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.
Join us for the first GRACE Live Conversation of 2022 and the first in their six-part series on Trauma-Informed Practices in Faith Communities.
Monday, Jan. 24th at 1 PM EST.
David Pittman (A GRACE Safeguarding Specialist and Director of Together We Heal) and Robert Peters (Senior Attorney at Zero Abuse Project) will be discussing Safety, the first key principle of trauma-informed care, from the perspective of abuse prevention and response within faith communities.
“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.
At last the truth is made known in the national media. At last predators like the one who murdered the innocence of my childhood and derailed my life for decades can no longer hide behind a church wall and pastor’s robe. And as you will read, our stories are not the exception, they are the rule. To abuse, deny, cover-up, victim shame and silence has been the “MO” for decades. Mine and countless others. I know most of you have probably read Part 1 of this story, but we are posting all 3 parts here so you can grasp the totality of the reach of sexual abuse within the SBC.
Please read, share, and then call your Pastor and DEMAND that change, REAL change be made. No more lip service. No more platitudes. This is not a Catholic problem. This is a HUMAN PROBLEM that exists in every denomination. Sexual predators use the church because people of faith are more trusting and forgiving and this is turned against them and used in evil, manipulating ways.
We must strike while the iron is hot and before it gets buried in the next news cycle. Please don’t let anymore time pass. Don’t assume someone else will speak to your church leadership. This is up to you now…
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.
One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Douglass who said,
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Please keep these two things in mind when you begin to think, “it’s just too hard to talk with my kids about sexual abuse”.
Here in the USA, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of childhood sexual abuse before they turn 18…don’t let your child be another statistic, don’t let them become another David, or Linda, or or or…
They need your strength and guidance…you CAN talk with them and they will be grateful you did!!
If you’re finding it challenging to talk with your kids, please read this post for some guidance:
We have received a request to participate in a research project. These studies can help with the understanding and treatment of those who have suffered abuse.
Please only participate if you feel strong enough emotionally, mentally, etc., to do so. We don’t want anyone to be triggered due to the level of questions asked.
Most research on clergy abuse has examined the perpetrating clergy rather than the survivors they have impacted. Because so little is known from the survivors’ perspective, a study is being conducted by researchers at Nova Southeastern University (IRB protocol # 04241319Exp) to examine the unique psychological and spiritual effects of clergy sex abuse on those survivors.
We are looking for adults (those over age 18) who survived childhood abuse (before the age of 18) by either a clergy member or a member of their family to participate in this study. Information from survivors of sexual abuse by a family member will allow us to examine how clergy abuse may impact survivors differently than familial abuse.
If you choose to participate in this study, you will be asked to complete an anonymous online survey with questions about your sexual abuse history and your current psychological and spiritual functioning. Because of the importance of having a comparison group, feel free to share this study link with others you know who may have been abused, even if the abuser was not clergy.
Please help extend our knowledge of the effects of clergy sexual abuse by following the link below:
Feeling Alone, it’s a familiar feeling. It’s altogether too familiar. As a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), I struggled for decades with it. I had it twisted around me like a straight-jacket of discomfort. The result was a never-ending quest for love and acceptance in all the wrong places with none of the right people.
This desperate pursuit eventually had me asking many questions about myself and my life.
Is that why I spent so many years seeking intimacy through empty sexual encounters?
Is that why I would take enough narcotics to drop a work mule and then get out on the road looking for party after party, person after person, hook-up after hook-up, connection after connection.
After I reread that last sentence it dawned on me. It’s that’s word, “connection”. I was looking for a true connection but in the most vile of environments, from the least genuine of people, and in the sketchiest of places with the most dangerous of drugs.
Sadly, when I’d meet a decent person, I’d find a way to sabotage whatever connection was made.
Over the last few years I’ve learned there are different types of “survivors” of CSA. First, there’s the type who grew up with abuse being so much a part of their lives, having no memory of life without it, that it was their “norm”. The second type consists of those who had, up until the abuse began, some sort of “regular” childhood. Once the abuse began, everything changed. Either they became withdrawn or they acted out, with combinations and variations of the two.
From listening to fellow survivors stories, It’s been my understanding that it depended on how old they were when the abuse began, how many years it lasted, who their abuser(s) were, plus a multitude of other factors. But please don’t misunderstand, whether the abuse occurred once or a thousand times, victims are left feeling alone.
To anyone looking at my life, I gave the appearance as if all was fantastic in my world! It would seem as if nothing so evil and certainly crimes so heinous could not be happening to me. After all, my abuser had total control over me. He was in the position of both male AND spiritual authority over me. In essence, he had possession of my mind, body and soul. He convinced me that no one would believe me anyway. And on top of that, the time and place where I grew up, we did not talk about anything negative and we certainly didn’t tell anyone else outside the family about such things. Who am I kidding, we didn’t even tell our family.
For the three years the sexual abuse occurred, no one knew what my youth minister, Frankie Wiley was doing to me, or to any of the boys he was molesting, abusing and raping at the same time. And since all of us felt we were the only ones to which it was happening, we felt completely alone. As I said, a feeling that would become more familiar than any other, and the driving force behind my desire to be loved, to be wanted, to feel “warm and fuzzy”, as the sex and narcotics both temporarily and falsely made me feel.
So as victims of these crimes, what do we do with this feeling of being “alone”? I have described how I dealt with it for the better part of 30 years. In doing so, I destroyed multiple careers, many relationships and almost lost my life.
Once I finally got clean and removed the fog of narcotics hanging over me, I was able to seek the help of one-on-one counseling and support groups that taught me proper coping skills. Now I know what to do when “triggered” or when I become overcome with the guilt, shame and self-blame associated with being sexually abused. I was also very fortunate to have a family willing to help me when I came forward about the abuse. Not everyone is so lucky. They assisted me in getting clean by keeping food in my belly and a roof over my head while I got my head clear.
I’m so thankful for all those who have helped me in the past and still help me to this day. And the reason I’m telling you all of this is to let my fellow survivors and their loved ones know what I’ve learned…help, healing and recovery are all possible.
As many of you know, I’m now married to the most amazing woman who loves me for who I am. Together, we work with victims and survivors. We see their healing begin and are witness to lives changing on a weekly basis.
I am now even able to be an active member of a church again. Having been abused by a minister, I had sworn at one time never to darken the doors of any religious institution. In my heart at that time, I believed God had allowed this and I hated Him for it. I eventually understood there was only one person to blame for the pain; my abuser, Frankie Wiley. And I see clearly now from his actions, he is not a Christian. A true Christian would not sexually abuse multiple boys at various churches over decades of time. Nor should I discount my belief because of what this sexual predator did to me and so many other little boys. I have decided not to allow his crimes to prevent me from receiving joy and peace from my belief.
My life now is one I had not dreamed possible. But when I opened my mind and heart to hope and healing, I began to finally experience what is possible for us all.
And that’s why I want all survivors to know THIS story, MY story, can be THEIR story. Turning your life into one that is both productive and fulfilling is within your reach, if only you’ll reach out to those willing to help you.
We are here to help. And together, we can truly heal.