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.
Impotent Georgia Act Protects Sexual Predators, Baptist & Catholic Churches and the Insurance companies that underwrite their policies.
Usually when my wife and I travel to Atlanta it’s for visiting friends and family. Atlanta is where we grew up, were high-school sweethearts and eventually where we wed. (Even if it did take me over 25 years to muster the courage to ask her to marry me!)
But this week my wife and I will be in Atlanta with an additional purpose. Actually it will be a two-fold mission.
As with almost every Together We Heal event/conference/etc., we will be teaching parents, guardians, and adults of various leadership and authority positions over children, on how to talk with kids about childhood sexual abuse and better identify the grooming methods of sexual predators.
In addition to this, we’re going to have the opportunity to lobby local representatives and their constituents about making a change that would have permanent, positive benefits for all of the children of our home state. We want to help them see how imperative it is that they pass a law eliminating the statute of limitations on all sex crimes against children.
I know, sounds like a no-brainer, right? Tragically, you’d be wrong. When myself and my wife were sexually abused as children, not one single state had such a law on the books. And it’s only been in last few years that states started passing said laws. Sadly, the pressure from “higher powers” had a greater hold on state assemblies than did the courage to do the right thing.
Based on Together We Heal’s non-profit designation, Federal law limits the amount of time we are able to spend lobbying for laws to protect children and assist victims in attaining any measure of justice. Therefore, we quite literally must make the MOST of every second of time we put forth on this type of effort.
So this week, we will be making one such effort at a DeKalb Women’s Meeting with 2 legislators in attendance. It’s our hope, that since we will be speaking to people who live where our abuse occurred, it will resonate with them on a more personal level.
That being said, here is the reason why Georgia needs to eliminate statute of limitation laws regarding sex crimes against children. And by the way, my personal example is just one in millions that have happened. I’m telling you my story so you can know that this happens all too often.
When I FINALLY gathered enough strength to come forward, name the man who sexually abused me as a child; I did what I was told to do, I went to the police because everyone said that’s what you do and certainly they would help me.
I went to DeKalb County Police Headquarters, the original one on Memorial Drive, and spoke with a detective in the Major Felony division (now called Special Victims Unit). After over 2 hours of excruciatingly painful memories being drawn out, vile detail by vile detail, it finally came to an end.
And that’s when she asked me the question she should’ve started off by asking, ”when did this crime take place?”
I told her from 1981-1984. That’s when she said the words that ripped my heart and stomach COMPLETELY out of my body and threw them in the sewer.
Her reply, “Sorry, but we can’t help you. You waited too long to report this crime.”
WHAT!? I WAITED TOO LONG?! How could I have done anything WRONG here?!?!
She said, “it’s not that you did anything wrong, you just didn’t know. There’s a law called statute of limitations. And in Georgia, since you didn’t come forward by the age of 18, the time limit is up and he can no longer be criminally prosecuted for the offense. No matter what he did to you. No matter how many times or for how many years. You’re just too late.”
Tragically the police, even when they genuinely want to help, have no way of doing so because of the laws OUR legislators keep on the books.
Ask yourself this simple question and let logic dictate the answer.
Why would OUR representatives allow such laws to protect the perpetrator and further victimize the abused???
Recently a piece of legislation was passed in Georgia called the Hidden Predator Act (HPA). It was spoken of as some amazing Act, enabling any and all previous victims to come forward and get the justice they were for so long denied.
Turns out it was smoke and mirrors to make one Georgia representative appear good, but the bill is toothless and practically worthless. Although literally a couple of survivors have been able to utilize this bill, in a state of over 10 million, the VAST MAJORITY of Georgia victims will receive no such justice. Meanwhile, their perpetrators, and the ones protecting them, will remain happy all the live long day.
Why? Because the Southern Baptist Convention, Georgia Baptist Convention, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Roman Catholic Church and the Georgia Lobby for Insurance made it so. They “persuaded” YOUR representatives to remove all language that would give victims the ability to go after the churches, institutions, schools or companies that had any role in enabling, hiding or protecting the predators. By doing this it eliminated the possibility for almost any survivor to get representation. And with no attorney, no justice. Just all of the predators free and clear, to continue abusing, molesting, raping children and murdering their innocence and souls.
Most victims don’t have the strength to come forward, if they ever do, until their 30’s or 40’s, and by then it’s “too late” with the existing laws.
Sexual predators, Baptist & Catholic leaders, the Chamber and Insurance companies know this statistic, so their bean counters and leaders “convinced” legislators to orchestrate the law to read as it does. With the current language, it protects THEIR INTEREST.
And what, might you ask is their interest.
M-O-N-E-Y, NOT Y-O-U.
If these leaders actually cared about their constituents, parishioners, etc., this would not be the case. So to these “so-called” groups of faith and elected officials I say this…
“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”
If we work together to do what’s right, protect potential future victims and enable justice for past ones, then we must pass a LAW, not a temporary bill like the one that expires in a little over a year, that does what should’ve been done already.
That’s right, the current HPA expires July 1st 2017, and at that time Georgia goes back to being one of the WORST states in the union for protecting child victims of sexual abuse.
