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.
We have received a request to participate in a research project. These studies can help with the understanding and treatment of those who have suffered abuse.
Please only participate if you feel strong enough emotionally, mentally, etc., to do so. We don’t want anyone to be triggered due to the level of questions asked.
Most research on clergy abuse has examined the perpetrating clergy rather than the survivors they have impacted. Because so little is known from the survivors’ perspective, a study is being conducted by researchers at Nova Southeastern University (IRB protocol # 04241319Exp) to examine the unique psychological and spiritual effects of clergy sex abuse on those survivors.
We are looking for adults (those over age 18) who survived childhood abuse (before the age of 18) by either a clergy member or a member of their family to participate in this study. Information from survivors of sexual abuse by a family member will allow us to examine how clergy abuse may impact survivors differently than familial abuse.
If you choose to participate in this study, you will be asked to complete an anonymous online survey with questions about your sexual abuse history and your current psychological and spiritual functioning. Because of the importance of having a comparison group, feel free to share this study link with others you know who may have been abused, even if the abuser was not clergy.
Please help extend our knowledge of the effects of clergy sexual abuse by following the link below:
Day 4 of our week of fundraising – Not Short But VERY IMPORTANT
My thought process behind not setting a “dollar goal” for our fundraising week was in the belief that those inclined to give would give as much as they could. And for those who didn’t realize fundraising was our primary way of getting the monies needed to operate Together We Heal, it would explain the need. Evidently either things are still too tight or the amount needed isn’t clearly understood. I’m thinking a little of both but more so the latter. So with that in mind I’m going to better clarify what is needed.
Last year, in order to pay for therapy that wasn’t done pro bono, to travel to give presentations and workshops to educate parents, guardians and others on how to better protect children from sexual predators, to keep the website and all our online presence up and running, to work on reforming statute of limitation laws, and more events and behind the scenes work than would be read if I itemized them all; we needed in excess of $5,000.
And the need increases every week, every month and will certainly increase for 2015 as more survivors learn of the aid we provide at free of charge to those who either can’t afford it or that don’t have access to insurance to cover the costs.
We are setup on the same premise as St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital; we don’t turn anyone away based on money. If they don’t have it, we find a way to get therapists to donate time or raise the money to pay for it. Which brings us back to today.
We need your help to continue the work we do. We cannot without your help. Because of your gifts, lives have been changed and saved. This is no exaggeration. Survivors of CSA need your help. Children need your protection. And with your help we can and will continue to do all of these things and more.
We are setup the way we are because this is what saved my life. Because someone was willing to help me when I had no money or ability to pay, help was given to me when I needed it most. I was able to finally address the struggles and issues that were destroying my life. The sexual abuse I suffered as a child was eroding what little was left of my life. So now, Together We Heal is doing the same for others. But we genuinely need your help. When we started there were just a few survivors asking us for help. Those days are long gone. We now have survivors from all over the world and we work with therapists and Counselors on three continents. And this happens because of your previous donations. As we grow, so grows the need for more funds. Please give so we can help more, serve more and protect more.
Thank you all so very much
Please go to our website and find the SMALL “donate” button at the bottom. The big donate button isn’t working right now but we’re working on it. Also, you can send a check to:
Together We Heal, Inc.
2336 NE Rustic Place
Jensen Beach, FL 34957
Just make the checks to “Together We Heal, Inc.” We are an official 501(c)(3) so your donations ARE tax deductible!
Well everyone, we’re coming upon the time of year when all of Together We Heal’s annual “bills” are due. It’s also the time of year I dread the most. Not because of the bills necessarily, but because I’m forced into a position to do something a hate doing…asking for donations.
Unfortunately the work we do doesn’t take place free of charge. I could go into the list, and will do so if anyone wants an itemized list, but rather than bore you with the details, please know the need never ends.
We have survivors of childhood sexual abuse who need counseling, a website that requires money to operate and travel expenses to give presentations and workshops. These workshops help to educate the public on all matters of CSA, the grooming techniques of sexual predators and how to keep our children safer from them.
We are not setting a “goal” we are going to trust that the amount needed for the upcoming year will be met by what your heart says to give. I can tell you that lives have been are continuing to be changed because of what you’ve given in the past. And with the holidays just around the corner and many events planned for 2015, the need will only grow.
If you will, please go to our website and find the SMALL “donate” button at the bottom. The BIG donate button isn’t working right now but we’re working on it. Also, you can send a check to:
Together We Heal, Inc.
2336 NE Rustic Place
Jensen Beach, FL 34957
Just make the checks to Together We Heal, Inc. We are an official 501(c)(3) so your donations ARE tax deductible!
