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.
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.
The following post was written and spoken by a fellow survivor. Her name is Lori Anne Thompson and we are honored that she shared her post so we could share it with you.
I wrote a few years ago that High Church days like Christmas and Easter can be especially difficult for those who’ve been violated by a member of the clergy. While I tried to verbalize my thoughts and feelings that particular Easter, Lori Anne does so with more insight, and lays bare the pain of this Friday.
We know, and He knows, and I pray after reading this You will know too…
Dear Abuse Survivor/Supporter,
I have prepared this spoken word as a special gift for you. In it may you recognize the ruin in Friday and await the Son Rise on Sunday.
Survivors know just about all there is to know about that Friday.
They know even if they know Him not.
They know about the lies lashed around their wrists and feet. They know.
They know what it is to be bound and betrayed by a beloved.
They know what kisses were for. They know.
They know about the salacious set up,
The friends who ran away,
The dark night when they prayed,
And absolutely nothing changed. They know.
They know the cowardly cower of those who peddle in popularity,
They know the brief plead with the angry mob,
They know the freshly washed hands that claimed immunity. God help me, they know.
They know what it means to be handed over,
To be stripped;
To be assaulted;
To be beaten,
To be broken;
To have to carry a crushing weight in their weakened estate;
They heard their own knees buckle. Damn right they know.
They know what it is to be innocent;
To have entrusted their vulnerability to another;
To be laughed at;
To be mocked.
It rings in their ears still. They KNOW.
They know what it means to have their reputation,
Stripped, ripped, ruined, robbed, and hung in half naked rags in public humiliation. This, they know too well.
They know what is feels like to be forsaken,
To have all affirmation turn away.
To be utterly destroyed and alone.
I hang my head and I weep from somewhere deep. Don’t you know, they know?
They know what it is to descend to the depths of darkness and death,
To watch as parts of themselves are crucified.
Oh yes… curious onlooker, religious scholar, high priest, and peddler… They know.
This week Together We Heal, as an organization, and myself, David Pittman as an individual, have joined forces with Justice For Anne, For A Time Such As This & several fellow advocates. Together we have issued a statement that was most perfectly articulated by fellow advocate Ryan Ashton:
“If you please, read the joint statement myself and fellow abuse survivors and advocates delivered to the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) yesterday regarding their announcement of a sexual abuse study group:
“We all have a decision—to become more polarized and distrustful of one another, hide, build barriers, and perpetuate numerous injustices. Or we can face this evil together, choosing to create a culture where healing and safety are the norm, where love and compassion dwell, where children and families flourish, and the hope of the gospel maintains its integrity. We sign with that hope, committed to a future where no one in the Church has to say “Me Too” ever again.”
Everything we do at Together We Heal and GRACE is because of the past and current failures of those within the church to better protect children and properly respond to those who’ve been harmed. It is our hope that the SBC will begin to live up to the call of Christ they espouse and not be just another one of those “cast to the bottom of the sea with a millstone around their neck”.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
The time is long overdue. The ball is in your court SBC leaders and church members. Do you truly believe the scripture you preach and teach? Then BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS and quit giving lip service and protecting sexual predators.
I was sitting on the patio having my morning Coca-Cola, when I came across the most disturbing article title, “Is it Rape or Incest? Giving Abuse a Politically Acceptable Name”. I didn’t think I’d ever heard of a politically acceptable name for abuse. Have you?
I was compelled to read on. The author went on to say, “RAPE. In any other realm outside of a family member would be referred to by its justified name, rape. My daughter was raped at age 3. I don’t call it incest, I call it what it is, rape. Because it was done by a very trusted family member doesn’t change what happened. The act is the same. Whether it was a family member or complete stranger, rape is still rape. Being raped by someone in your family doesn’t make it less of a crime.”
Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, this got me to thinking about the other monikers associated with—any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person—as defined by Webster’s as Rape. Some of the names we associate with it are, “Date-Rape”, “Molestation”, “Statutory Rape”, “Despoilment”, and I even used one when describing what happened to me as a little boy, “Abuse”.
What makes us want to alter the name depending on the circumstances of the act? Is it to make us, as the victims of crime, feel less ashamed or dirty? Good luck with that. I can tell you that won’t work. Is it to make us as individuals feel less threatened as we consider “what happens elsewhere, NIMBY”? Or is it to make us as a society feel less of a failure for not protecting our most precious resource, our children.