So pass a law that ELIMINATES the statute of limitations on ALL sex crimes against children. And include language that allows for another 2-year window, only this time enable the revival against organizations & institutions and cap the claims at victims aged 53 (18 + 35). Georgia’s current bill allows victims to pursue litigation against the perpetrator only, not the people or organizations that covered it up or assisted them in any way. This is the only way to truly begin to stop this epidemic of abuse, to punish their enablers. If these predators had no protection, they most likely would’ve been caught.
Some very smart folks, who could explain the math about capping the age at 53 much better than I, have set that age for the reasons of how long it takes for most victims to be able to come forward and the age at which the perpetrators would be at that time. This gives the best chance for as many victims as possible to get the Justice that’s been denied them.
And maybe just as important, to expose the predators so that they can’t harm another child. Litigation shines the light and truth on them and that’s what they fear the most. And contrary to what certain church leaders and media members would have you believe, Pedophiles do not “age out” of abusing children. Fr. John Geoghan in Boston was abusing children in his 80s. The only 2 things that stop them are incarceration and death.
And to the people who inaccurately claim that enabling this 2-year window would inundate the court system with copious amounts of claims. I refer you to Marci A. Hamilton’s website for the facts – If you look at the “Relative Success” document and especially at the chart at the bottom, http://sol-reform.com/data/
you can see (1) the civil revival windows that have been opened against individuals AND institutions have not resulted in an avalanche of claims; (2) there are no false claims that have made it through the system; and (3) Georgia’s window has been relatively ineffective so far because it is only capable of being brought against individual perpetrators and aiders and abettors.
Want to know how many victims in Georgia have been able to file litigation against their abusers?
That’s 9 in a state of 10 million with AT LEAST 2 million victims. So far the Baptist & Catholic churches, Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Insurance lobby is winning. And Georgians are losing.
Going back to the question I had you ask yourself, what is the logic in these representative not already passing a law like this. What do THEY have to hide or be afraid of? If nothing, then it should pass unanimously, if not, then please give SERIOUS consideration to replacing your current legislator. Unfortunately, that’s the only language most lawmakers understand. Only when told they won’t be reelected will they actually listen to THEIR constituents.
I wish I could expose my abuser through the courts, but it’s too late for me. And because of this, he has gone on to molest, abuse and rape AT LEAST 7 others. Those are just the ones I know of. God and Frankie Wiley are the only 2 who know how many little boys’ childhood’s he’s murdered.
It’s too late for me, but there are approximately 2 million of your fellow Georgians who need your help. The only way this will happen is if YOU, make a stand, demand your representative pass this law or you vote in someone who will. It’s up to you. What will you do? Please don’t wait until it’s happened to one of your children or grandchildren. I beg of you.
Because I promise you, if you don’t, it WILL happen. The facts are the facts. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys WILL BE sexually abused by the age of 18. The only way this changes is with the ability to prosecute predators. The only way that happens is for the laws to be changed. And the only way that happens is when it matters to you. Will it be before or after it happens to someone you know; someone you love.
Don’t let this be another example of putting up a traffic light AFTER a tragedy has happened. You have the ability to do something now. Will you?
While I had hope that House Bill 17 in Georgia, also known as “The Hidden Predator Act”, would be able to finally give some measure of justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse, the truth is, the bill finally signed into law was practically GUTTED.
These are the follow-up stories that get buried on the 24th back page of the Atlanta-Journal or are posted to the online-only section of a WSB-TV site. And this is why politicians and your local churches are getting away with murder of your children’s future…and souls.
But don’t take my word for it, please read what these two investigative journalists discovered.
Sadly and tragically, the bottom line is this. The Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, Insurance lobbyists and The Georgia Chamber of Commerce chose to put money before children.
Nancy Stanley told Stockman. “Anyone that would put money above children’s lives and these heinous acts that are being done to them, it’s just despicable.” And it is that very thing — Despicable!!!
And one more thing, if you think or believe…”well I don’t have anything to worry about because I don’t send my child to a Baptist or Catholic Church so my kids are safe”…think again…
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in the U.S., NOT JUST BAPTIST OR CATHOLIC, ALL KIDS, will be sexually abused by the age of 18.
It literally breaks my heart that once again victims of this most heinous crime have been re-victimized by the very organizations and people who are supposed to be there to protect them.
What will it take for folks to finally wake up and realize what is happening to the future generations? How many children’s lives must be ruined before REAL action is taken?
Maybe when it happens to YOUR child or a child YOU KNOW, then maybe you’ll understand why I keep shouting this from the rooftops! But by then you’ll find out, there’s not a damned thing you can do about because you waited too late…
But don’t take my word for it…PLEASE, READ FOR YOURSELF…
When I first came forward about being sexually abused by a youth minister at Rehoboth Baptist Church, the church where I grew up, I wrote an article called, “Pedophiles Are Like Serial Killers“.
I titled it that because of what an investigator at the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) told me. She said, “David, I believe pedophiles are like serial killers that leave their victims alive.”
I believed it that day and I do more so with each survivor I meet and with every story I hear.