I would not ask if we didn’t truly need. And as I said, I hate doing this but it’s necessary for us to continue the work we do to help survivors, change the laws protecting predators and prevent childhood sexual abuse. Thank you in advance for any amount you can give!
Although September was the official “Suicide Prevention Month”, I want to pass along some information I feel both compelled to share and do so in part as it relates to both survivors of childhood sexual abuse and any others who have been through trauma that has left them feeling as if there’s no hope.
At Together We Heal, one of our primary functions is to let fellow survivors know they are NOT ALONE. And since one of the many reasons leading to suicide is this feeling of hopelessness and/or abandonment, please read, take it to heart and share with others.
Let your friends, family and loved ones TRULY KNOW they are loved, appreciated and above all…they are NOT alone and help IS available.
Need help? In the U.S., call 800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
I read an article the other day from Ross Szaba, CEO of the Human Power Project. In it, he made some articulate points on this issue:
“Yesterday, the White House had a briefing on mental health and suicide prevention in honor of Suicide Prevention month. Advocates, professionals and organizations often use the words, “mental health,” in a way that assumes everyone knows what mental health is. Unfortunately, that’s not true. If we’re going to decrease stigma and have an honest conversation about mental health, then we need to take a step back and make sure all of us are on the same page.
Here are three things to clear up the confusion.
1. Mental Health is not having a mental illness.
Oftentimes when people hear the words mental health they only think of mental illnesses, celebrity breakdowns or worst-case scenarios. They do not think of healthy images. The word mental has a stigma attached to it that can immediately trigger scenes from horror movies, school shootings and epic celebrity breakdowns like Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes or Lindsey Lohan.
However, mental health is not having a problem. It’s how you address all of the challenges in your life. It’s how you handle stress, break-ups, rejection, lack of sleep, loss and everything else. We need a clear definition of mental health as a baseline. The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
2. Mental health is as important as physical health.
Teaching people solely about mental illnesses isn’t the best way to be preventative or proactive in preparing them for their lives. We need to teach mental health the same way we teach physical health. The education needs to start at the youngest age possible and carry through all levels of school.
When people are asked to describe physical health they use words like diet, exercise, muscles, CrossFit, yoga, Pilates, gluten-free, the Bar Method etc., (I live in LA) or any other description that implies taking care of yourself. Again, when people are asked to describe mental health they rarely use words that have a positive connotation.
Your brain is one of the most important parts of your body. You can exercise, develop and strengthen your brain as much as you do your body. There are obvious exercises like memory, crosswords and puzzles. Another thing you can do is to evaluate your coping mechanisms. People strengthen their muscles with exercise and stretching. You can strengthen your mental health by creating effective coping mechanisms.
3. Mental health is for everyone.
I give a lot of presentations about mental health. Not surprisingly, most of the presentations I give are mandatory, because what college student is sitting in his dorm room thinking, “I wish there were more mental health speakers coming to campus. I’m tired of going to parties and having fun.”
My favorite person in my audiences is the person who upon learning he is at a mental health presentation rationalizes it by thinking, “I’ll listen to this, so I know what to do for other people.” Balanced mental health is something all of us should have. I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder with anger control problems and psychotic features. Someone else may only experience small levels of stress. In both of these cases our goal should be to have balanced mental health.
So in the immortal words of Oprah. You get mental health. You get mental health. You get mental health…”
Additionally, a colleague of ours, Claire Quiney, forwarded the following showing the warning signs, impact of, and putting in an easily understandable graphic why it’s so important for us to pay attention to this challenge faced by so many.
The graphic can be seen at its original location here:
But above and beyond all we’ve covered today, take home this point made by all the previous authors and contributors…If we will take just a moment to talk WITH those around us, we might be the one who stands between them and making this fateful decision. Please reach out to those you know and love! And as I say all the time…Together We Can Truly Heal!
Once again, we were given the honor of speaking out on behalf of both drug addicts and survivors of childhood sexual abuse in recovery. We discuss the struggles of both, the ability to find a healing path and what to do in those moments of feeling “stuck“.
When you have a moment, please take some time to listen in on this invaluable information that I know can help begin a transformative time in your life if you have challenges with one or both.
The dialogue between myself and Misa Leonessa Garavaglia brought up some great points toward finding a healing path. Please do listen and let us know if we can help.
Healing Addiction, Part 1- Addiction and Child Sexual Abuse
“Keep your eyes and ears open because you never know what surprises, good or bad, are around the corner and from where they might come.”
