I can’t tell you how frequently, because sadly I’ve lost track of the number of times a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse has told me someone in their life said to them, “why can’t you just get over it?”
Someone commented the other day in one of the online support groups that I belong, “sometimes the feel of this group is to be passed the past. I am simply not. My one on one therapy has been shit. I don’t feel I have gotten any better. If I post some bad things or things I feel I don’t know it’s like I fail. It is not you, it’s me :(”
So I replied – “please know you are not alone with the feelings you’re having. Many of us, including myself, wonder when things will “get better”. In group this week we even talked about how we didn’t understand why, after going through so much therapy why we would still have the past come back and bite us in the butt. We even have members of our family or friends say, why don’t you just get over it? The thing is, we never “get over” what we have been through. The best we can hope for is to “work through it” and to heal. And so together, helping one another with what has helped each of us, we try to do just that. Combine our cumulative learning and coping skills to better handle “it” when it rears it’s ugly head. I guess I’m just trying to say, we’re here for you, I’m here for you and you’re not alone.”
What’s really sad to me is when people in our lives, people we care about and love utter those words, “get over it.” It’s as if they think we’ve been in a car wreck or had a bad cold. How they can be so insensitive to spew such verbal poison is beyond the pale.
I know, and thankfully so, they can’t possibly comprehend the hell and torture we’ve been through. But to lack even the slightest amount of decency or courtesy boggles the mind. Even more baffling is when it comes from a “professional” or someone who HAS been sexually abused. In those situations it’s clear they have not faced their own demons and so to make themselves look or feel better, they say words that cut to the bone and do more damage. It’s that type of thought and speech that causes survivors of abuse to either stop talking or further bury emotions and the trauma that they desperately need to work through. And now, because someone has said what they have, the healing process is delayed, derailed or denied altogether.
I remember being told as a youngster, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Well here’s my message to all those who tell us to get over it…
…shut your pie hole! You have no clue what you’re talking about and you’re hurting more than helping so do everyone a favor and keep your mouth shut!
Can you tell I’m a little aggravated about this issue?
And to all of my fellow survivors, please hear me when I say this…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and the dingbats who would say such words. They don’t know what we’ve been through. Keep doing what you’re doing by working with your therapist, attending group therapy and relying on the support, guidance and comfort of those who care enough about you to say positive affirmations. We CAN heal and we CAN do it together.
Healing and recovery from childhood sexual abuse is challenging enough as it is. If someone is not a part of your healing, disregard them. And cling tightly to those who show you true love, empathy and support.
I had a fellow survivor give me the perfect example of the struggle we face. They told me of a relative who had a permanent physical disability and how comforting the family was toward them. And yet, when it came to their own pain from sexual abuse, this same family was completely indifferent.
Just because people can’t “see” our injuries doesn’t make them any less real. Simply because someone doesn’t have the capacity to look inside our hearts and souls, doesn’t make the pain we feel any less severe. Instead of assuming we’re ok, how about taking the time to really listen to what we’re saying. In doing so, you might just be the one who helps someone in pain beyond what you could ever imagine or bare. You could be the one that makes all the difference in the world.
As I was writing this I thought of something to say the next time I hear those words…I’ll ask them, would you tell me to “get over it” if I had cancer or heart disease? Of course not because that would be ridiculous. Well, what we are going through is like a cancer of our minds and disease of our hearts. If we don’t address it in a healthy way it tears us apart from the inside out.
So please, be careful what you say to those in pain, to those who have been utterly devastated as children to the point it affects us adversely as adults. We need to be loved and supported, not dismissed with hateful words. And be thankful it didn’t happen to you and pray it doesn’t happen to your children. I bet you wouldn’t tell them to…get over it…
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
For many of us who were raised in a religious setting, but also endured childhood sexual abuse at the hands of someone in the ministry, this time of year can be a conflict of emotions. For me, there was a time when I abandoned the organization that I felt had abandoned me and my fellow survivors. Unless it was a wedding or a funeral, I wouldn’t darken the doors of any church, synagogue, etc. I would even go so far as to say, for a time, I held God responsible for what happened to me and had genuine feelings of hatred toward the church and God.
It wasn’t until I had spent many years working with a therapist and in a group therapy setting, that I realized it wasn’t the fault of God that what happened to me happened. However, the churches failure to take action, support those of us who had been harmed and take the necessary steps to prevent these predators from hurting other children still causes great pain and still has no excuse.
That having been said, I read something today that I think applies to both Easter and survivors.
“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all” ~ Leo C. Rosten.
It’s clear, for those of us who subscribe to Christianity, that Christ stood for something, and made a difference in our lives by sacrificing His. Applying that to survivors of CSA, we too can take this opportunity to turn this awful, evil series of events that happened to us, and turn them into taking a stand, making a difference in the lives of our fellow survivors and help prevent this from happening to future generations of children.
For those that know me, and have been keeping up with all that Together We Heal is doing, you know we most definitely have passion, compassion, are taking responsibility and doing all we can to take honorable actions for this cause.
