Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. We are here to provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal, give direction to those seeking guidance and to expose sexual predators for what they are and their methods of getting into our lives.


8 Comments

3 Stages of Recovery from Childhood 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!

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


Leave a comment

“Dare To Be Authentic”

“Dare to be Authentic” – Radio Guest appearance

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:

http://tinyurl.com/ltn88qn

http://lifecoachmari.com

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


15 Comments

The Invisible Hand On Your Mouth

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.

As I so often say…together, we can truly heal…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


4 Comments

He Would Tell Me

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”…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


Leave a comment

Learning to Heal from Abuse: One man’s mission to help

We are so honored by our friend, Boz Tchividjian, who has posted the interview he did with me about Together We Heal and what we’re doing to help our fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Please take a moment to read, not just our interview, but all of the inspiring articles Boz has on his site. I cannot thank him enough for the issues he’s confronting head-on within the church and it’s neglect of those abused. We look forward to working together with him and his organization, G.R.A.C.E. http://netgrace.org (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)

http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/07/11/learning-heal-abuse-one-mans-mission-help/


12 Comments

7 Ways Churches Should Begin To Welcome Survivors of Abuse

The following article was written by a friend and colleague, Boz Tchividjian. It has been my honor and privilege to become friends with Boz and to begin working together with his organization, G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) It’s refreshing to hear someone speak up on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, whose abuse occurred at the hands of the church. Boz does not try to defend the actions of churches who failed to protect victims; to the contrary, he wants to see real change take place within the church. Thank you Boz.

I did take the liberty of redoing his title for the purpose of emphasizing my personal perspective on how churches should begin acting. The original title is shown below.

7 Ways To Welcome Abuse Survivors In Our Churches

Churches should be some of the safest and most welcoming communities for those who have suffered from sexual abuse. Sadly, today these are some of the places survivors feel most vulnerable as they are often shamed, silenced, and judged.

This is most tragically illustrated by the case of a young girl who was sexually abused by a missionary doctor on the mission field. When she finally stepped forward and reported the abuse, the missionary leaders made this little 13-year-old girl sign a “confession” letter in which she had to acknowledge having “participated in a physical relationship” with the offender and end the letter with “…I know what I did was very wrong, and I am very sorry for it.” Years later this survivor told me that this damning letter is what shamed her into decades of feeling worthless and being silent. It doesn’t take a demand to sign a confession for a church to become an unsafe and unwelcoming place for survivors. Hurtful comments, the embracing of alleged perpetrators, the failure to offer assistance, and the pretending that this offense doesn’t exist in the Christian community are just a handful of ways that further wound survivors and drive them out of the very places that should be their refuge.

I want to share seven ways that I believe will help transform our churches into some of the safest and most welcoming communities for survivors of abuse.

Be a friend and listen: One of the best ways to serve survivors is to simply be their friend and listen. This does NOT mean we pity them and turn them into our special project. It means that we spend time with them, laugh with them, cry with them, and support them. It means that we validate them as human beings made in the image of God. It means that we don’t have all the answers, and it’s ok. Too many survivors have been traumatized by churches that fail to protect them, and then turn around and ignore them or tell them what to do. Perhaps we can help these amazing survivors shed the shame by being a safe person in a safe place.

Know the available resources: Survivors often need professional assistance to help shed the shame fueled by abuse. Becoming familiar with local resources such as qualified therapists, victims’ advocates, attorneys, and support groups will enable us to introduce them to our church communities and to any survivor who may need their services.

Acknowledge & address spiritual struggles: Those who have been sexually abused often struggle with many spiritual doubts, concerns, and questions. Criticizing or judging these struggles will only fuel more shame as survivors are pushed away from yet another unsafe place. On the other hand, offering no response or simply providing oversimplified answers can minimize the importance of these struggles in the lives of these individuals. Sometimes we answer best by simply connecting individuals with sound spiritual resources that may provide them a starting point to address their particular spiritual struggles. This can be anything from recommending a book, blog, or podcast to encouraging them to become part of an abuse-survivor support group at the church. It could also mean connecting them with a clergy member or other professional who has worked through many of these spiritual issues. Before recommending any particular spiritual resource, it is critical that we seek the counsel of Christian child-protection experts and other Christians who have the training for and experience with serving survivors. Organizations such as GRACE and Together-We-Heal are equipped to provide such assistance.

Connect with local law enforcement: Developing a relationship between our faith communities and local law enforcement is invaluable. Believe it or not, most law enforcement officers are thrilled when people in the community seek them out for advice and help. Our churches would greatly benefit from the guidance provided by law enforcement on issues such as child protection, dealing with known sex offenders, status of pending cases, and available community resources for survivors. In most cases, this as easy as calling the local law enforcement office and scheduling an appointment with the officer who supervises the investigation of abuse cases. Simply let him/her know that your church is seeking guidance on issues related to abuse. I highly recommend having a member of the church leadership be a part of this meeting. Connecting with law enforcement will communicate a strong message to the survivors in our churches that we take this issue seriously as we seek to love and protect them with excellence.