Georgia Representative, Jason Spencer, has sponsored House Bill 17. It’s called “The Hidden Predator Act” and he said this of it in a recent post:
“Child sexual abuse is a secret crime that murders a child’s soul, and child sexual predators will always live among us. One in four girls will become victims, while one in six boys will suffer the same fate. Child sexual predators are often individuals who are close to the child victim, whereby those close relationships make a predator’s identity difficult to expose in the communities where they live.
Predators could be a close family friend, a pastor, a priest, a coach, a teacher, a doctor or even a parent. Many times, the child who is victimized never reports the crime for fear of not being believed by adults. Other times, child victims are so young that they are unaware of what acts are being done to them and lack the verbal capacity to describe the act, leading many victims to act out harshly or engage in other destructive behaviors as they age.
Typically, it is not until well into adulthood that the survivor of the ordeal has the ability to confront their perpetrators. However, in the state of Georgia, by the time survivors of child sexual abuse are ready to seek justice, they are locked out of the court rooms because of our law’s short civil statute of limitations (SOL).”
What Rep. Spencer described is EXACTLY what happened to me and it continues to happen to countless other victims of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). It took me 26 years to admit the shame, guilt and self-blame I felt about what Frankie Wiley did to me, and I have since learned, there are many others he abused, molested and raped. In 2006, I went to the DeKalb County Police Department to file a report and have charges brought against Frankie. I spent an hour pouring out my soul and crying like a child, to which the detective said…
…”Sorry, it’s too late. You waited too long.”
I waited too long?
What on earth does that mean? How does that make sense? How can a child be held to some legal standards for the crimes of an adult who commits atrocities against them. I felt as if I were being raped all over again.
But it’s a tragic fact in Georgia and MOST EVERY STATE in the USA. They are called Statute of Limitation Laws and instead of protecting the victims, in cases of child sex crimes, they serve only to protect predators.
So right now, in a rare moment in time, YOU have the ability to MAKE HISTORY. And not just in Georgia. If you help this bill get passed into law, it will pave the way for all of the other states to do the same thing, to finally bring justice for victims of the most heinous crime that can be committed against a child.
For those of you who might be reading this blog for the first time I want to assure you of something that regular readers already know – I do NOT deal in hyperbole, so please hear me when I say this cannot be overstated – this bill could be the MOST IMPORTANT BILL EVER in the lives of EVERY Georgian 53 or younger who has suffered from the trauma’s associated with Childhood Sexual Abuse or has a loved one who has.
Rep. Spencer went on to say, “Both criminal prosecution and civil actions are significant ways which validate the survivor and expose the truth to the public. With the recent 2012 criminal justice reform proposals removing the criminal SOL on child sexual abuse cases, coupled with the civil reforms in the Georgia “Hidden Predator Act,” child sexual predators will have a difficult time hiding in Georgia.
As a result, the priority will be to extend real justice to victims instead of enabling monsters to continue to prey on societies most vulnerable. Georgia’s children and families need and deserve the Hidden Predator Act. This reform is a stern warning to child sexual predators: don’t tread on Georgia’s children.”
For more than 30 years Frankie has been allowed to go from church to church, city to city, unencumbered by anything that would prevent him from molesting and raping more little boys. All because of an archaic law championed only by those who seek to hide the monsters in their midst for fear of litigation like the Roman Catholic Church is currently undergoing for protecting pedophiles for decades, even centuries.
Please become OUR champion. Become OUR hero and help us catch those who have killed our childhood, our souls and in too many cases, our lives.
Please help bring these monsters to justice and send a message to predators everywhere by getting the “Hidden Predator Act” passed. Send the message that we will NOT allow them to hide behind outdated laws. Let them know they WILL pay for their crimes.
If you are a resident of Georgia or you know someone who is, go here to find their or your Representative.
By simply taking a few minutes to click on a link and send an email or make a call, you CAN make a difference. Not only in our lives, but untold numbers of those who will be protected in the future by your actions today.
Help us to stop the enabling of monsters who continue to prey on societies most vulnerable. As Rep. Spencer said, “Georgia’s children and families need and deserve the Hidden Predator Act.”
The following article was written by Rachel Stockman and posted on the WSB-TV website.
“More than a dozen victims came out in support of a new Georgia bill which would extend the statute of limitations in civil court for child sexual abuse victims to 35 years.
This would allow victims to file claims against their attackers until they are 53 years old. Current law bars claims that are filed after a victim is 23 years old.
“We are here under this dome- seeking justice in House Bill 17 to extend the statute of limitations on civil statute so the courtroom doors can be open for the survivors of child sexual abuse,” said Angela Williams, a rape victim, and founder of Voice Today, an advocacy group. Williams says it often takes years — even decades, for victims to come forward.
The “Hidden Predator Act” would also open more investigative records, and would add a two-year window for revival of claims for victims.
“These folks are locked out of the courts and justice is absolutely denied,” said Rep. Jason Spencer (R – Woodbine). Spencer is sponsoring HB 17.
“Georgia is one of the five worst states in country: if you are over the age of 23 you are out of luck,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor of the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City.”
Please, PLEASE, PLEASE, do something most of us never do…Call or Email your local representative and let them know they MUST VOTE YES for House Bill 17. And if necessary, let them know in the language only a few understand, tell them if they don’t vote yes, you’ll elect someone who will.