In today’s lesson, I heard something that struck a deep chord and of all things while watching a TV show. Today’s TV is not your mom and dads TV. By that I mean if you’re looking for brilliant insight into humanity you’re probably fishing in the wrong hole. But to my surprise I heard an insightful quote while watching the show, “Criminal Minds”.
This little nugget of introspection came from Norman Cousins, a noted American author, professor and journalist. He says:
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies inside of us while we live.”
Do yourself a favor and re-read it. Then read it again. And really consider what he’s saying.
I have read, re-read, mulled over and marinated in these words. And I have related them to being a victim and then survivor of childhood sexual abuse/molestation/rape. From that very first night of abuse, I died inside. The innocence of childhood, my faith in the goodness of people, my belief that I had self-worth, feeling as though I had a purpose in life, my trust in the clergy and for a long time even my belief in God, much less a God of mercy, justice and love…all of that was gone, it was gone and dead.
I would wonder, what kind of a God would or could allow such atrocities to happen to a child? I now understand, or at least hold the belief, that it isn’t my God that allows this to happen, it’s men and women with a free will who choose to commit these heinous crimes.
Right now my abuser walks free, with not so much as a blemish of a criminal record. All because of laws that protect sexual predators rather than the children’s lives and spirits they destroy. And every day I live with this pain, this loss, and even though I’ve developed tools to help me work through my own trauma, it has still killed a part of me. A part that feels rotten inside. Meanwhile this monster still has easy, open, unlimited access to little boys and at times it feels as though there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. And this boggles my mind. I wonder every day, how many other little “me’s” are being groomed for the same destruction? How many other David’s, Christopher’s and Andy’s is he building up, just to tear them down from the inside out?
And that’s when I gained some understanding of what Mr. Cousins meant when he said, “The greatest loss in life is what dies inside of us while we live.” I know all too well that feeling of being dead inside. The feeling as though my core is more like a zombie; rotting, oozing out a putrid smell of guilt, shame and self-blame that for so long I felt there was no help. I was already dead inside so I might as well do my best to finish the job Frankie started. He killed my inside so I’ll kill the outside. And as many of you know who’ve read or heard my story, I set out on a path of self-destruction via narcotics.
It wasn’t until I realized there was a reason I was being self-destructive, that I also came to understand I could begin to heal that inner side, I could even resurrect it. While it would never be the same, because wounds are wounds and they leave scars in spite of any healing that occurs. I DO have worth, and I could begin to have some semblance of a life once again.
So while I agree with Mr. Cousins, as it pertains to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, our greatest loss is what died in us while we were still alive, I also believe we can heal, there is hope, and even justice for some. But not without work; challenging, wrist-wringing, memory shaking, tear-filled, anger-filled, fist-clenching work.
It’s with these thoughts I began asking myself some questions.
1) What died inside of me?
As I mentioned before, there is a laundry list of things I felt had died: the innocence of my childhood, my faith in the goodness of people, my belief In myself and that I had worth, feeling as though I had a purpose in life, my trust in the clergy and for a long time my belief in God, believing that I was a good person. I felt as if I was dirty, filthy and used.
2) Why did it die?
Betrayal, denials of those in a position to help, lies, being treated as though you are to blame, abandoned, feeling totally and completely alone,
3) What are the consequences of the death?
Substance abuse/addiction, suicide, loss of jobs due to inability to maintain focus, inability to maintain healthy relationships, never have opportunity to have children/family, no stability, loss of sanity, DID, the list is virtually endless…
Alone, feeling powerless and incapable of moving forward or healing.
6) What does this death feel like? How do we describe it to those that haven’t been through what we have?
I think for most of us, the death is both instant and lengthy. The moment the abuse begins, the death occurs…that’s the instant part. But then comes the pain; the extended, ongoing cruel torture inside us. It’s like a long, drawn out illness, only instead of seeing a gradual decline as in a long term cancer, it’s more like having your head cut off by a guillotine that goes very slowly, making you feel every millimeter. It’s an agonizing pain that continues until the head is finally severed from the body. The only difference is we’re still alive, enduring the pain and with no relief in sight.
7) When this “death” occurs, when do we recover…do we recover? And the million dollar question…When is it “time”? When do we begin to heal?
To answer these questions I must also acknowledge some other questions we as survivors ask ourselves and ask each other. When will I start feeling better? When will I begin this healing process you talk about so much?