Start an abuse-survivor support group: Support groups often create safe places within our churches for survivors to be honest and vulnerable as they continue to walk the long and difficult road of healing. Giving survivors a safe place to speak freely about their abuse and struggles can offer real healing from the isolation they have experienced. When survivors know they are not alone, they can encourage one another by walking through the often difficult journey together. Though one doesn’t have to be a survivor to start such a group, I highly recommended that we seek out the invaluable input and assistance of survivors when putting together such a group. Developing and supporting this group is a powerful way a church can communicate that it values, protects, and cares for those suffering in its midst.

Develop response protocols: Work with the church leadership and outside child-advocate experts to develop a protocol for responding to abuse disclosures. How we respond to abuse disclosures is perhaps the single most important way we demonstrate value to those who have been abused. A protocol that follows the law and places the needs of the survivor first is needed in every church. I will be writing more about this in future posts.

Speak Up: We serve survivors best when we are their biggest advocates. Those who have been abused should find their greatest and most vocal supporters inside the church. Shaming, silencing, and judging have no home in a community that loves and advocates on behalf of abuse victims. Unfortunately, there are still many within the walls of the church that don’t see it that way. That is where we step in and speak up. We speak up for these amazing survivors, constantly encouraging them with our words and actions to hold their heads up high and walk away from shame and silence. We speak up because it is these unsung heroes who so often teach us, inspire us, and reflect Jesus. We speak up because Jesus speaks up for all of us. We speak up because it is our privilege.

Transforming our churches and faith communities into places of refuge for those who have been violated, judged, and marginalized is what the Gospel is all about. If God is our refuge, then our churches must be the places where these precious souls find safety and rest.

Let’s begin this transformation today…

——

This article was published with permission from Boz Tchividjian.

It’s original publication can be found here – http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/05/16/7-ways-welcome-abuse-survivors-churches/


1 Comment

Innocence Stolen and Unbridled Abuse

Article by Michael Reagan and Jerome Elam

Editor’s Note: This column was posted with permission from Jerome Elam.

—–

Behind the green curtain is where my world began to end. It was where my innocence was forever washed away in a porcelain pan filled with developer. Grainy images brought into strong relief on white paper that would become forever etched on my soul.

It all began at the age of eight when my mother enrolled me in an after school program. My parents were divorced at that time, both with demanding careers, and the time we spent together was subject to the requirements of their jobs. An after school counselor began to take a close interest in me, teaching me how to throw a football and providing the attention I so desperately craved.

Hugs turned into long embraces, and soon the counselor began to compliment me on my body. Not long after that the sexual abuse began.

I became trapped in the web of a pedophile that used psychological blackmail to cocoon my young mind in fear. He would drive me into the mountains and ask me to take my clothes off as he took photographs. Later, as he stirred the fruits of his evil intent inside a white pan, he held the image up and as smiled at me as he said, “Wouldn’t your mom like a copy of this? ”

It has been over 60 years since that day and still the painful memory of the man who stole my innocence haunts me. It became the secret that quietly devoured every moment of happiness that occurred in my life and the burden I would bear to protect my parents. I was terrified that if they found out about the pictures it would devastate them. I blamed myself and internalized anger that no child should ever experience.

That bottled up cache of emotion would release itself at points in my life. As a boy I remember smashing my bike with a hammer when the chain came off, and as an adult taking a sledgehammer to a 1965 Oldsmobile at my father’s ranch when the battery died. As I hammered away I saw only the face of my abuser, and I cried for the wounded child within me who would never know happiness.

The advent of the Internet has created the unwanted side affect of an explosion of child pornography. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that, “State and local law enforcement agencies involved in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children from 2004 to 2008.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Child Victim Identification Program was created in 2002. As of December of 2013 it has received 2.2 million reports of suspected sexual exploitation and researched 104 million videos and images depicting child pornography.

In 2012, fifty year-old Peter K. Lindsley was sentenced to 114 months in prison in Texas for distribution of child pornography. An examination of his computer yielded 68,000 explicit images, the majority of which included infants.

According to Ryan C. W. Hall, MD, and Richard C. W. Hall, MD in their 2007 article, “A Profile of Pedophilia: “Studies and case reports indicate that 30 to 80 percent of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76 percent of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child.”

Victims of child pornography are subjected to a continuous cycle of abuse, and as each image is viewed, their innocence is stolen all over again. The Supreme Court recently ruled that victims are entitled to restitution from anyone who possesses an image of them that meets the criteria for child pornography. Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have agreed to form a database of the most horrendous images of child abuse. The database would be in the hands of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, the charity founded by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Google is also pioneering technology to “fingerprint” images of child pornography so they can be tracked across the web without having to view them. The United States Department of Justice Child Obscenity and Exploitation Section (CEOS) fights the war against child pornography in conjunction with the FBI and States Attorney’s Offices around the country. They are aided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other organizations that tirelessly try to stop this plague from consuming another child’s innocence.

If you suspect a child is being victimized or find any form of child pornography please call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tip line at 1-800-843-5678. If we all work together we can save the next child from a lifetime of pain and suffering.

I have finally found happiness and I thank God for my wife and family and for giving me the strength to heal and reclaim the childhood that was so ruthlessly stolen from me.

This article can be seen at it’s original published location here:

http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelreagan/2014/05/22/innocence-stolen-and-unbridled-abuse-n1841463/page/full