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.
Watch the GRACE Live Conversation on Peer Support, the third principle of trauma-informed care.
With at least 20% of church congregations comprised of “trauma survivors,” why aren’t more faith communities helping to foster peer support groups for those who have experienced abuse/trauma?
Peer support and healthy relationships are essential for establishing safety and hope, building trust, strengthening collaborations, and utilizing the stories and testimonies of similar lived experiences to promote healing and recovery.
Join us for a great conversation about Peer Support for survivors of sexual abuse.
Where can you find resources?
What can your church do to get this right?
This was recorded live Monday, March 17th, 2022.
Thank you, GRACE, for hosting our Director, David Pittman and Elizabeth Sullivan of EmpowerSurvivors.
It’s a global day of giving that makes a real difference in people’s lives.
Even in times of economic uncertainty, we each have a deep reserve of generosity we can deploy in myriad ways to make a difference–your time, your kindness, your skills, your voice are all things you can give in addition to charitable donations.
Last year your generosity allowed Together We Heal to train more churches, teach more parents, and connect more survivors and families to the resources they needed.
Every tax-deductible donation will make a huge difference! Your gift will help us:
Assist in paying for trauma-informed care for survivors of sexual abuse.
Connect survivors to trauma-informed counselors/therapists/coaches.
Teach parents how to talk with their children about sexual abuse.
Train churches how to better protect children, properly respond to those harmed and better identify predatory behavior.
Support families of victims by guiding them through the process of reporting abuse.
Support survivors by being a resource to help them begin the healing process.
Educate the public on all aspects of sexual abuse at workshops and conferences.
When so much attention is given to what divides us, generosity brings people together across races, faiths, and political views.
Together We Heal is for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. It exists to provide guidance to those in need, educate any who seek information on how to better protect children and to expose the methods of sexual predators.
Together We Heal works with Schools, Faith-based groups, Civic organizations or in a home full of concerned parents. Our desire is to prevent children from enduring the trauma of sexual abuse, and to help those who have already been harmed begin the process of healing. We are here to provide a safe forum for victims of abuse to share, learn and heal.
You can help us with this mission! We cannot do it without your faithful giving!
Whether you donate $5 or $500. Every dollar helps. Thank you to everyone who helps us help others.
“Third time’s the charm”, that’s what we’re told, right? On their third attempt to honor the wishes of Messengers, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted 44 to 31 to waive attorney-client privilege (albeit in a VERY limited manner) and agree to the contract with Guidepost to begin the investigation on sexual abuse.
But let’s be honest, this is not an investigation on all cases of sexual abuse within the SBC. It’s only about the last 20 years and only within the SBC EC. Is there already a documented case of libel regarding a case of sexual abuse? Yes. And will there be more cases of cover-ups/abuse/etc.? Most certainly. But now, only because of waving ACP is there the remotest of chances to get to the truth.
And it almost didn’t happen.
I watched the entire session. Well, the ones that weren’t behind closed doors. And it was clear there was a division within the ranks. Both sides offered passionate arguments that they BOTH genuinely believe. And that’s the hard part to take as a survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by an SBC minister.
Phyllis Inghram all but said when she quoted Matthew 10:16, that we the victims of sexual abuse, had created a “hostile environment” and called US the wolves in sheep’s clothing. She said “they” needed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Were they all being harmless when Jen Lyell was slandered by the SBC EC and many of the SBC members?
Were they being harmless when they called Christa Brown evil?
Were they being harmless when they told me, “Sorry, nothing we can do for you or to stop a known sexual predator, but we’ll pray for you.”?
Yes, I know Ms. Inghram has resigned from the EC, but does it matter now? Her words cut like a knife to my soul, and I wasn’t the only one she impaled.
Even now, because of the SBC’s and Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s failures, a KNOWN, ADMITTED sexual predator is back at a church and trying to sell books about how to be better at worship. Going so far as to ask for media interviews to promote said books and asking if one would make a good movie.
This would be a ridiculously absurd joke if it wasn’t a cold, disgusting fact.
Joe Knott, attorney, and EC member said these things:
He went into great detail about law and order. Explained to us how God created the United States and its laws for our protection. Explained to us how law and order was from God. As if we needed his explanation on law on order.