Think of it this way, if your child, or the child of someone who is close to you were the victim of murder and that child’s perpetrator were allowed to walk free for 20-30 years, then one day the government said to you, “If you want, we can finally bring your child’s murderer to justice.”
What would you do?
This is where we are at. You have the ability to make history and save lives. Please don’t turn a blind eye today, not now when we are so close. Do you want to protect children or continue allowing pedophiles to get away with murder? The future is in our hands.
Below are the names of the state representatives who have this bill in their Committee. Please call them and request that they MOVE IT OUT OF COMMITTEE and BRING IT TO THE FLOOR FOR A VOTE OF YES IN ITS ORIGINAL LANGUAGE.
With the hustle and bustle of families and travel during the holiday season, it’s taken me a little longer than normal to write about the conference Linda and I attended in Austin, TX. Because its message and the message of this time of year are so simpatico, I knew now was the right time.
As many of you know by now, last month Linda and I attended The Child-Friendly Faith Project Conference and had the honor of speaking on Day 2.
To say we met leaders, advocates and what I consider “giants” within the community wouldn’t do it justice. It seemed like every time we turned around, heard another presentation, or were able to sit and talk in a small group, there was a striking similarity…
…We were all in one accord; We all are working to see faith communities, government agencies and private individuals connect to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and to better protect all our children from the sexual predators traversing amongst our respective communities, and in many cases “hiding in plain sight”.
It drove home the point that events like these and so many others are the launching point for the work needed to accomplish our common goals. So much so that Jan Heimlich, the Director of The CFFP said to me, “let’s begin soon working on another event of some kind where we can go into even more detail about the topics we discussed here over the last two days.” And I couldn’t agree more with her! It seemed as though we had just begun to scratch the surface and based on everyone’s responses, they wanted to hear more as well!
On day 2, we started with a video presentation from Boz Tchividjian, Founder of GRACE, who expressed his desire to see us all, coming from whatever faith background, or no religious faith, join forces for two primary purposes. First, to protect all our children from the clear and present danger of sexual predators. Second, to assist those already harmed by guiding them along a path of healing, rather than making them feeling shamed or shunned.
The conference began with two questions/objectives:
1) How can we better address child maltreatment that occurs in faith communities?
2) What should we do when religious or cultural practices are unhealthy for children?
In following Boz’s request; no matter whether our faith is based from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, from a non-denominational or non-faith background, we received information on both days about those two questions with real, actionable directives and practical ways to answer and address both and to resolve the problems. In doing so, I saw the questions being transformed;
**What now? What will we do with this information and the answers to tough questions? HOW and WILL we move forward knowing what we know?**
It would take several pages to go through all of the impactful speakers and presentations, but I’d like to highlight a couple. The folks listed are all prestigious experts in fields related to child advocacy. What I appreciated was how they were both enlightening and had practical applications.
They are speakers that I heard in person, have known and cooperated with for years or have some other working knowledge of their efforts to protect children. So as you have time, please take a moment to do some homework by finding their websites, reading their books and reviewing the amazing work they do for children and survivors of abuse.
Rev. Carla Cheatham
Marci A. Hamilton
Rev. Charles Foster Johnson
Rev. Jaime Romo
I’ll say it again, the conference was simply amazing! We had the opportunity to meet with people who are equally passionate about helping those who’ve been abused. It’s clear they want to see TRUE change within our various faith communities. We saw the desire to make that change in a positive way from within, not just to criticize from afar. But don’t misunderstand, while those in attendance aren’t into “church-bashing”, no one pulled any punches either. When it’s time to call out one of our respective faith communities for its failure to act, or to protect, we are the FIRST to make it known what needs to be changed and provide them the steps in order to enact said change!
Upon completing my presentation, I received an extremely positive reception and made several contacts I’ll be following up with over the next month. Dr. Jaime Romo has already made an introduction for us to have an additional resource for survivors of sexual abuse and that’s just one example of many! Linda and I had lunch with Marci A. Hamilton and we’ll continue to work with her moving forward on SOL law reform. Prior to the event, Marci and I had talked on the phone, been interviewed on the same radio show, and had spoken at length about what is needed to eliminate statute of limitation laws, but it was great getting some face-to-face time with her!
We also had the opportunity to establish relationships Pete Singer, Steven Hassan, Rev. Charles Johnson and two advocates from the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center; Autumn Williams and Dianna Smoot. We also met with Joy Ryder with “Out Of The Shadows”. They will be launching their website soon so keep checking on it! “www.outoftheshadows.today” – To say it was a success would be an understatement!!
I also spoke with the lady from Atlanta who is trying to set up a conference for TWH and GRACE to educate a team of ministers at a large metro-Atlanta church.
Thank you Jan for giving all attending a catalyst for the upcoming year as we look for more ways to raise awareness, further education and reach even more of those most in need. It was an honor and a blessing to be a part of The Child-Friendly Faith Project.
May we all find the peace and healing we so desperately need. And Together, We CAN Heal!
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!