So as we go forward today in celebration of Easter, in acknowledging the resurrection of Christ, let’s apply this most critical of moments in His life to our own lives. We can resurrect our destroyed lives. We can restore what was taken. We can have our lives count for something. We can because we have survived a “death of our own“.
I’m not saying this because I believe all survivors should feel exactly like I do, and I most certainly understand if you still have reservations about anything having to do with any religious organization. I only write this to give you words of encouragement, to let you know that if I can make it through to this point in my recovery, I know you can too. But I don’t believe it should be forced onto anyone, by anyone. This is on your terms and in your own time.
So now with this perspective, I hope we all can look at today as a day where we are no longer shackled by the weight of guilt, shame and self-blame. We can experience a rebirth and resurrection for ourselves. We can because together…we can truly heal.
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
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!
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
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.
Below is the link to the recording of the show:
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc
The following post is from a colleague and friend named Svava Brooks. She works tirelessly to help her fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse, raise awareness about issues surrounding CSA and is an all-around amazing person. Please be sure to check out her site at – http://speak4change.com
They say the hardest part of the healing journey after childhood sexual abuse is the beginning, when you muster up the courage to tell someone that you have been sexually abused. I used to agree but from what I have learned through my own healing journey and from supporting countless other victims, I believe that the hardest part is in the middle. The messy part, the crisis, the unraveling of your world as you know it.
It felt like I intentionally abandoned all that I knew about my world. No matter how dysfunctional or self-harming, I knew what to expect, I knew how to cope with my vicious internal dialog, and how to defend myself against the invisible enemy that I expected daily, sometimes hourly, to attack me. Even though I was no longer living under the same roof as the perpetrator, I was still living my life, with my fears, thoughts, and beliefs as if I was still living with him.
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” –André Gide.
Growing up in an abusive home, we denied our truth, what we “saw” and felt. We ignored our fear and numbed and repressed our feelings. We thought we could trust our caretakers but they hurt us, ignored us, and made it clear by their actions that we should stay silent.
Accepting this daunting reality as a part of the healing process can be and is overwhelming, especially if you try to go at it alone. I tried for many years to get validation about the abuse I suffered from the family that had ignored it. It did not work. I was called crazy and asked to get over it. Told that I was just causing trouble for everyone else.
What I learned eventually and I want to share with you, is that the sooner you stop seeking validation from the wrong people, the people that make you feel wrong about speaking the truth, the better off you are and the faster you will recover. Unfortunately for most of us, the wrong people are the people in the families that we are born into. You have to stop going back to them.
I am not saying that you can never be a part of their world; you can eventually. But it serves you, right now, for your healing, to divorce from them or separate for a while. At least while you are healing yourself, going through the messy part of healing.
The middle part, the messy part, takes the longest time. It is the part we tend to resist the most. It is the deep work of identifying our negative beliefs and exchanging them for new positive, empowering beliefs. Going back to the people that will not validate your truth will only re-enforce the negative beliefs.
You cannot heal your life if you keep giving your power to the people that hurt you then and are hurting you now. Find and share your story with those that can support you, that can and will validate your pain, your struggle, and most importantly can and will encourage you to move forward.
Find others like you, those that are on the journey and have been through it. Learn to listen to your heart and intuition. You know what your truth is. Listen to it, honor it, and follow it.
I could have saved myself lot of grief and heartache if someone had told me in the beginning of the journey that the people that I thought loved me, would not be the people walking alongside me and supporting me on the healing journey. It was a painful realization but one that we have to make peace with.
My greatest support came from other fellow survivors that were just a little further down the road than I was, that I could see had made peace with the fact that they could not change their families or make them listen and understand them.
I am glad you are here, that you are reading this. I want you to know that you can heal and restore yourself. You can connect through your healing with complete strangers that are survivors and thrivers like you. They have been there, they understand your struggle and they do believe in you.
Your fellow survivors are the people to go to when you feel that hope is lost and the abuse was your fault. We know that you need to hear this, over and over and over. We can remind you of what is possible. That healing is possible.
I believe in you. I believe your story and your truth. I know that you can heal and I will remind you of that as often as you need to hear it. You are not alone my friend. It may not seem like it but we are all in this together.
We are stronger together.
You can also read this at Svava’s site and the rest of her insightful articles at:
Radio Show with David Pittman & Michele Rosenthal – Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Healing and recovery with regard to childhood sexual abuse (CSA), says David Pittman, Executive Director of Together We Heal (TWH), happens because “Ultimately, you have to make a choice.” For Pittman that choice happened when he was incarcerated for drug possession. Getting clean, facing the truth, healing and founding an organization that provides free counseling is the amazing transformation that David has brought to his life. In this interview we discussed:
David’s incredible story of trauma to triumph
How he cleaned up his act and turned his life around
2 things that help any CSA recovery
3 steps that can help you achieve success
The TWH mission and their “turn no one away” counseling policy
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
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.