Was he insinuating that a vote to waive ACP is a vote against God? Sure sounded like it.
He went on to say, “Laws are to restrain evil. Laws come from God.”
So what are we as survivors of sexual abuse? Are we the evil in need of restraint in this narrative of his? And what about the laws broken when we were molested and raped? Do those not count in his perspective?
He continued, “What we are about to do is create chaos.”
So now WE are the ones creating chaos? What about the chaos of 3 decades of my life because none cared to hear my story or stop a predator? And I am not the only one. Now there is an admission from my abuser and from several other victims who’ve come forward to say it happened to them also.
Said Knott, “There may not be a Convention to face”.
Again, a convention before a soul? One single soul? It’s ridiculous.
As Dr. Diane Langberg said at the SBC Caring Well event, “Jesus was not crucified for our systems.”
And over the last 3 weeks we’ve heard these things ad nauseum, “This will void our insurance” & “All advice we received is against waiving privilege”.
The attorneys hired by the SBC EC were only presenting one side. They were only giving one argument. There were no attorneys asked to give the alternative argument. Even though Rachael Denhollander was posting publicly in every place she could WHY they could and should waive privilege.
I also kept hearing the arguments against waiving privilege being about “loss”. Loss of insurance. Loss of fiduciary responsibility. Loss of money. Loss of a Convention.
You know what I didn’t hear? Not one single time?
The concern for what victims of sexual abuse have lost.
Victims of sexual abuse have lost their way, their identity, lost our minds. We’ve lost jobs, families and in far too many cases, our lives. Suicide, overdoses, premature deaths from trauma.
And what about the souls lost because of sexual abuse? Isn’t that what the SBC is supposed to care the most about? And yet predators and their enablers have made it so there’s no way many victims would ever again be receptive to God. What about THAT loss?
When they broke from their last private Executive session, in which I am sure every single attorney gave their hardest (possibly intimidating), attempt to persuade against waiving privilege, there is an immediate motion made to replace the Wellman motion.
At the last minute there was a clear intent, by using Roberts Rules of Order (parliamentary rules), to confuse and frustrate members in order to defeat the motion put forward by Jared Wellman.
But thankfully, pastor Rolland Slade took a moment, gathered good information and was able to get the EC back on track. The final vote being 44 to waive and 31 against.
It’s a win but not a big win. And certainly not anywhere near getting the SBC and all its churches and members to a place where sexual abuse is actively worked against, victims are properly helped with trauma-informed care and predators are named, exposed, and forever prohibited from serving in any SBC church or any conceivable entity with ties to the SBC.
A former SBC VP said just one day after the vote, that the efforts made by survivors to persuade EC members to waive ACP were “online attacks against good men and women…Carnal, ungodly & evil…the ends never justify the means.”
Really Mr. former 2nd VP? We are carnal, ungodly, and evil? This folks, is the battle we face in ridding the SBC from sexual predators and their enablers.
(Southern Baptist Convention, we’re talking to you)
Delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this summer voted overwhelmingly to create a task force to oversee an independent investigation into the denomination’s handling of sexual abuse.
The resolution calls for the newly elected SBC president, Alabama pastor Ed Litton, to appoint the task force, which will head up a review of allegations that the denomination’s Executive Committee mishandled abuse cases, intimidated victims and advocates and resisted reforms.
And from the floor of the Convention, something happened I never believed would have. Someone, other than his victims, was finally willing to publicly name the person that molested and raped myself and many other little boys.
Pastor Troy Bush said this:
“What we did not know then, we know now. And what we know should be important to Southern Baptists, especially Georgia Baptists.
We didn’t know Franklin “Frankie” Andrew Wiley, a student minister who served our church family, Rehoboth Baptist Church, Tucker, GA, in the early 1980s had molested 5 of our boys. We also didn’t know he sexually abused other boys at other Georgia Baptist churches before and after his time at Rehoboth.