And to answer those questions I have to tell you a story about my most beloved dog. A Rottweiler named Chelsea who was the best dog I ever had. She was the most loving, sweetest dog and everyone loved her and she loved everyone. True story, my next door neighbor came over one day while throwing a pool party and asked if Chelsea could come over and play. Honest to God! They said I could come too, but who they really wanted was Chelsea. So I said sure and off they went…8 hours later I go over and Chelsea is still hopping in and out of the pool, playing with everyone and having a great time. So there’s your back story of this amazing dog.
As happens with all our pets, one day we learn they are not going to be with us much longer. In my case, I learned Chelsea had bone cancer. A very painful type of cancer, so I’m told, and so I asked the veterinary oncologist the same question I’m asked about recovery…when will I know “it’s time”?
In the most caring way he could verbalize he said, “because you have been with her for so long, almost her entire life, (which at this point was 10 years), only you will be the one to know when that time comes”.
I didn’t understand so I further questioned him and he said, “let me put it like this, one day you will see, one day you will know it’s time and only you will know when that times comes. I can’t describe what that day will be, but when it occurs, you will know it’s time.”
At this point, it only further frustrated me. So a few months went along and Chelsea was doing ok. She would have a moment of pain where she would yelp, but then hop right back up and all was for the most part ok.
Then came “that” morning. I woke up and noticed she wasn’t in the bed beside me or on the floor next to it. I called out for her but heard no jingle of her collar or clicking of her toenails on the tile floor. So I knew immediately something wasn’t right.
I went into the room, called out her name and as she tried to get up, she wailed in agony and fell back to the ground. She tried this two more times with equally painful cries so I ran to her side and kept her from trying to get up so she wouldn’t continue hurting herself.
There it was…just as the vet described it…the moment I knew Chelsea couldn’t handle any more pain, and to put her through anymore would be inhumane. So I made the call every dog lover hates, the one letting them know that your beloved and most faithful companion must be put to sleep. Fortunately I had an amazing vet who didn’t require me to bring Chelsea to the clinic. She and vet tech drove to my home and they did the procedure in her own home where she would feel as safe as possible.
I laid with her the entire time so she didn’t have to move around. When the vet arrived she gave me all the time I wanted, but it’s never enough. She shaved a spot on her leg, placed the IV in and let me know when I was ready, to say goodbye. And for the first time in Chelsea’s entire life she did something she’d never done…when I said ok to the vet, she let out a quiet growl directed at the Vet. It was as if to say, “dad, if you do this, I can’t protect you anymore.” It broke my heart and I cried like a baby. I gave her a kiss, and she gave me one last, big, wet slobbery one. Then, in a quiet, peaceful moment, she was gone. With no pain and without a noise.
So why did I tell you this story? Because for those of us working through the emotional struggles of CSA, the same is true…only we will know when the time is right. Only we will know when we are ready to move forward, to heal, to grow. And no one can tell you when it will happen. I know that’s not the answer anyone wants to hear, but it’s the truth.
Fortunately I have some good news to end this story. As the doctor told me, only you will know when it’s “time”. And when that “time” comes, hope and healing will follow. I promise.
“There are things in my past that have made me afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not sure what will happen, but whatever it is, it’s better than being afraid.”
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!
Sunday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm ET, I was interviewed on Elaine Crocker’s Radio Show.
In addition to recapping my story of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), we discussed the correlation between CSA and drug addiction/substance abuse.
Elaine’s show is called Experience-Strength-Hope
The foundation of her show is: Everyone experiences defeat, heartbreak, loss. Hear inspiring stories of perseverance from people who have found strength & hope in and through despair.
If you are a survivor of CSA, and/or have had or still struggle with substance abuse, or if you know someone who has been through this, please take a few moments to listen. My hope is that you find some information that will help you or someone you love.
Unlike the era I grew up in, times are different now. You WILL be believed, people WILL listen and help, healing and hope ARE available. All you have to do is reach out and we’re here for you.
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.
In the following article you will read why the fight to make change within the Roman Catholic Church, and any organization really, takes so long…if ever. It’s because the very people charged with the duty of protecting our children are the ones offending and committing the crimes and then doing all they can to cover it up.
This is why we do what we do. This is why we won’t stop until these people are removed from places of authority. And this is why we continue to ask for your help. All of our children and the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse need your help. If you don’t, then who will? Certainly not the people in power right now. They are in self-preservation mode and they couldn’t care less about your kids or the ones already harmed.
But don’t take my word for it…PLEASE, do your own research and find out for yourself. Then join us in fighting this evil that is beyond the pale and do something to help. Give financially if able, give of your time to kids in need, or offer your services to adults who cling to life every day because of the pain they live in. Please do something. I’m begging of you.
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.