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.
This week I received a phone call from a grandmother in turmoil. It was evident in her voice just how scared and desperate she was for help.
Her dilemma was the same I’ve heard, tragically, too many times before. She said, “my son-in-law is sexually abusing my grandchildren but I have no proof, I just KNOW it.”
So I continued the conversation with her as I had done so many times before, by asking questions.
I asked, “Have you seen him touch them inappropriately? Have the children told you anything to alert you? Have you spoken to your daughter, their mother? Have you filed a police report?” And on and on we went.
And again, her responses were like ones I’ve heard countless times. “Yes, I’ve seen him touch one child in a way I knew was wrong and he smiled at me while he did it, knowing there was no way I could say anything. He was a cop so he knows people. They’ve stopped letting me see the kids. My daughter doesn’t believe me.”
As we went further, she said the following statement that made me want to cry. She said, “I’m scared that if I do something about this, if I go to the police, who I don’t think will help anyway, that I will lose the relationship with my daughter. I want to have a relationship with her. What do I do??”
So I paused…and I answered her question with a question. I asked her what I’ve asked of parents and guardians, churches and parishes, person after person…
What is your priority?
What is more important to you; the safety of a child, or a “relationship” with your child built on denial and the potential enabling of a sexual predator?
Because it’s more likely than not that one day you will have to choose…what is more important to you, what is more sacred to you. If what you believe in your heart of hearts is true, then you can’t have both if your child chooses to stay with and protect the one harming your grandchildren.
And let’s say, worst case scenario, you’re wrong. Then what? Will a child who truly loves you hold it against you forever that you were trying to protect their
child? I don’t believe so. And if so, then the relationship has many more
issues than this one.
Now, if you just don’t like your son-in-law and this is some sick, perverted way to drive a wedge, then you will be held accountable for that one day. But if not, if your intentions are pure, as are your concerns, then you really only have one choice.
Those babies have NO VOICE, NO DEFENSE, NO ONE TO PROTECT THEM. And you MUST be THEIR defender, THEIR voice. If not you, then who???
It’s what we all must ask ourselves…IF NOT US, THEN WHO?!?
God how I wish someone who had concerns back in 81 or 82 or 84 or 85 or 91 or 92 or, or, OR (and there were PLENTY of them) would’ve had the courage to stand up and say, what the hell is this man doing with these little boys at his house overnight?!?!
The following was posted on August 30th, 2014 at our friend and colleague, Boz Tchividjian’s blog, “Rhymes With Religion”. Boz has been a consistent advocate for children from his time as a prosecutor to his current position as the founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment),
Being a grandson of Billy Graham, one would reasonably assume the work he does would be welcomed at churches, especially Southern Baptist, whose numbers are an approximate 15.75 million among 46,000 congregations.
We are learning, quite tragically, most churches only do the work of eradicating sexual predators in their midst when forced to do so. And even then, seldom to never is there any acceptance of responsibility or “heaven” forbid an actual apology to the victims and their families. Even more egregious are the few times a conviction for sex crimes against a child are secured.
Thankfully there are groups like GRACE, SharedHope, Together We Heal and others doing what we would all expect and should demand of the Church – protect children and care for those who’ve fallen victim to this most heinous of crimes. But until that occurs, we will continue to do the work. Our children are worthy of and owed protection; and survivors of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse deserve to be cared for and shown compassion and love.
Thank you Boz and thank you SharedHope for the work you do to advocate for all children and those already harmed by the wickedness of sexual predators and those who protect and defend the indefensible.
In the past few years, a there has been a growing interest amongst many Americans in raising awareness and combatting the international commercial sexual exploitation of children. This is when an adult solicits or engages in a sexual act with a child in exchange for something of value. Many incredible individuals and organizations are focusing on this global horror and are beginning to make a real difference in the lives of untold numbers of vulnerable children around the world. Only recently are our eyes beginning to open to the ugly fact that this evil also permeates in the small towns and big cities of this nation. This has been clearly evidenced in a report released this past week by SharedHope, a Christian organization that is combating sex trafficking and serving abuse survivors. The Demanding Justice Report is one of the first comprehensive studies of its kind that examines the domestic commercial sexual exploitation of children. The heartbreaking and eye-opening findings of this study are a loud call to action to every American. Especially to those of us who call ourselves Christ followers.