We are so honored by our friend, Boz Tchividjian, who has posted the interview he did with me about Together We Heal and what we’re doing to help our fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Please take a moment to read, not just our interview, but all of the inspiring articles Boz has on his site. I cannot thank him enough for the issues he’s confronting head-on within the church and it’s neglect of those abused. We look forward to working together with him and his organization, G.R.A.C.E. http://netgrace.org (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)
It’s difficult to pick up a paper, turn on the news or open up a web browser these days without seeing the latest pedophile/sexual predator whose been caught having destroyed the innocence of another child or multiple children. As my colleagues and I talked about what we had found or tried in discussing this issue with others, we came across many opinions. Some of which we dismissed, but a few we found had both merit and impact. With this in mind, we set about to cooperatively put together a guide of sorts to help each other, our peers and parents concerned on how to present this topic to the various people and children in our lives.
Together, we decided the best way to accomplish this goal was by combining the best ideas in one place. It is our hope you will take this information to heart and apply it to your daily lives with the intent of protecting all our children, alleviating some of the fears of talking about this delicate topic and put sexual predators on notice that we are on to their methods and are arming each other and our children with the most powerful of weapons…knowledge.
Chris Anderson, the Executive Director of MaleSurvivor.org, gave the following guidance to parents on speaking with their children.
“Parents need to realize that educating their children about sexuality and maintaining and protecting proper boundaries has to be a regular part of their interactions with children.
Having “the sex talk” once when a kid is about to enter adolescence isn’t sufficient, and in all likelihood leads to more children being at risk because parents don’t want to educate their own children about sex, making it all the more easier for perpetrators to manipulate and misinform their targets.
WE need to encourage parents, caregivers, teachers, and all those involved with youth to think about planting the seeds of awareness, compassion, and protection over and over and over again. Conversations about what constitutes healthy, non-manipulative relationships as well as appropriate physical and social boundaries need to be a regular part of the experience of children.
There is NO reason whatsoever that ANY parent can justify not giving their children age appropriate, correct biological terms for body parts. Penis, vagina, and anus are not dirty words.
Any adult who seems to be overly desirous of taking a child one on one should be carefully screened by parents. Who are they? Why do they want to spend so much time with a child? What are they really looking for?
Parents who empower their children to say No when they don’t feel comfortable around someone or doing something are doing the right thing. Children should not be “forced” to give hugs and kisses to relatives, they should be encouraged to say whether or not they want to.
Serial perpetrators will often screen out children who have been taught these skills because they are looking for the “soft” targets who are more easily manipulated.
The vulnerability that makes kids so easy to manipulate is borne of their need for attention and affirmative parental bonding. It’s all too easy for many parents to try and find ways to encourage their kids to leave them alone and entertain or distract themselves. Too often, this actually leads children to seek what they are not getting from their parents from others who know all too well how to manipulate a child into doing what they want.
Perhaps the last point is that grooming thrives where secrecy, shame, and ignorance are in full effect. Any parent that encourages their children to always disclose when they feel uncomfortable about someone or something, AND who makes it clear that the child will never be in trouble for doing so is already doing a great deal to protect their children. ”
This is obviously valuable advice. So we thought, what about the folks who find it challenging talking to either their children or even peers about childhood sexual abuse? How can we help them overcome or work through it? The folks at Samaritans.org had an amazing piece on just this issue.
How to Start a Difficult Conversation
Often people want to talk, but wait until someone asks how they are. Try asking open questions, like ‘What about happened about…’, ‘Tell me about…’, ‘How do you feel about…’
Repeat back what they say to show you understand, and ask more questions.
Focus on your friend’s feelings instead of trying to solve the problem – it can be of more help and shows you care. Respect what they tell you. Sometimes it’s easy to want to try and fix a person’s problems, or give them advice. Let them make their own decisions.
1) How do I start a conversation with someone I’m concerned about?
You might feel that you don’t know how to help someone, because you don’t know what to tell them or how to solve their problems. You don’t need to be an expert. In fact, sometimes people who think they have the answers to a problem are less helpful. Don’t forget that every person is different, so that what worked for one will not always work for another.
2) Find a good time and place
Think about where and when to have the conversation before you start.
Choose somewhere where the other person feels comfortable and has time to talk.
3) Ask gentle questions, and listen with care
You might feel that you don’t know how to help someone, because you don’t know what to tell them. But you shouldn’t tell them anything. Telling doesn’t help. The best way to help is to ask questions. That way you leave the other person in control. By asking questions, the person you are talking with finds his or her own answers.
4) The more open the question the better
Questions that help someone talk through their problems instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are the most useful. Questions like:
When – ‘When did you realize?’
Where – ‘Where did that happen?’
What – ‘What else happened?’
How – ‘How did that feel?’
Why – be careful with this one as it can make someone defensive. ‘What made you choose that’ or ‘What were you thinking about at the time’ are more effective.
At Samaritans, we call this style of conversation active listening.
5) Find out how they feel
Don’t forget to ask how this person is feeling. Sometimes people will talk you through all the facts of what happened, why it happened and what actions they are thinking of taking, but never say how they actually feel. Revealing your innermost emotions – anger, sadness, fear, hope, jealously, despair and so on – can be a huge relief. It sometimes also give clues about what the person is really most worried about.