Whatever the rationale, none of it matters because none of it works or is justified. As the author of the article and I discussed on her blog, Rape is Rape. Period. And just because no penetration occurs, if someone takes away the sexual innocence of a child, it is still and also rape. As I said in response to her post and she agreed, we must quit calling things by what is “socially acceptable” and call a spade a spade. Shouldn’t we cease from labelling these crimes as date-rape, statutory rape or any other watered-down version of the harsh reality? It’s ALL rape. Shouldn’t we do all we can to prevent rape in the first place and to support all survivors of all sorts of this criminal act.
Ah, therein lies the rub. To DO something by its definition requires ACTION. And that’s a tough pill to swallow, especially with our busy schedules. Breakfast and lunches to fix for multiple kids, soccer practices and piano lessons, conference calls to Europe and Asia, and on and on…where on earth will we find the time? Want to know when? When, God forbid, it happens to one of ours. It seems as only then do we realize how important raising awareness is, because “if we had only known; and we sure don’t want anyone else to go through this”. Here’s an idea from a really smart guy. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” – Frederick Douglass said that some time ago, and it’s still true today. Let’s prevent rape before it happens.
Don’t know how? Take a look online and see how many groups out there for survivors of Rape, Domestic Violence, Childhood Sexual Abuse there are…trust me when I say, there is no end to the lists of organizations. Join one and help be a part of the solution.
That’s just one man’s opinion.
Why me? Why did this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? I am just a kid, why did you do this to me? These are just the start of questions that children begin to ask themselves when they fall prey to a sexual predator.
When dealing with issues of pain from childhood sexual abuse, people handle it in different ways; being a man, I can only tell you the struggles a boy and man goes though. Initially the greatest struggle was just in finding a resource for help to work through the psychological and emotional trauma. With so much abuse happening to women, it only goes to reason that the majority of available support is directed toward them. But support for men is out there, you might have to look a little harder for it but it’s there. Thus the increase in groups like “Together We Heal”, “SNAP”, “1in6.org”, “MaleSurvivor.org” and many others. But once found, the next steps can be even more challenging.
If the abuse occurs as a young boy and at the hands of a man, you struggle with the confusion of being aroused. While we may learn that physiologically there is virtually no way to stop an erection or even ejaculation, it does not diminish the damage done. As a boy or man you begin to question your sexuality. How could I have been aroused by this disgusting act? When you combine this with the still long-held homophobic rhetoric voiced by so many, the confusion gets compounded and magnified.
For myself, I “proved” my sexuality throughout college by having sex with as many women as I could. While this temporarily bolstered my ego, and reputation with the guys, all it really did was hurt many of the girls’ feelings and further hinder my ability to get at the root of my own pain.
When having promiscuous sex was not enough to keep my hurt and pain deep down enough in my psyche, I turned to alcohol and drugs. As I mentioned in the previous article, with drugs I could numb myself to the point where I not only didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t feel anything, except the high of the particular narcotic of the day.
I started off like most, waiting till I got off work and drank until I got that “buzzed” feeling. Over the next few years I would drink more and more until I would pass out each night. By drinking to that point, I made sure that while awake I was either too busy with work to think about the pain or too drunk to understand why I was drinking so much.
When alcohol was no longer strong enough I turned to drugs. I started with a club drug called ecstasy, once used by therapists for couples struggling to open up and communicate. It has become an abused “party” drug sometimes referred to as the “hug drug” for the utopia-like effect it gives you. Not only did I no longer feel emotional pain, but possibly of greater import, the “feeling”, however false it may have been, was as if everyone loved me, and this was something I craved above all else…the feeling of love and acceptance. But as any addict will tell you, the more drugs you do, the more you have to do to get the same level of high. The problem is you never do get that again.
So at this point I amplified the drug with another to try to extend its feeling with methamphetamine, commonly known as speed or crank. When this no longer did the trick I moved up to GHB. GHB is like ecstasy times ten. The extreme danger of this drug is that it slows your respiration and can do so to the point where you stop breathing altogether. What is so deadly about it, is once you reach a certain point, there is no way of reviving you. And I was doing as much as I could until I would pass out, coming close to overdosing on three occasions, that I can validate from others telling me…only God knows how many times I actually came close to death.
Eventually what occurred to me was what happens to almost all drug users and abusers. I got locked up and spent a month in jail for two convictions of drug possession. It was simultaneously the best thing that could have happened, the worst experience of my life, and probably saved me from ending up in a morgue. Having my freedom taken away, being totally humiliated, and my life threatened on two occasions while incarcerated, I realized finally where my life was headed if I didn’t stop taking drugs, so I went to NA and got the help I needed to get clean. I have remained sober for eight plus years now.