Everyone should take the time to read this report. In this short post, I want to highlight just a small sample of its findings and what they mean for those of us who are a part of a faith community:
Who are the buyers? The age of those who commit these sexual offenses against children ranged from 18-89 years of age, with the average age being 42. Ninety-nine percent of these offenders were male. In the cases where the profession of the perpetrator was available, over 65 percent were in professions of authority such as attorneys, police officers, and ministers. Fifty-six percent were identified as working in occupations that had regular access to children, including teachers, coaches, and youth service organizations.
Who are the victims? Of the cases studied, almost 80 percent of the child victims were female. Approximately 10 percent of the victims were under the age of eleven, while almost 42 percent were between the ages of 11 and 15. The rest were between the ages of 16 and 18. In at least five of the cases reviewed during this study, children who were abused were actually charged with prostitution! Surprisingly, in only a small number of the cases were the young victims identified as being a runaway.
How do perpetrators access the child victims? The study found that the most common way those who engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children access their prey is through direct contact in person, via text message, email, or phone. In almost 50 percent of the studied cases, the perpetrator was given access to the child through a third party such as a parent, older sibling, or a pimp.
What happens to buyers who get caught? This report studied four large urban locations and identified 134 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses. Of those cases, 118 were officially prosecuted.
Unfortunately, only 44 of those prosecuted cases resulted in convictions for offenses related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. For example, 38 of the perpetrators arrested for paying to engage in sexual contact with a child were only convicted of a prostitution solicitation offense!
What does our society communicate to child sexual abuse offenders when they get caught and only get charged with a prostitution related offense? Even worse, what are we communicating to precious children when they learn that the adult who violated them merely got convicted of soliciting a prostitute?
Only five percent of the 118 prosecuted cases resulted in the defendant receiving a sentence that included incarceration. This means that 95 percent of the buyers who were prosecuted for some form of commercial sexual exploitation of a child never served a day behind bars!
This past week, I have spent a bit of time struggling with what these extremely disturbing results mean to those of us who identify ourselves as Christians? Though I am still struggling, here are just a few of my initial thoughts that I’d like to share:
We often think of the commercial sexual exploitation of children being perpetrated by large organized trafficking rings upon children who are almost exclusively runaways. Though that is tragically true in way too many cases, this report seems to indicate that this abuse is being perpetrated by the adults in our community that we least expect upon children that we so often assume are not at risk. This report opens our eyes to the grave reality that the commercial sexual exploitation of children has no boundaries. All children are at risk.
There is little doubt that those who will pay money to sexually victimize a child are not limited to just those whom they pay to abuse. For every lawyer, doctor, coach, teacher, or pastor who is paying for sexual contact with a child, one can only wonder how many are doing so without the need to pay anything. This tells me that the prevalence of this heinous crime is far greater than we can determine. Furthermore, this study reminds us of how it is very common for perpetrators to intentionally seek out professions of trust and that most make direct contact with their victims in person, or using some form of technology. Do we truly grasp these alarming realities about dangerous adults who are members of our faith communities? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?
This report confirms the horror that no age is off limits to those who sexually assault children. We are also exposed to the lesser-known horror that a large number of these child victims are being delivered into the hands of offenders by their very own family members. Do we truly grasp these dark realities about the precious child victims who are members of our faith communities? Should we not be equally concerned about the children who are outside of our faith communities? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?
As a former prosecutor, I was extremely bothered to learn that so few offenders are sent to prison for raping children in exchange for money. What does it say about a culture when an adult who pays to sexually victimize a child is only charged with prostitution solicitation? What does it say about a culture that actually prosecutes sexually victimized children as prostitutes? Do we truly grasp these dark realities that demonstrate such little concern about those who sexually exploit children? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?
Questions are a certainly a good starting point. However, simply asking questions isn’t enough. It’s too easy for many of us to feel like we have sufficiently responded to these dark realities by simply asking tough questions. In my experience, questions that are not followed up by actions are nothing more than indifference hiding behind a pretty mask. As Christians, we embrace a different reality. A reality about a God who doesn’t simply respond to the dark realities with questions. He actually poured himself out to the point of death in order to bring light to that darkness. That is the beautiful redemption story. Our response to this mind-blowing truth is to follow Jesus into the dark realities as we pour our own lives out in actions that will make a difference. Actions that expose the dark deeds of offenders, protect and serve children, and help to transform a culture that all too often protects those who must be punished and punishes those who must be protected.