6) Check they know where to get help
If someone has been feeling low for some time it is probably a good idea that they get some support, whether it is through talking to someone like a counsellor or getting some practical help.
Useful questions you might ask them include:
‘Have you talked to anyone else about this?’
‘Would you like to get some help?’
‘Would you like me to come with you?’
Or, for someone who is reluctant to get help:
‘Do you have someone you trust you can go to?’
‘If it helps, you can talk to me any time.’
You can also suggest to your friend that the following sources of help may be useful:
The Good Men Project
7) Respect what they tell you, don’t pressure them
8) If they don’t want help, don’t push them. Sometimes it’s easy to want to try and fix a person’s problems, or give them advice.
It’s usually better for people to make their own decisions. Help them think of all the options, but leave the choice to them. Being there for them in other ways, like through socializing or helping with practical things, can also be a great source of support.
9) If you say the wrong thing, don’t panic
There is no perfect way to handle a difficult conversation, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it didn’t go as well as you had hoped. If you feel able to, put things right: “Last week I said … and I realize now that was insensitive so I’m sorry. What I meant to say was …”
10) Show you understand
Ask follow-up questions and repeat back the key things your friend has told you, using phrases like ‘So you’re saying…’, ‘So you think…’.
11) Look after yourself, and talk to someone too
Hearing someone else’s worries or problems can affect you too. Take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy, and if you need to talk, find somebody you trust to confide in. If you promised not to tell anyone else, you can call us, and we’ll keep it private. Don’t take on so much of other peoples’ problems that you yourself start feeling depressed.
In addition to Chris’ message to parents, we chose an article published by David Pittman of Together-We-Heal.org – It’s a straightforward, 7-step process for parents to speak to their children about sexual abuse. Interestingly enough, you will see some similar advice, and it’s clear this is no accident. Both men are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and having been through such a traumatic time in their lives, it makes sense they would have similar advice on how they wished they had been counseled as kids.
How To Talk With Your Children About Sexual Abuse
I was once given some advice from a person much older and wiser than myself: “If a child is old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to get the truth.” There is, however, a way to present truth in a way that neither scares the child nor impedes their ability to openly communicate with the adult about “delicate” subject matter.
The following is a combined list of different suggestions on ways to talk to your children about sexual abuse. The sources for this information are Together We Heal, The Joyful Heart Foundation, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, FamilyWatchDog.com, The Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s: Convicted Sex Offender Web Site, as well as my own personal recommendations based on personal experience.
1) Start Young
Talk openly and often with your children about sexual development, behavior and abuse. Keep in mind that if you discuss sexual development with your children appropriately from a very young age, they will not be embarrassed by the subject matter and will be less vulnerable to the grooming tactics of many child molesters.
Children who do not have their curiosity satisfied do not stop asking, they simply start looking elsewhere for their answers. After all, who do you want educating your children about sex and sexuality…you or their friends and Madison Avenue?!?
Starting young is not damaging. Parents believe that somehow it is inappropriate for them to be discussing such things with young children. If a child has a curiosity about something, it does not damage them to know the truth. Truth is never wrong! Truth is never damaging! While they are young is a healthy time for children to know the answers. It is the best time. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting until the teenage years to address issues of sexuality.
Rather than trying to wait until a time when you are beginning to lose control of your children, confront the issues now. Make sure you spend the first 12 years of your child’s life laying out a stable framework for your children to build their ideals and morals from. Don’t wait until they are 13 and riddled with urges to start addressing the issue of healthy sexual relationships.
The key to this is what my friend and colleague, Rachel Grant, calls “normalizing” the conversation. What we mean by that is, for example, a “normal” talk with your child would be, “how was practice today, or do you need any help with your homework?” So just as normally as you bring up those topics, so also ask them, “Has anyone made you feel uncomfortable at school today?” “Has anyone approached you or touched you in a way that made you feel upset?” The more normal you make the conversation, the more likely they are to open up to you and talk about it.
Instill these concepts when they are young. Confronting the tough issues and encoding the morals you would like your children to have as a foundation begins at birth, and that includes sexuality.
2) Use Proper Terminology
Use proper names or semi-proper names for body parts (penis and vagina), and phrases like: private parts are “private and special”. Research shows that children who know the proper words for their body parts are less likely to be sexually abused than children who are not. Teaching a child that body parts are so embarrassing and shameful to talk about that they need silly nicknames makes it much more likely that a child will not tell you if someone touches them inappropriately. When a child knows the proper names, it puts a predator on notice that there is an atmosphere of openness and dialogue in a home and that if they harm your child, it is more likely to be discovered and disclosed.
Take the time to rehearse with your spouse/partner or any adult that will give you a truthful critique and be patient. This is not the time to rush through or skim over the parts that make you feel uncomfortable. Just imagine that if you have a difficult time talking with the adult, what will it be like when you talk with your child? Gather resources from organizations such as Together We Heal, Stop It Now, RAINN, Stop Abuse Campaign, Survivors Chat, MaleSurvivor.org, etc., and make notes or an outline.