We now know the names of each boy he assaulted in our church family. We know he assaulted 10 boys at 4 different Georgia Baptist churches. We know he assaulted an eleventh boy not in one of the churches. And we have credible-but-unconfirmed reports of 2 other boys at a Georgia Baptist church. We know that 3 weeks ago he served with the worship team of another Georgia Baptist church in a Sunday morning worship service.”
Sounds like positive steps, right?
It got me thinking about how long a-day coming this has been. For at least40 years Wiley has been doing this to little boys. 15 years ago, I went to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) and told them. I was told by Kenneth Keene to be quiet and that they’d pray for me. This summer it was finally, publicly acknowledged from the floor of the Annual Meeting. And so, we waited to see what actions would be taken.
Since the time of the annual meeting, the following has transpired with the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF).
They’ve been mired in who will pay for the investigation.
The organization that has been mentioned to do the investigation, Guidepost Solutions LLC, seems to be more well known for defending predators than protecting victims.
The supposed “broad” investigation will NOT cover individual church cases, only the Executive Committee.
The SATF has formally requested “the Executive Committee to vote to waive attorney-client privilege”. Don’t hold your breath on this one. It’s going to be CYA in the SBC as per usual.
We are told by the SATF, “We will be able to obtain expert recommendations for the Messengers to consider acting on, to help provide care for survivors of sexual abuse and respond appropriately to, allegations of abuse or mishandling abuse in the SBC.This, in turn, has a direct impact on abuse prevention.”
Really? You think so? This quote, much like the itinerary outlined by Guidepost, has a lot of great sounding words. But words are just that, words. Static, and exactly like the SBC has been toward victims of abuse…nonoperational.
How are victims supposed to trust this investigation with Guidepost Solutions reputation? How exactly are they going to accomplish this without a way to pay for it? Without being able to investigate ALL cases and without being able to waive attorney-client privilege so that truth is revealed? It’s beginning to appear, once again, that the Southern Baptist Convention put on a “dog and pony show” for the media, gullible members, and victims desperate for any measure of justice.
More words and still no substantive action.
The actions of the SBC towards victims of sexual abuse, historically and consistently, have been at best apathetic or at worst, vitriolic. It is actions that reveal the heart. James told us, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
“Whoever sees their brother or sister in need and closes their heart against him or her, how does the love of God abide in them? Let us not love with word or tongue, but with deed and truth.” (1 John 3)
Where is Jesus in youractions, SBC?
“I’m sorry” means nothing. We must SEE repentance. You must ACT restoratively.
What we know is this: Any words spoken, no matter how true, are not real unless they are incarnated.
A criticism we hear as advocates is, “why do you bring up the past”, or “it seems like you only live in the past, only bring up the failures of the past.”
Well folks, let me quote a wise saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” And I believe Winston Churchill selected the appropriate word when he said “condemned”. Especially when you consider what Jesus said about those who cause children to stumble. Jesus condemned them in totality.
That is why we “keep bringing it up”.
We expose the past to help those living with the pain in the present. We help those with pain in the present with the goal of preventing it in the future.
If you can’t understand that, or refuse to learn this, then do us all a favor and stop acting as though you care.
Because the only people we can really work with, the only people who can truly serve the vulnerable, are those who will admit, lament and repent.
Those who will sacrifice for and serve those in pain. Those who will work their tails off to not let this happen again, no matter who commits these crimes.
A few days ago I learned that the person who molested and raped me and countless other little boys all across the state of Georgia has been welcomed back into a church that we thought had learned its lesson.
Guess what? The joke’s on us!
This church, which initially and with arrogance, stood beside him and said he was repentant. They said they believed in him. They then went on to say, we’re sorry we were wrong, and asked him to resign once the Southern Baptist Convention hinted at disfellowship. (Which in realty meant less funds from the national convention treasury). Once everything had died down in the press (and the predator had been run off from TWO other churches) he slithered his way back to his “home church” where deacons and members posted publicly to him, “It’s so good to see you back”, “your church loves you” and “welcome home love you”.
As you’ve already learned, this person is an admitted child molester. He has shown no repentance or remorse. And yet this church and these people welcome him with open arms and once again place their children in harm’s way. All I could think of when hearing this was the story of the “Scorpion and the Frog.”