May each question propel us forward into action. It’s time to get moving.
This article can be viewed at its original location here:
My wife Linda and I had the privilege of talking with Rachel Grant, author and Beyond Surviving extraordinaire! In this episode Rachel explains the “3 Stages of Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse”. This is a can’t miss show! Please set aside some time to listen, learn and gain insight on how to truly begin to heal!
Thank you Rachel for all you do to help survivors and for being a tireless advocate and friend!
And please go to Rachel’s site – http://rachelgrantcoaching.com – for helpful information on how she can help you move further along in the healing process!
As you may or may not know, April is Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness Month. So we will be posting several articles on a variety of topics about childhood sexual abuse all month long.
This morning I sat down to “go over the numbers” of the website. I do this to drill down in order to find out what survivors want to know more about, how I can better and more effectively reach and help those in need. And it’s how I learn who is reading and from where they come.
Initially I was “elated” about the numbers I calculated. Then the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.
As of today, April 1st, 2014, the Together We Heal (TWH) website has been read in 146 countries with over 45,000 views. There are a total of 196 countries in the world. Which means that 74.5% of countries in the world have visited the TWH site in search of information on matters of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). As I admitted to you, I was elated with this statistic. Although “elated” is not the appropriate word to describe how I felt about almost 3 quarters of the globe reading, learning, accessing assistance, etc., from our web pages.
It was at that moment I was reminded what the numbers truly mean.
Consider this: We have been online since October of 2012. Which means in a relatively short amount of time, people are either finding or finding out about TWH, what we do and how we try to help. In 18 months our site has been accessed from the majority of countries on this big blue marble.
What this means is that children are being sexually abused, molested, and raped, and survivors are coming forward about the abuse they endured as children from all over the world. This is not a social, political, economical, racial or any other “al” issue/problem/challenge…this is a HUMAN problem. In spite of what some delusional leaders claim, childhood sexual abuse happens in every country, to kids from every walk of life and background. While it may occur more or less in some areas or regions, it nonetheless occurs everywhere.
And this is why I write, and write and write, and give talks and lectures and presentations. This is why we go on radio and TV and give interviews. It’s why you find us posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other social media outlet we’re able. It’s why we do fundraisers, special events, news conferences and demonstrations.
We as an organization, and myself as an individual survivor of CSA, do all of these things because children are still being victimized and having their lives shattered, innocence stolen and future permanently altered by sexual predators and pedophiles who care for nothing but their own twisted desires. And sadly, there aren’t enough people standing up to protect them or help those left with the carnage if they make it to adulthood.
So we push on. And we request, implore and beg that others join us in this fight against actual, undeniable, destructive evil. We ask because we cannot do it alone. We ask because without your help children won’t find the protection they need and darn well deserve. We ask because adults who are living with unwarranted guilt, shame and self-blame, desperately need guidance, acceptance and sincere, natural, authentic love. We ask because sexual predators know if the majority of society remains silent, they can continue to prey upon our children.
So while I was initially “pleased” with how many countries were represented by the number of views to the TWH website, it only further exposed the need to do more and help more.
So as we begin this month of raising awareness and providing help on how to better prevent childhood sexual abuse, please consider giving of your time, your talent and/or your finances. None of these is more or less important, they are all needed in equal measure. So whichever you are able to give, please find a group like Together We Heal, or any of the others out there doing similar work, and give.
Having said all of that, I am pleased with one aspect of the numbers. They tell us that survivors from all over know we are here, that there are other groups willing to help them and most importantly – they are NOT alone. As we say…together, we can heal.
And that is something every survivor and child can count on!
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.
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 a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), I have been searching for sometime to figure out a way to summarize the challenges survivors face. But due to the levels of pain and varieties of struggles each individual confronts, it seemed like this wasn’t possible. That is until I was watching, of all things a tv show, when I had a moment of clarity. A young lady had been kidnapped and was all alone. While listening to the dialogue of the actors and imagining how a real kidnap victim must feel it hit me like a ton of bricks…
The loneliest feeling in the world…is waiting to be found.
