to say, how do we look into our past, into that abyss, without falling back in? Then how do we take that information, apply it to our present so that we have the opportunity to move on into a more positive future? A lot of questions with multiple choice answers, I know.
Even if you’re not an addict or alcoholic, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “admitting you have a problem is the first step.” And with survivors of CSA, this saying has some weight as well, just with a different angle. It’s not that we have to admit we have a problem, we have to admit that a horrible event and crime was perpetrated against us. And this is not an easy or small task. In fact, in my case, I made numerous trips to the place where I knew I had to address my abuser. I drove past it, I stopped at the driveway, heck one time I even got out of the car, was walking up the door of the church, when I turned around and drove back home. In total, it took me 6 trips to finally be able to speak out against my abuser. To tell the people in authority above him exactly what he was, what he was capable of, and the danger he posed to the very children he was charged with protecting.
And that last thing i just mentioned was the real motivation behind what i had to do. More than just my own self-serving, self-healing desires behind the action I knew I had to take, more important than shedding the light on the past…even more at stake was the future of the lives of his potential victims.
I know now I wasn’t his first victim, nor was I his last. And how I wished, prayed and pleaded that someone had come forward before he got to me. So now it was up to me. Now I had the strength to face the cold, hard truth. I knew if the young boys he had access to were to have any chance of a future free from the emotional, physical and spiritual torture I experienced, I was going to have to step up and tell the truth of what this monster is.
If I was to have any potential peace with my own future I had to make sure, to the best of my ability, that no other little boy in his life would be molested, abused or raped. And so I did just that. I acknowledged my past, I took action in the present, and I know now I have done all I could within my power to help those boys have a decent future. And in doing so, my future too is one of peace and healing.
So do whatever you need to enter your past in a healthy way. Whether through one-on-one counseling, group therapy or any other professional help you require. Seek it out so you can begin to “fix” your present. And by that I simply mean whatever will help you begin to heal, I know from personal experience nothing gets “fixed” to what it was before. But in doing this, by beginning to heal, you will have a chance to take back what was stolen from you and to have a future and peace you deserve.
“We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build, but by the monuments we destroy.”
NY Times Editorial, 1963
What greater monument to mankind is there other than our children? The only time we are given the ability to assist God in creating. So is there any worse crime, any more horrific tragedy or any greater destruction, than that of the innocence of a child; their heart, their spirit.
As survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we must become the advocates of those whose voices are still silenced.
After we have come to our own acceptance of truth and healing we are the ones who can best help others to do the same.
Our “mission” of sorts is to be positive without negating or downplaying the trauma of this type of crime – to remind ourselves and others that hope is available and accessible.
We want to get this right – How to best lift up the victims to become survivors and as Grace Gayle put it, from victims to victors.
To let anyone who has been through childhood sexual abuse come to the same truth and understanding that this was NOT their fault – they are NOT alone – they have NO reason to feel shame or ashamed, and that they can be strong and courageous by coming forward, identify their abuser and move ahead with their life to give them the best possible chance of having lasting friendships and loving relationships.