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.
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.
Last week we talked about about something all survivors of abuse grapple with, feeling alone. So now what, how do we get beyond these helpless and hopeless feelings?
What is Required to Have a Life of Hope and Healing?
The following article might seem a bit short, when considering what we are talking about. I just want to make it as straightforward as possible. Now within each of these three areas lies a multitude of layers and steps. But for our purposes, I just want it to be succinct.
I would be happy to delve into each one in more detail, and will do so in the near future. For now, I just want us all to grasp the basics for what is required.
Once you open your mind and heart to hope and healing you can begin to experience what myself and other survivors have. A life that is rewarding and fulfilling.
It requires three things; Work, Support and Belief.
Like anything in life, nothing worth having comes easy. And recovery and healing are no different. As I sat in a room with fellow survivors one evening, one asked, “when does this begin to get easier?” We all let out a nervous chuckle of sorts because we knew what they meant. We had either previously wondered this same question or were currently asking the same thing.
For those of us who were a little farther down the “recovery road”, we chimed in and said, “it’s a back and forth, up and down ride.” You’re going to have good days and bad. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve gotten things manageable and that’s when a trigger will occur and out of the blue something bites you in the tail. But no matter where you’re at; day 1 or year 20, it’s a process, and one that’s ongoing. What we all agreed upon is that the work was worth the effort. The alternatives; keeping it bottled up, ignoring it, disregarding the emotions – none of them worked long-term and would eventually lead to bad results.
So what kind of work you ask? Saying the following word is easy, following through is the work. Therapy, whether it’s one-on-one counseling, or in a group setting, it is essential. Recovery takes the help and guidance from others who are either trained and/or have been through what you have. Believe me when I say, I’ve tried doing this on my own, and I know many others who have as well, and none of us were able to make any progress until we enlisted the help of others. It’s doesn’t mean we are weak. To the contrary, admitting we needed help was both a strong and brave thing to do. It meant we cared enough about ourselves and those that love us to get that help, begin to heal and work toward becoming the person we were capable of being.
We all need it. When we first come forward about being sexually abused, how we are received can determine what happens next. So the person or people we reach out to can be key. I can’t stress this enough. Think carefully about to whom it is you first disclose. I have seen too many survivors hurt by the very ones they went to for help. That’s why we always say, please know we are here to help. And fortunately now, there are many other organizations out there who will offer this same type of real, positive and caring reception of what you’ve been through.
No matter whether it’s a friend, your family or an organization; take that step, reach out and receive the love and support they are willing to provide. And build upon it. Grow your support structure. Sometimes one person might not be available at that exact moment, so develop a group of people you can turn to during those tough times or when triggered.
I’m actually ending where I believe it begins, with belief. The first part is a belief in yourself. From there, it’s a belief that hope and healing ARE possible. And you CAN believe because there are so many who have gone before you and have constructed such a life. We aren’t different from you. We are just like you.
I’d like to say there’s something special about us, or that we have some secret recipe for recovery. But like most things in life, the simplicity is the “work”. So there’s no magic potion, no secret pill.
And that means the hope and healing we are now experiencing are within your grasp as well. As I’ve said, it just takes the work and support.
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.
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!
Once again, we were given the honor of speaking out on behalf of both drug addicts and survivors of childhood sexual abuse in recovery. We discuss the struggles of both, the ability to find a healing path and what to do in those moments of feeling “stuck“.
When you have a moment, please take some time to listen in on this invaluable information that I know can help begin a transformative time in your life if you have challenges with one or both.
The dialogue between myself and Misa Leonessa Garavaglia brought up some great points toward finding a healing path. Please do listen and let us know if we can help.
Healing Addiction, Part 1- Addiction and Child Sexual Abuse
My wife Linda and I had the privilege of talking with Rachel Grant, author and Beyond Surviving extraordinaire! In this episode Rachel explains the “3 Stages of Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse”. This is a can’t miss show! Please set aside some time to listen, learn and gain insight on how to truly begin to heal!
Thank you Rachel for all you do to help survivors and for being a tireless advocate and friend!
And please go to Rachel’s site – http://rachelgrantcoaching.com – for helpful information on how she can help you move further along in the healing process!
We were honored to be the guest on the radio show, “Dare To Be Authentic”, founded by author and Life Coach, Mari Mitchell-Porter.
This episode is one full of hope and encouragement for those who have suffered the devastation of childhood sexual abuse and has valuable information for parents to keep children safer from sexual predators.