And there it was. My own personal struggle was wrapped up in that one, simple but excruciatingly painful statement. Survivors of CSA know this feeling. We live in constant fear of people learning what we are currently going through or have been through. We live in perpetual terror that our deepest, darkest secret will be exposed. Our fear, shame and guilt is compounded daily in our hearts, it weakens our spirits and like a weight, its sits on and sinks into our thoughts – emotionally, mentally and at times even physically. It feels like an wrecking ball holding us down, preventing us from moving, from doing anything or going anywhere.
The tv show I was watching showed the kidnap victim left to die, held down by spikes in the desert, hands and feet bound to those spikes. She was all alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no help in sight. And during this time, she had no idea if she would ever be found, or if she would die alone, with this horrific secret.
And in that story is the analogous representation of the degree of despair felt by survivors of CSA. We have that same sense of abandonment, of being all alone, all the while, we need and we want more than ANYTHING, for someone, ANYONE, to FIND OUT and to FIND US!
In its simplest terms, what we need is much like the moment a child has a parent rip off a bandage from a banged up knee or elbow. When a band-aid is pulled off it hurts like hell, but then when done, there is this immense sense of relief. And the growing sense of relief is so much more powerful than the instant moment of pain. Thats not to say we don’t get that band-aid ripped off over and over again when we relive the experience by telling our story, or testifying in court or being deposed, but by engaging on a healing path, we can find a way to move froward productively. Just as a survivor feels extreme emotional trauma in the moments/hours/days surrounding the time people learn the truth about their abuse, once the initial pain subsides, the healing can begin.
I know I have said this before, and I’ll continue to say it until there’s no breath left in my lungs. If you are or have been a victim of CSA, reach out now. You are not alone. You may have been left in the desert, but you now have people looking for you and available to help you. If not with TWH, find someone, some group, somewhere. They are all around and willing to help you. And may we all find the peace we deserve.
I recently read an article from childabusesurvivor.net and in it they referenced a story from the Jewish Survivors of Sexual Abuse blog. It’s a story I had heard years before in a training seminar but as the author of the blog stated, “Sometimes we just need to be reminded!”
In the room filled with more then 200 people, a well-known speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill, asking, “Who would like this $20 bill?”
Hands started going up.
The speaker said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill.
He then asked, “Who still wants it?”
Still the hands were up in the air.
Well, he replied, “What if I do this?”
And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty and asked, “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
The speaker stated: My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.
We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.
Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who LOVE you.
In the post, the author stated that, “The $20 bill is still worth $20, but once the speaker got done with it, it was different than when it started. Abuse does affect us, it does change us. It leaves scars, or dirt and creases to stay with the metaphor, but even with those effects, the value of the bill stays the same. It just takes some effort to smooth out the wrinkles.”
And I believe this is an excellent point that needs repeating. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), we often feel like that crumpled up bill. Like we’ve been run through the wringer and left out on our own. Which brings me to the point I really want to emphasize.
It’s a horrible word and feeling for survivors of CSA. We talked about it in our monthly support group meeting this past week. We went around and talked about how each of us, in our own unique but similar ways, experience the feeling of being “alone”. Not loneliness, but truly “alone”.
As we went around I heard words and phrases like “rejection”, “not believed”, “discarded”, “isolation” and one that really stuck with me, “I felt like my core was stolen”. It was that last one that I could entirely relate. As I laid in that bed, time and time again, as the abuse continued, more and more of me felt like it was disappearing, like the core of who I was, was no more. So as the years went on I tried to fill that void with things, substances and people.
The things being objects of desire, whether it be a simple knick-knack I called a collectible or a new car. The substances were narcotics that numbed me from the feeling of being alone and pain that permeated every pore of my body. And the people were a series of failed attempts to feel loved and wanted. But no matter what I tried, nothing and no one could fill that void, that feeling of being alone.
It wasn’t until I finally came to terms with what had happened, the crime perpetrated against me that I could even begin to have some sense of who I really was, what my core was made of. And I believe most survivors struggle with this. So what do we do? How do we move forward if you, like myself and others, feel that “core” is not what it should be?
The first thing you MUST know is that you are NOT alone. Right now in the USA, there are between 55 and 75 million survivors of CSA. And that’s just the ones we can count based on statistics of those who’ve come forward. So know you have many people that have been through what you have. In addition, there are now many groups established to provide the help, support and guidance that once did not exist. Whether its Together We Heal, NAASCA, RAINN or the many others out there, you have a place to go, so please reach out, and find one that will help you.