Do whatever makes it easiest for you to remember the topics and keep yourself on point. Throughout the talk, your child will be asking questions that will take you in various directions so it is essential that once you answer the question you get back on track. Also consider that you may not be able to address all questions at once. Be honest with your child if they ask you a question that you do not have the answer. Tell them the truth. Let them know that you need to find the answer and let them know later.
4) No Secrets and No Private time with Adults/Children
Teach your child not to keep secrets and that no one should ask your child to keep a secret from you. Teach your child that there are happy surprises which we are going to tell people about soon (like birthday presents or the ending to a story your brother is reading), but that we don’t have secrets that we’re not allowed to tell and we don’t keep secrets that make us feel sad or worried.
Avoid one child‐one adult situations. 90% of all child sexual abuse occurs in situations where there is only one adult and one child present. When a child is going to have one on one time with an adult, attempt to schedule that time in observable places (like parks and restaurants). Ask your child about how things went when they were alone with an adult, child or relative. Listen for specific details and watch your child’s mood.
5) Create a “Safety Team” or “Safety Network”
Help your child create a list of their trusted adults. Give your child a copy of their list. Make sure their support “network” peoples’ phone numbers are by the telephone with and in a place that your child has easy access to. Once you and your child have made a list, let all the people on your child’s list know that they are part of this emergency network. Let them know your child has your permission to contact them and ask them if they are comfortable with this responsibility.
Let your child know that you will not be upset if they go to anyone on this list when they are scared or confused. It is very common for children to feel that they cannot speak to their parents in spite of a parent’s attempt to ease this fear. The majority of children who report sexual abuse do not report it to their parents. Sexual predators often tell their victims that what is happening is the victims’ fault; that they will get in trouble, that they will be taken away or that their parents will stop loving them and will hate them. Molesters who are related to the child also scare them into silence by telling them that no one else will take care of them if they go to jail. It is very important to talk with your children and reassure them of your unconditional love and remind them of all the people who care about them. When you take away an offender’s ability to keep his victim silent, you take away his/her power.
6) Explain How Your Child is Helping
Avoid scary details. Use language that is honest and age appropriate. Explain that no one should touch a child on the parts of their body that are covered by their bathing suit. Also let your child know that there are exceptions to this situation such as mommy or daddy helping a young child bathe, diaper changes or a doctor examining a child with their parent present.
When discussing sexual abuse with younger children, refer to sexual predators as adults with “touching problems.” These people can make “secret touching” look accidental (such as tickling or wrestling) and they should still tell you even if they think (or were told) it was an accident. This is a way for a young child to understand that an adult has an inappropriate behavior without giving your child nightmares or age-inappropriate details about what the “touching” might entail.
Tell your children that people who have touching problems need special help so they don’t continue to have problems or get into trouble. Don’t describe it as a sickness and don’t say that “bad” people do this, as most of the time the “bad” person is someone who seems good or is known to the child. Do not use words like pedophile, predator or pervert; but rather, refer to “touching problems” instead as this gives the child the ability to judge and tell you about the behavior without the understandable confusion that arises when the perpetrator is someone they love or care about.
Finally – And this step might be the most important…
7) Create a form letter that explains how you have discussed with your child/children about the issue of childhood sexual abuse and list the people in their safety network. Give a copy to each adult in your child’s life and on the list.
By notifying all of the adults in your child’s life (family, friends, teachers, coaches, and parents of your child’s friends), you have in effect warned most potential predators in your child’s life that they will be caught should they target your child for abuse or inappropriate behavior. Sex offenders generally target children where the risk of getting caught is sufficiently low. By doing this, you are telling any would-be offender that your child is prepared and as parents you are involved. If you find it challenging to create your own form letter, we have provided two templates on the together-we-heal.org website. Please feel free to print them out to use.
My hope is that you will take these tips and begin the dialogue with your child/children. Remember this also…talk WITH your child, not AT your child. Together we can work to give your children the BEST possibility of NOT being a statistic. (1 in 6 boys and 1 in 3 girls are molested and/or sexually abused/raped by the age of 18).
If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us.
One more important piece of guidance. As Joanna Schroeder of The Good Men Project pointed out to us, instead of encouraging the person to call the police to report suspicions, it’s better to contact Child and Family Services, The Department of Children And Family Services (or whatever title that department goes by in your community). Police often won’t even make a report of suspicions, and really they don’t have the training or experience to necessarily know what to do with that kind of a report. And when they do, it is likely that they would suggest your friend contact CFS as it is. If an actual claim of abuse is made, please go immediately to your local authorities to report the crime.
There is an important reason for reporting as soon as possible. From the time the crime is committed, a clock is ticking. That clock is called the Statute of Limitations. In most states, if a crime is not reported by the ages of 18 to 23, the predator will walk away scot-free. Predators know this and it’s why we urge all victims to come forward as soon as possible.
We hope you will find this material to be an invaluable tool to keeping yourself, your friends and family and your children educated and armed with the power to combat pedophiles and sexual predators.
Aristotle taught us that “Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil”.