Please take a few minutes to listen and then check out her site below:
Trigger Warning due to description of childhood sexual abuse
It’s an indelible memory seared into our minds and branded onto our souls. At least for those of us who were sexually abused as children. It’s a memory we can’t shake. At some point, many of us experienced having our abuser(s) hand(s) over our mouths to keep us quiet during the acts of abuse. They didn’t want anyone to hear our cries of agony. The tragedy is that years, even decades later we feel like it’s still there, like there’s some invisible hand still covering our mouths and cries for help.
Ironically we are often asked, “why didn’t you say something then? Why didn’t you tell someone what was happening?” For anyone who has experienced true fear, and I’m not talking about horror movie scared, I’m talking about terror beyond description. Those who’ve experienced this level of intimidation and panic know exactly what I mean when I say we were going through fear that completely freezes you dead in your tracks. It prevents you from completing even the simplest of tasks. The ones that others take for granted.
Sure our friends could go to mom and dad about a bully down the street, or the weird guy at the end of the block, or the teacher who was mean to them in school. But those seem benign to us in comparison.
For us, we couldn’t do the most mundane of acts – Like driving down a road we grew up on. Or walking in the doors of a church/synagogue/mosque where our abuser held all the cards and wielded total autonomy.
Much has been written in other places, and here, about the plethora of reasons children don’t talk about sexual abuse, so I won’t beat that dead horse. What I will tell you is that it’s real, and all the reasons explained in the various media and online outlets are valid. And it’s the reason why, to us, we felt trapped and incapable of speaking out.
The reason I bring it up now is for my fellow survivors who might not have spoken yet. And to help their loved ones understand a little better.
It’s that damned “hand”. And it’s both literal and metaphorical.
We felt the actual hand covering our mouths, sometimes even our noses, to the point we couldn’t breathe. Grasping for air, grasping for help, wanting to cry out but knowing any such action would be met with harsher penalties by the abuser.
When you are a child, those in authority have all the power. We felt powerless to stop them, or so we thought. When we were children, there were no talk shows discussing childhood sexual abuse. There were no support groups to turn to for guidance or shelter. There was nothing.
We thought to ourselves, even if we speak up, who would believe us? A child making accusations about a so-called “pillar of the community”. Or worse yet, about our parents! No one in their right minds would believe us. Or so we we’re told, and possibly in many cases it might have even been true…no one would’ve believed us.
So we did the only thing we could, just hang on long enough to survive. And most of us did. Sadly a few didn’t. We witnessed some of our closest friends take their own lives, or tumble down the road of alcoholism and addiction to the point it cost them their lives. Everyone else said, “I just don’t understand why Jimmy or Susie did that. They had their whole lives in front of them.”
What they didn’t know, was their lives had been destroyed by the hand of sexual abuse. They had no coping mechanisms or tools to effectively cope with the abuse. And due to the lack of guidance, they self-medicated, and when the pain went beyond what they thought they could bare, they ended what they felt was a meaningless life.
I know these feelings of utter despair. I know them because I also, like a couple of people I lost, felt as though life was no longer worth living. And while my feeble attempts to “accidentally” overdose were unsuccessful, my life went spiraling out of control.
Oddly enough it was what most people would consider a horrible event, my arrests and time incarcerated, that most likely saved my life. Had it not been for being locked-up, I would probably have continued to abuse narcotics until I eventually overdosed with no return.
Thankfully I did get clean, I did learn through counseling how to utilize proper coping skills to work though the pain of the abuse. And now I have a life I never dreamed possible. I have the most amazing and loving wife. And together we work with survivors and their loved ones in ways that make me feel both honored to help and humbled with rewards beyond this life or words. And I’ve been able to actually enjoy my life free of narcotics and can finally “feel” the experiences of my life.
And I tell you all of this to let my fellow survivors and their loved ones know this is all possible for them too. If I can survive what I did, and now have a life not of just surviving, but thriving, they can too! All that is required is to reach out and receive the help that’s available.
Recently I had the pleasure of having breakfast with my friend and colleague, Boz Tchividjian. I’m so thankful for the friendship he and I have developed and while talking he gave me one more reason to be thankful. He brought to my attention something I had not given enough consideration. It’s from his insight this article originated.
We were discussing the reasons behind why I didn’t say something about my abuse and why other survivors don’t tell or speak up while the abuse is occurring. During the conversation I told him something my mom had said to me. He stopped me and said it was important and to say it again.