And finally, what I found that helped me begin to move forward was getting some professional help. Therapy, in it’s many forms, is available to you. For some, you might have the funds to pay for it, or if you have insurance, utilize it. And for those that have neither, there are now groups that will help you at no cost. So whether you have the funds or not, there’s no reason to not find a therapist or group that can help guide you on a healing path. A path that will help you find your core, a path to no longer feeling alone. So take a little lesson from that $20 dollar bill…reach out and find your worth. You are worthy and deserving of it.
After posting my story of childhood sexual abuse, I was asked an important question by a concerned parent. How did this monster get into your life?
The answer is both simple and complex. The easy part is that they don’t have the appearance of a monster. They don’t look like some James Bond or Cartoon character villain, with beady eyes, horns coming out of their heads, or a big neon sign saying, “STAY AWAY, PEDOPHILE HERE!” Sadly, they almost always look like everyone one else. The gentle minister, the encouraging coach, the neighbor always willing to lend a hand or the family member who seems to be there just when you need them.
And this is where the complexity comes in. How do you distinguish genuine care from pure evil? While there are no set in stone answers, there are some clues to look for and ways to evaluate what is going on. And though nothing is fool-proof, I hope it’s at least a start for you to help figure out friend from foe.
One of the most frightening things about pedophiles/sexual predators is that they seem so “normal”. They are notoriously friendly, nice, kind, engaging and like-able. And they target their victims, often insinuating themselves into that child’s life through their family, school, house of worship, sports, and hobbies. But don’t ever forget, pedophiles are professional con-artists and are experts at getting children and families to trust them. They will smile at you, look you right in the eye and make you believe they are trustworthy.
So let’s first define exactly what grooming is and then we will go into the steps involved.
Erika Lyn Smith, of the “Missing And Exploited Children Site”, gives a thorough explanation of what we are talking about.
The act of grooming a child involves spending time, energy, and money to make a child and even the parent or parents feel comfortable with the relationship. Only after a trusting relationship is established will the child predator start to become more intrusive and to test the boundaries of the relationship by pushing limits. These violations may include hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, and invading a child’s privacy while showering, dressing or toileting.
Initially a pedophile will begin to violate the physical boundaries, by accidentally touching the child through his or her clothes to see what kind of reaction he or she receives. If a child or parent questions the action the predator will likely back off and regain the trust of the child or parents before proceeding.
By befriending the parent or parents, the pedophile gains the trust of everyone in the family. Children are less likely to tell when the relationship turns sexual if the adult is someone he or she knows personally or is a friend of mom or dads. In addition, mom and dad may be less likely to listen to a child when it involves a good friend of the family.
Single parents, especially mother’s will be looking for a positive male role model if there is no father involved. Single mothers are more likely to accept offers from a child’s coach or school for help when offered. All parents needs to be vigilant when it comes to allowing someone access to his or her child, and question friendships or relationships that take up a lot of a child’s free time.
Signs that a pedophile may be grooming your child include:
• Telling a child, he or she is a “special” friend
• Bringing a child special mementos or gifts
• Talking to a child about adult issues like sex or marriage problems
• Giving a child alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
• Inviting a child to spend the night or go camping
A former F.B.I. agent named Kenneth V. Landing wrote about 5 steps he identified as the general process most sexual predators use in grooming children to be their ext victims. Below you will find this listed.
Stage 1: Identifying a Possible Victim
Although pedophiles differ in their “type” regarding age, appearance and gender, all pedophiles will look for a victim who seems in some way vulnerable.
Stage 2: Collecting Information
The next step is for the pedophile to collect as much information on the targeted victim as possible. This is most commonly done through casual conversations with both the child and the parents or caretaker.
Stage 3: Filling a Need
Once the individual has the information he needs, he then becomes part of the child’s life by filling a need. If the victim is poor, for example, the pedophile will provide him/her with expensive toys. If the victim is lonely, the pedophile will act as a friend.
Stage 4: Lowering Inhibitions
The pedophile will then start to lower the child’s inhibitions concerning sexual matters. He may come up with games or activities that involve getting undressed, make sexual comments or show the child pornographic images or pictures.
Stage 5: Initiating the Abuse
At this final stage, the pedophile begins to sexually abuse the child.