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
A black opera singer, a religion/philosophy major and homecoming queen walk into a bar. No, it’s not the beginning of a tired joke, nor did they walk into a bar. Actually, they and about 5-6 other people from equally different backgrounds sat in a student center of a private, liberal arts university. This conglomeration of typical American diversity decided to call themselves “The Breakfast Club.” Those of you old enough to get the movie reference will appreciate what they meant. For those that don’t, all you need to know is what they were, what they thought they knew and what they would all eventually become would not always be what was anticipated, assumed or expected. Life is full of surprises that way.
For those, who at the age of 18, declare themselves as Religion/Philosophy majors, the irony in it is that they think they know it all already. And yes, I speak from personal experience. What I learned over the next 7 years, was that I not only didn’t know it all, I hardly knew a thing. And to this very day I am constantly learning more and seeing things as I never have before. Thank goodness for that!
How sad would it be to have at 18 the complete understanding of all humanity. What a burden to bear with so little skills as yet gained. Over those 7 years I lived a couple of lifetimes. The college years are like that for most. Like a whole other life. It’s where most learn what they really believe, as opposed to what mommy and daddy told them. Some fall in lockstep with traditional roles. Doctors, lawyers, teachers – then there’s the rest of us. Those who didn’t figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up. I thought I had. Finished with a degree in journalism. Was going to charge hell with a squirt gun and take on all the worlds wrongs and injustices. I felt the “pen was mightier than the sword” philosophy would serve me well as i headed into the profession of broadcasting and journalism. Silly thing happened along the way. Got a shocking jolt of reality. People, at least those in power, don’t really want some sniveling nosed youngster stirring the pot and messing things up. Then a very sad thing happened. I, like so many others, got disillusioned. You think to yourself, it doesn’t really matter what I do because nothing’s going to change.
So we settle. We settle for a “job” that pays bills. We settle for a spouse who will tolerate us. We settle for an apartment because we don’t want to sacrifice what it would take to get a house. We settle, we settle, we settle. Any of this sound familiar? What happened to those dreams and aspirations of our youth? Of being a marine biologist, or a romance novelists or whatever your big idea was? We got disillusioned and settled. Screw that Carpe Diem BS, I got a power bill to pay!
Then 1 year becomes 5. 1 kid becomes 3. And now your 20 yrs. down the road, kids almost grown, and you’ve quite rightly “settled” in to this life. So what now. And why now? Why now are all those thoughts from my childhood creeping back into my mind? Why? Because now there’s nothing to distract me. No midnight keg party, no late night rendezvous, no diapers to change, no soccer practices, no business luncheons, no nothing. Just me and my thoughts.
Now I have the time to remember all the vile things done to me by my abuser. And the really, REALLY crappy thing about it…it’s too late to prosecute them. For you see, back in “our” day the statute of limitations ran out by the time we were 18, or maybe 23 in some places. But it’s too late now. So why bother? Why? Because as you sit here reading this, and as I’m writing it, they are probably already grooming another little “you” and another little “me”. Pedophiles don’t stop. They don’t get fixed. There is no cure.
I still have the majority of those friends who called themselves “The Breakfast Club”. I’m blessed in that. And even more so, they all have been willing to join me in this fight to protect children and help survivors of abuse. So, it took me a little longer than most to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up. Better late than never, right?
So it’s up to me, it’s up to you, it’s up to all of us as adults to stop them. To do what those children can’t do for themselves, speak up. Name your abuser, if it’s a possibility. Tell anyone who is in earshot who they are, what they did and warn those around them. If its not something that can be done, then reach out to other survivors to help them. Help educate the public and those around you about CSA. The children of this generation deserve our protection. And I’m not asking you to do something I’ve not been willing to do myself. I have made sure all those who are around my abuser know EXACTLY what he did to me and many other little boys. Please keep in mind that I’m only asking this of those who are in a healthy enough place to do so. Not those who have just come to terms with what happened.
And I’m asking the same of every person reading this who wasn’t a victim of CSA, but wants to know what they can do to help. Extend your reach to help groups like ours and others, volunteer your time, give of your talents, your resources, whatever you have at your disposal to help those in need.
And once you have gotten to that place of strength and confidence, ask yourself…
…as Sean Connery told Kevin Costner in the movie “The Untouchables” when all hell was about to break loose…
…”What are you prepared to do?”
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.
“We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build, but by the monuments we destroy.”
NY Times Editorial, 1963
What greater monument to mankind is there other than our children? The only time we are given the ability to assist God in creating. So is there any worse crime, any more horrific tragedy or any greater destruction, than that of the innocence of a child; their heart, their spirit.
As survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we must become the advocates of those whose voices are still silenced.
After we have come to our own acceptance of truth and healing we are the ones who can best help others to do the same.
Our “mission” of sorts is to be positive without negating or downplaying the trauma of this type of crime – to remind ourselves and others that hope is available and accessible.
We want to get this right – How to best lift up the victims to become survivors and as Grace Gayle put it, from victims to victors.
To let anyone who has been through childhood sexual abuse come to the same truth and understanding that this was NOT their fault – they are NOT alone – they have NO reason to feel shame or ashamed, and that they can be strong and courageous by coming forward, identify their abuser and move ahead with their life to give them the best possible chance of having lasting friendships and loving relationships.
Together, we can truly heal.
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.