A scorpion wants to cross a river but cannot swim, so it asks a frog to carry it across. The frog hesitates, afraid that the scorpion might sting it, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. The frog lets the scorpion climb on its back and begins to swim. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”
When this sexual predator harms another child, and they always do, please don’t be surprised. He’s a scorpion, it’s in his nature.
So people wonder why I talk about sexual abuse all the time?
Whether I wanted it or not it has become my role, as Finley Peter Dunne once said, to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The answer to why we do this is simple and heartbreaking, “because the people that should, won’t.”
I guess the real questions are these: Will the SBC take actual steps to protect children? Will the SBC help those already harmed find a path toward healing that is victim focused, not institution centered? And will the SBC take the necessary steps to prevent the predators in their midst from molesting and raping others?
SBC Executive Committee and Sexual Abuse Task Force…what will be your answers?
When will all this rhetoric about facing sexual abuse within the SBC become reality? We’re still waiting…
Earlier this week I had a conversation with a man I’ve gotten to know over the last year by reading his posts and watching his videos. Listening to him, it’s clear he has a heart for the vulnerable. His name is Kyle J. Howard and we soon realized a mutual frustration with the way certain words are used. Our conversation centered on the misuse of the term, “child porn”. It got me thinking that some clarity is needed. The arrangement of these words disgusts me on so many of levels, but I will begin with this… “child porn” is not pornography, it is the RAPE of a child! To label video/images as “porn”, implies that there is a consensual and transactional interaction. Such as an adult man or woman receiving payment to permit their bodies be recorded and viewed by other adults in consensual sexual activities. If you ask most any adult in the US, “what is pornography?” you’d probably get this type of response; “when 2 or more consenting adults agree to be paid for having sex on camera.” And because most Americans view pornography as a mutual, consensual transaction; maintaining the word “porn” in front of the word “child” leaves the message to our brains, subconscious or otherwise, that it is not “that bad.” Or many take the view, well I’m not doing it, I’m just watching it. To do this, is an attempt to use language to lessen or soften the actual effects of this crime. And that is what the sexual exploitation of children is…a CRIME! To record a child being molested and/or raped is not consensual! To view a child being molested and/or raped is not a victimless crime! To view this crime, YOU YOURSELF might as well be the one raping the child. Because that is what you are doing. You are re-victimizing that child OVER AND OVER AGAIN! So let me say this as plain as I can. To record or view the video or images of children being sexually molested and/or raped is not just watching “porn”…you are another one of this child’s rapist! And as Kyle Howard points out, “Pornography is largely made up of sex trafficked women. Porn itself makes one an enabler of sexual assault, sex slavery, and the like…we need to redefine how we see/understand porn entirely.” He goes on to say, “I can’t think of a time where I haven’t referred to child porn as “child rape”. In discussion & teaching, I always refer to child porn as “child rape” in some way.” So PLEASE stop calling it “child porn”. It’s child sexually abusive material. CSAM is another way to say it. Language is the greatest tool we have for connecting with people. Therefore, precision with language is essential. Inaccurate words not only sow misunderstanding but also dehumanize. Language matters and the way we use words is important. Language shapes our responses to sexual violence. In a recent article addressing how language matters in our responses to sexual violence, discusses how words that are used to describe sexual assault can “linguistically blur rape with healthy consensual sex”(p. 11). For example, Attorney Claudia Bayliff observes that stating that the child “performed oral sex” sounds like a voluntary act, one of mutuality, as opposed to the man “forced his penis in her mouth.” Those two constructions create dramatically different word pictures. In addition, euphemisms such as “child pornography” or “kiddie porn” minimize the violence inherent in such acts. 1 All of us need to be incredibly careful not to use the language of consensual sex when we are describing a sexual assault. Don’t believe me? Do you believe we are exaggerating? Why then have we stopped using certain words? Why do we use the term “little person”, rather than the word “midget”? Ask any African-American in the USA what they think of the “N” word. A word so offensive that it won’t be completed in respectful society. Why do we use one of the LGBTQIA designations, rather than the word “faggot”? Or ask a person with a developmental disability what they think of the word “retarded”. Are you beginning to see the point? It’s because those words harm. That is the point of this article. When you use the word “porn”, you diminish the effects of a crime against a child. It’s harmful and hateful. So what is the answer? How do we correct this? Claudia Bayliff gives us some concrete, simple directions:
Avoid using the language of consensual sex to describe assaultive acts.