Another technique used by these predators is called the 4 “F’s”.
Friendship, Fantasy, Fear and Force.
“Friendship” is built through nurturing a relationship through bonding. The adult will usually give the child gifts, take them on special outings and show them a lot of attention.
Once a child trusts an adult, the adult can influence the child’s attitude regarding sexual behavior. Grooming may include introducing sexual content to the child as an example of what the perpetrator desires and to give the impression that the depicted acts are acceptable. If the child thinks that sex between children and adults is ok, it’s easier for the pedophile to victimize the child.
Then they will introduce “Fantasy”. They will manipulate the child with a false sense of security. They will pay a lot of attention to the child’s problems and personal matters and offer advice and counseling. They will tell the child how much they love them and that they want to have a long term, loving relationship with them.
Once the child has opened up to the pedophile, they will begin to instill “Fear” by threatening to share the child’s secrets with their classmates or their parents. Sometimes they will even threaten the life or safety of the child or of their family and friends It’s all a manipulation tactic to get the child to do what the pedophile wants them to do.
Ultimately, the pedophile uses “Force” to sexually exploit the child.
While these are by no means the only ways sexual predators work their way into ours and our children’s lives, they are at least a beginning place for parents to be on the lookout. The more information you have and the better educated you become, the more you will be able to best protect your kids.
Knowledge truly is power and we cannot give over our power to these heinous criminals. They will use every trick in the book so you have to know what they’re doing. Even more frightening, pedophiles and sexual predators work together to help each other figure out ways to gain access to our kids. Don’t believe it, read this article about a 170 page, “How To” publication put together by and for adults who prey on innocent children. They are making a concerted effort to help each other so we have to be more vigilant, more active and tireless in our work to combat these predators.
I hope this is a good start on helping you to protect your children. God knows I wish my family had been told this when I was a child. Maybe they would have been able to stop my abuse before it began. So please take a page from our family history book, educate yourselves and talk with your kids.
Our needs are increasing for more therapists/counselors. Please read and contact us ASAP!!
My name is David Pittman and I am the Executive Director for “Together We Heal”. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides cost-free counseling/therapy for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally we give presentations, workshops and seminars on how parents can better protect their children from sexual predators.
We already work with dozens of licensed therapists, counselors and life-coaches, who donate their time and talent in order to help survivors begin the healing process and work through the multiple mental health challenges they face. But that number still isn’t enough.
With ever-increasing healthcare costs combined with the limitations placed on mental healthcare providers, as well as the rising number of survivors coming forward, we find ourselves in greater need of more therapists/counselors willing to work with us to help survivors of abuse.
It is with these factors in mind that I come to you now asking for your generosity. We need more volunteers who are qualified in working with victims who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Below is a brief list of the variety of challenges these survivors face and we need for you to have experience in these areas.
Addiction & Recovery
Attachment and Abuse Issues
Depression and Anxiety
Panic Disorder and Phobias
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)
I know this is an unorthodox approach of reaching out to professionals, but we are in desperate times, and these survivors need us to take drastic measures. We are following the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital model, that no one be turned away because they can’t afford it.
We do not ask for or require any minimum time from any of our volunteers. Whatever time you are able to give, we are grateful for and appreciate. Even if you can help just one or two survivors, that would be a tremendous gift! And the need is not just in the U.S., we need therapists/counselors from all over the world as people reaching out to us come from all continents.
I know what I am asking is not easy, but I also know there are enough good-hearted people in this world who are willing to help these survivors. I know because I am a survivor of CSA and its because I had the good fortune of having such a therapist come into my life and help me that I am where I am today. It is to you I am speaking directly.
Please contact me at (754) 234-7975 or email me at email@example.com – Contact me anytime and I will respond ASAP.
When emailing, please send your CV, resume, list of certifications/degrees, or the life experience you’ve had that qualifies you to help others, so we can go through the proper vetting process.
One last point. We aren’t looking for cookie-cutter therapists and counselors. The needs of survivors vary tremendously and because of that, we have people from many types of backgrounds that work together with us. Being a survivor of abuse or having life experience can be just as important as a degree on the wall. What we need are folks that genuinely care for and want to help others. Please keep this in mind and allow your heart to guide you when considering becoming a part of this amazing team.
Executive Director, Together We Heal