So why do I bring up fear? Because it’s a universal human emotion. And it’s one that survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) either still experience, or did at the time when we were being abused. I remember the pain of my fear. I remember with brutal clarity the shaking of my body, the angst, the sadness, the torture in my heart knowing as nighttime got closer, so also came “that time”. Aristotle’s words ring loud and clear to me. It was the anticipation of the abuse, the anticipation of Frankie Wiley‘s evil ways that I knew were coming that scared me to death. Me, an undersized, little 12 year old who knew the man I trusted as my spiritual leader and male role model, was about to torture me in ways I could never have conceived in my wildest nightmares. I would make excuses to stay up, to avoid the bed at all costs. But in the end, the result was always the same. And no matter which bed I was in, he would get what he wanted.
We’re told as children, “there’s no such thing as monsters”. But survivors of CSA know monsters are all too real, and they are cloaked in the skin of kindness, relatives, teachers, clergy and all manner of those we knew, trusted and loved. That’s what tears apart the lives of those who manage to make it through to adulthood. That’s why so many turn to narcotics, alcohol, promiscuity, or anything else to make us feel loved, or safe or that will give us some level of peace, if only for a moment.
That’s why if we seem, at times, disgusted and angered beyond control, by the disbelief or inaction of those who can do something about it and choose not to, understand this…”To attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be.” You see, as children we have seen falsehood at its worst and therefore know truth beyond what we should. So we have little tolerance for those who don’t or won’t see the same truth, the only truth, that the monsters are real and we MUST do something to prevent them from hurting more children.
Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, penned these words, “A world is supported by four things … the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valor of the brave. But all of these are as nothing … without a ruler who knows the art of ruling.”
Right now we don’t see rulers, or should I say leaders, who have the learning, justice, righteousness or bravery to do what should be done. To step up and fight for these children now or for those of us then.
I was reminded not long ago about an animal trick. You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? This same person said the difference between animals and humans is that a human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might evade the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.
And survivors of CSA know about this maneuver. You know what I’m talking about, that trick we would play to be able to endure the torture of sexual abuse. We would lay as still as we could, as quiet as we could, and wait until our “captor” was gone in the hopes of it never happening again, but it always did. And this is where our fear is rooted.
So when we begin to feel fear coming over us, remember this, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
I cited Herbert again to remind my fellow survivors of the strength we all have. That we have survived this long is amazing. This proves how much inner strength we have and what we are capable of achieving. Or as an unknown author stated, “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%…and that’s pretty good.”
To quote one of my favorite shows, Downton Abbey, a character named Miss Baxter says to her new found friend Mr. Molseley, “There are things in my past that made me afraid, but I’m not afraid any more. I’m not sure what will happen, but whatever it is, it’s better than being afraid.”
And to those who’ve never been through what we have, we sigh a collective “thank God”. But now we need you to join us in this fight. Those who oppose us are many and powerful and without your help and numbers we won’t be able to get the results needed to protect the children of today and tomorrow.
So be the Dad, the Mom, the parent and the leaders you are all capable of being and help us to protect all children.
As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
I did this because what they do is like murdering the soul of a child. Over the last 8 years I have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of action being taken by lawmakers to protect children from sexual predators like Frankie Wiley.
For far too long pedophiles/sexual predators have been getting away with the murder of the innocence of childhood. What has enabled this, is the inability of a child to speak out against their abusers in the “time allotted” by outdated laws that exist in almost every state in the Union. In most cases, a victim of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has only a few years to come forward and these pedophiles/sexual predators/monsters know and count on the fact that most children are either too scared or think no one will believe them. By the time they are able to say something, if they ever get to that point, it’s too late legally to prosecute them.
It is beyond the pale that we have sat back and done nothing to protect those that cannot defend themselves. There are just a handful of states with the courage to do just that. It’s called “window legislation” and it allows an additional measure of time to bring justice to those that deserve and for those that are in need. Window Legislation has to become a MUST for ALL STATES if we ever hope to give victims a chance at the justice they deserve. Even more needed is the total elimination of the statute of limitation laws regarding CSA.
As it stands now, most states only give about 5 years either from the time of the incident(s) or from the time the victim turns 18. So at “best case” they have until they are 23 to come forward, or less if it happened younger. Most children do not have the ability to even realize the harm that has befallen them, much less say something about it. Sexual predators know this and it’s why the average offender, if not caught, has approximately 117 victims over the course of their life. (National Crime Statistics).
Together We Heal (TWH) has partnered with Marci A. Hamilton, who is leading the charge to eliminate statute of limitation laws regarding CSA. I would ask of all of you that you do the same. Go to her site: http://sol-reform.com/News/home/ and find out what the law is in your state, then go to your legislature and demand these archaic laws that only protect predators be squashed and laws be put into place that defend those who actually deserve it, our children.
I know that most people, because I was one of them for a long time, believe it’s not their representative standing in the way. “My” local Rep/Sen. is a good person and looks out for their constituents. If this were really true, would these laws still be on the books? I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth usually is. Most all of the current people in Congress are doing little to nothing. And the only thing that will cause them to take action is if we all let them know, either they make the changes needed or we will put in office someone who will. This is the message we must send and it’s the only one they will understand.
Please help us to make the necessary changes needed. We cannot do it without your help. And we cannot allow these sexual predators to keep getting away with murder. It’s in your hands now…what will you do?