He asked if there had been any indications to anyone that the abuse that was happening. I told him about one man in my life who had been a positive, male role-model for me. When I was about 13, he was talking with my mom about my abuser (but at this time no one knew) and said, “there’s something that’s not quite right about that guy spending all this time with those boys. I can’t put my finger on it but I know there’s something that’s just not right.” To which my mom said, “If something were going on with David, he would tell me.”
It’s those last four words that bears repeating…“he would tell me”.
My mom and I have a strong and healthy bond. Because my dad was not in the picture for the first 23 years of my life, it resulted in mom and I having lots of time together and the opportunity to forge an incredible relationship that we still have to this day. I would go so far as to say it’s an uncommonly good relationship as parent/child relationships go. I remember while growing up, most of my friends saying at some point, “I just can’t talk to my mom or dad about…”. I never had that issue with my mom. We were always close and always talked about everything. I remember telling her when I had sex for the first time. I told her about the first time I used drugs. When I got arrested for said drugs, it was my mom I called to bail me out. So it’s clear you can see I’ve felt comfortable enough in telling her about the good, the bad and the ugly.
All except for one thing.
And sadly it’s that “one thing” that has resulted in the majority of the misery, struggles and pitfalls of my life.
The point I’m trying to make, is that if I had such a difficult time telling my mom about the abuse, when we were so close, how much more difficult is it for children who don’t feel as close to their parents or feel the freedom to talk with them about anything and everything? Neither my mom, nor anyone else knew about my abuse until 2006.
It’s a mistaken belief that I think most parents have. They believe, as my mom did, that if there were something wrong, their children would let them know about it. Or as I said earlier, “he would tell me”.
It’s a tragic error of belief and one that I hope to reeducate all parents. No matter how close you are, or how strong your relationship, if your child is being sexually abused, it’s almost impossible for them to tell you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you love them any less than other parents. It’s just beyond description how hard it is for those of us who were abused to tell anyone.
The reasons behind the “why” are as many and varied as there are individuals. We’ve discussed them previously here on the TWH blog and will do so more in the future. But for the discussion today, it’s not about the “why”, it’s about acknowledging a false assumption and correcting it.
As I said, my mom genuinely believed if someone were hurting me, I’d tell her. After all, when a student picked on me, or in one case, when a teacher was being hateful to a friend of mine with a speech impediment, I told her about that. So she had no reason to believe otherwise. Except for one important thing, back in the 70’s and 80’s, nobody talked about Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Back then, all we were told was, beware of strangers and “stranger danger”. It turns out, “stranger danger” is almost a myth. 90-95% of CSA happens at the hands of someone who is known, trusted and/or loved by the child. And because no one was taking about it, there was no “Oprah’s 200” , or organizations like SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, G.R.A.C.E. – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Together We Heal.
Due to this lack of information and groups whose entire existence is to help survivors of CSA, parents didn’t know what signs to be looking for or signals that their children might be sexually abused. “Grooming” was a term reserved for haircuts and keeping your appearance neat. Now we know better. But sadly, parents are still waiting until it’s too late to discuss CSA with their kids. This is not a one-time conversation to have when they’re 15 or 16. By that time, it’s more likely any abuse has already occurred or is still ongoing.
In order to give your child the best chance to remain safer from sexual predators/pedophiles, parents MUST start young. They must start young and have it become a “normal” part of the routine questions asked of the child’s day. How was your day? How was school? Do you like your teachers? Has anyone made you feel uncomfortable? Has anyone touched you in a place they shouldn’t? And educating your child on what is appropriate touching is essential to the conversation.
Obviously, depending on the age of the child, there are age-appropriate terms and verbiage. But the questions need to be asked, the conversations need to take place, and all of this needs to be done EARLY and OFTEN. If not, we leave our children susceptible to the ploys of predators. We now have plenty of books, pamphlets and resources on how to have these talks with children of all ages. So please take advantage of the information my mom didn’t have, of the resources I didn’t have available. Do this so you lessen the chances of your children enduring the torture, abuse, rape, and resulting decades of emotional, mental and physical struggles. Do this so your children don’t become another statistic like I did, another 1 in 6 boys or 1 in 3 girls.
We have the information now. And now children can trust they will be believed. It’s time to back up all this talk with action. It’s time to prevent childhood sexual abuse and catch these sexual predators/pedophiles before they do any more damage. But it begins at home, it must begin early, and don’t think for one second, “he would tell me”…