Once I got clean I had a whole new problem; I had to finally face all of this traumatic emotional pain without any filters, without any buffers. I had to face life on life’s terms; and life, for most of us, isn’t always kind and nice. It’s hard, and when you aren’t strong emotionally or mentally and don’t have the necessary tools to confront this issue, you don’t handle this easily. It was only with the support of an amazing family and equally incredible friends that I have been able to process this pain and conflict and be able to finally stand on my own two feet again, now with a clean mind and body.
This doesn’t mean that I am not still haunted daily by the memories of molestation and sexual assault, it just means that now I have the tools to handle this battle. Frederick Douglass was quoted as saying, “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This has been true in my life. The damage done by my abuser, Frankie Wiley, was so terrible that the positive done to build me up the first twelve years of my life, he destroyed in just 2 1/2, and it’s taken thirty to just BEGIN to get my life back on the right track.
I have since learned that the damage done was much farther reaching than I could have ever imagined. I wondered why it felt like it was taking me longer to work through my struggles than others who had “been just abused or were just addicted to drugs.” I recently found a potential reason behind this.
A German medical research center has now documented that childhood trauma leaves a mark on the DNA of some victims. What they have determined is abused children are at a higher risk of anxiety, mood disorders, and PTSD as traumatic experience induces lasting changes to their gene regulation. This topic is too important not to give its own deserved article, so we will save it for next week. I just wanted to bring it to your attention as a survivor or supporter so you, as did I, might begin to grasp some of your “unexplained” struggles.
Due to the derailing of my youth, I now have fewer years left on this earth to do what I believe I was always meant to do…help others in some way. So I am going to spend what time I have left to do my best to 1) prevent what happened to me from happening to other children and 2) help other survivors begin the process of healing. I am one of the “lucky ones”, or at least so say the statistics–I should already be re-incarcerated, back on the streets looking for my latest high, or dead.
As I mentioned, I was arrested and spent a month in jail. But my experience with the justice system was the exception, not the rule. While I “did my time, learned my lesson and moved on,” within three years of being released, 67% of ex-prisoners re-offend and 52% are re-incarcerated, according to a study published in 2004. The rate of recidivism is so high in the United States that most inmates who enter the system are likely to reenter within a year of their release.
The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world and of the roughly two million people occupying a cell, approximately 500,000 of them have been convicted of a drug offense. With an estimated 6.8 million Americans struggling with drug abuse or dependence, the growth of the prison population continues to be driven largely by incarceration for drug offenses.
If you are shocked by those numbers, wait until you hear how many addicts “fall off the wagon.” Relapse rates for addiction range from 40% to 60%, or 50% to 90% depending on which studies you read. These rates vary by definition of relapse, severity of addiction, which drug of addiction, length of treatment, and elapsed time from treatment discharge to assessment, as well as other factors. The point is clear, relapse happens more often than not.
But of all the statistics I am “fortunate” not to be a part of, the last is most important. For the year 2011, there were 40,239 drug induced deaths and 26,256 alcohol induced deaths. Again, I told you on three different occasions, I came close…but thankfully I am still here today to be a cautionary tale of how NOT to cope with your abuse.
So this is my hope. And by that word I don’t mean what I wish for to happen, I mean it’s what I know, count on and expect to happen…the original definition of the word hope. Look it up. I have hope to help others, I have hope that they will heal, I have hope to protect children. I now have a future that was once denied me due to a sexual predator. And you too can have this hope, this expectation, this new future … just reach out and you will find us here for you.
As I learned in NA, there is no greater advocate and no better person to help an addict than another addict. The reason is simple: they know what the other has been through. For this reason I look to other survivors of childhood sexual abuse to help me as I continue to heal. For this reason I look to other survivors to extend themselves to those fellow survivors not as far along in their healing process. For this reason I ask you now, if you are in a position to help someone who has been through what you have, think back to who it was that helped you and remember how crucial it was for you to get that help, to have that shoulder to lean on, to have an understanding ear that would listen and consider this simple statement:
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
– MPI of Psychiatry, Munich Germany, 2003-2012
– Nature Neuroscience 2012
– Narcotics Anonymous, Blue Book
– Narcotics Anonymous, White Pamphlet
– National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
– Stocker, S.
– National Institute on Drug Abuse
– National Institute of Health
– U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
– International Centre for Prison Studies (18 Mar 2010). “Prison Brief – Highest to Lowest Rates”. World Prison Brief. London: King’s College London School of Law.
– John J. Gibbons and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach (June 2006). “Confronting Confinement”. Vera Institute of Justice
– Bureau of Justice Statistics US Department of Justice
Rachel Grant asked us to do a guest blog and our first two weeks are going to be a more thorough discussion of Abuse and Addiction. Please go to the link to her site, read and share with us your thoughts. We want to thank Rachel for the opportunity to reach even more survivors and hopefully help them on their journey of healing.