Use accountable language that places responsibility on the person committing the criminal acts.
Help educate others about the importance of using accountable, accurate language when talking about sexual violence.
Just a few days ago, we wrote about our concerns that the shelter in place orders, which are absolutely essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, would potentially lead to more cases of abuse.
Yesterday, we heard from the President of RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), Scott Berkowitz, that for the first time ever, a majority of their sexual abuse hotline users were minors.
According to Berkowitz, over half of the people who called RAINN’s hotline last month who identified their age, were under 18. Of those, 67%identified theirperpetrator as a family member and, within that group, 79% said they were living with that perpetrator.
Berkowitz said the reason for the increased calls from minors could be that children can’t access the safety net of other adults they usually see outside the home.
“So many minors are now locked at home with their abuser, in the same house,” Berkowitz said. “The safety net that they had ― the parents and teachers and coaches that they would see every day who were likely the first people to notice signs of abuse ― children no longer have contact with those people right now.”
To read more about this risk to children, click on The Huffington Post article link here.
If you or someone you know is feeling trapped at home with a perpetrator, please reach out to someone you trust. If you don’t feel as though there is someone you can trust, contact one of these hotlines. Or call us at Together We Heal.
As Linda and I stay sheltered in place to do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19, I can’t help but think about a recent article in the New York Times…
The title of the article read, “Coronavirus Roils Every Segment of US Child Welfare System”.
The crux of the story and focus of the concern is this; Many child welfare professionals and advocates worry the pandemic will fuel a rise in child abuse and neglect.
Schools are closed. Many of these kids are from unstable backgrounds. Possible mental health issues with parents/guardians and drug/alcohol abuse to boot.
And with the two groups of people who usually offer some semblance of a safeguard, Teachers and other school employees NOT being able to report signs of abuse due to the school closings…”That’s a recipe for disaster”, said Boston social worker, Adriana Zwick.
Not having their eyes and ears means WE are going to have to be theirs, now more than ever. You may be sheltered in place, but you can keep your eyes and ears open in YOUR neighborhood.
Since older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19, children have not been a focus of public health efforts.
“That’s a mistake”, according to University of Pennsylvania professor Marci Hamilton, also CEO of CHILD USA, a think tank seeking to prevent child abuse and neglect.
“Already some areas are reporting spikes in abuse,” she said. “If caseworkers don’t have that protective equipment, it’s likely we’ll have fewer home visits, and fewer home visits mean more kids at risk.”
I think the sheriff of Harris County, Ed Gonzalez, said it best in a recent tweet…
“We cannot let a health pandemic become a child abuse pandemic! The number one reporters of child abuse are teachers, but kids aren’t seeing them right now. Neighbors and other family members, PLEASE pay close attention.”
Please watch for signs. If you need to know the signs, just ask. We’ll show you places to find the information you need. And then we can find the help the kids need. Together we can keep all children safer during this crisis.
To read the NYT article in full, click on the link here.
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wanted to start it off with an interview I had the privilege of doing with Rachel Grant and her amazing resource for survivors, “Beyond Surviving”.
Do yourself a favor, check out her website. Rachel continues to teach me so much that helps in my own healing journey.
This particular podcast we cover subject matter that’s had an immeasurable impact on and in my life. Both as someone who was victimized by a minister and now as someone who is working to make faith communities safer for children.
In this Beyond Surviving Podcast, (Look for S6 E3 – David Pittman) we’ll discuss why I partnered with GRACE, and how that work is transforming faith communities so they can better protect children, better identify predatory behavior, and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed.
Today, we’ll answer these questions and I’ll have some questions for you to determine if your faith community is properly prepared.
Is Your Faith Community prepared to properly respond to sexual abuse?
How would they respond to the perpetrator and how would they respond to the victim?
Why would it matter to me if I’m not religious?
Where can we find resources to educate our church?