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.


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Its All About Perspective, So Whats Yours?

As recovering addicts and/or survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we often compare what we went through to that of others. It’s human nature. We think to ourselves, well what they went through was so much worse than myself, what gives me the right to complain. Or conversely, we look at another and say, oh come on, that’s all? We constantly do this.

I remember sitting in my first few NA rooms, listening to story after story and thinking, I’m not like these folks at all. I’m no crackhead, walking the streets, selling my body for a $10 high. Or I would rationalize, I’ve NEVER shot junk in MY veins or shared a needle with a disease-riddled body. Then one day I heard a story not so different from mine. It’s what therapists and sponsors call “your moment of clarity”. It’s when you finally come to terms with your own addiction and figure out, an addict is an addict is an addict. It doesn’t matter what the drug is, or the background your come from or even what you’ve done to get high. It’s when you acknowledge that you have no control over the drugs that control you.

And being a survivor of CSA is no different. It doesn’t matter who abused you, how often it happened, what they did to you or they made you do to them. A survivor is a survivor is a survivor. One case is not “worse” or “lesser” than another. To illustrate let me share a story a trusted friend told me many years back. He asked me to answer what appeared to be a simple question.

Three scenarios:

First, a teen about to go on their very first prom date when, BAM! A huge zit appears at the very end of their nose. With no way to conceal and no time to heal, panic and anxiety set in.

Second, a young man has just been told by the Dean, his academics did not pass this semester and will be on probationary suspension for 1 term. How does he begin to explain this one to mom and dad? And did I mention, he’s on scholarship because they have no money to send him to college.

Third, a couple just received a $30,000.00 bill from the IRS. Evidently their CPA was didn’t file properly and no matter what, they are now liable for all monies, plus penalties. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it, they MUST pay and they don’t have enough savings to cover it. And oh yeah, their daughter just came home pregnant from college. Another two mouths to feed and bodies to keep warm and safe inside their home.

So the query is…which one is “worse”?

Being the bright young man I was at the time, I told him, oh this is easy! I’ve already had a “zit moment” that totally embarrassed me in high school. He or she will eventually forget all about that nonsense! As for the young man in school, I could relate. Got into some trouble in college and had to “sit out” a semester myself. No biggie! I went to Florida for that term, worked for my dad and when I’d “done my time and penance”, I reenrolled, finished up and graduated from the University! So the answer was clear, the couple with the 30k debt to the IRS. What a horrible position to be in. With no foreseeable way to pay, with a child and a grandchild returning “home” in need of mom and dads support, both emotionally and financially. This was a no-brainer.

Turns out, I was the only one with no brain! You see, we each “see” the prism of crisis through our own life experience. If we have already been through an event, we understand what lies on the other side. What potential outcomes there may be. Even what variety of options are available to us. But to each and every one of those folks, the situation before them was the “worst” they had ever faced at that point in their lives. With NO idea of how they were going to get through it. It’s truly relative when it comes to situational crisis. There is no such thing as a “bigger or lesser” problem. To whomever is going through what they are going through, at that moment, it’s the biggest challenge they’ve had to face.

So keep this in mind when working with others or when addressing your own struggles. Remember to be compassionate to those around you. And don’t forget to give yourself a break too. We all need some sympathy and empathy in our times of trials and tribulation.

One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. –Anonymous

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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Do You Want A Future?

Truth is truth, right? And if it is so, then whether we agree with it or not, it’s still the truth. You may not agree with the concept of gravity, especially if you’re like me when you step on a scale. But if you step off a second floor balcony with no net to catch your fall, you will discover a hard, cement-tasting truth.

Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno and multiple other thinkers were at one time called heretics. In the end, what they found to be the truth went against ALL popular “scientific” notions of the day, religious beliefs or merely values held at the time.

I say this to bring to light the following truth I’ve discovered in my own life –

“You must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”

I know, I know, sounds like a psychobabble cliche, but just as we call something a “generalization”, there’s a reason, that’s because they are “generally” true. So this time, with a non-judgmental or preconceived notion, let me repeat and have you read it once more…

…”you must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”

I admit it sounds a bit ominous. And while it may be hard to hear, I’m merely trying to make a point, emphasizing the truth I discovered in my own life. It wasn’t until I went back to my past; the acknowledgment of the childhood sexual abuse that I endured from ages 12-15, that enabled me to begin to work through the issues of the present of that time. Once acknowledged and beginning to heal, I finally, for the first time in almost 10 years, began to see the potential of a future that lay ahead.

Once upon a time, I was heavily addicted to multiple narcotics to numb myself from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. This led to three arrests, jail time, fines, no drivers license for a year, loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages from a career I was genuinely passionate about. And in varying degrees, it cost me a relationship of five years, another of four and even an earlier one of six years. This “past” was destroying my “present” and if something didn’t give, my “future” was going to be even more limited than it already was!

But my story is not an isolated one. It’s not even unique and definitely not as harsh, from my perspective, as some others have been through. But that’s just from my life view. We all have a different one.

So how do we do accomplish this task? How do we get from point A to point B? That is to say, how do we look into our past, into that abyss, without falling back in? Then how do we take that information, apply it to our present so that we have the opportunity to move on into a more positive future? A lot of questions with multiple choice answers, I know.

Even if you’re not an addict or alcoholic, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “admitting you have a problem is the first step.” And with survivors of CSA, this saying has some weight as well, just with a different angle. It’s not that we have to admit we have a problem, we have to admit that a horrible event and crime was perpetrated against us. And this is not an easy or small task. In fact, in my case, I made numerous trips to the place where I knew I had to address my abuser. I drove past it, I stopped at the driveway, heck one time I even got out of the car, was walking up the door of the church, when I turned around and drove back home. In total, it took me 6 trips to finally be able to speak out against my abuser. To tell the people in authority above him exactly what he was, what he was capable of, and the danger he posed to the very children he was charged with protecting.

And that last thing i just mentioned was the real motivation behind what i had to do. More than just my own self-serving, self-healing desires behind the action I knew I had to take, more important than shedding the light on the past…even more at stake was the future of the lives of his potential victims.

I know now I wasn’t his first victim, nor was I his last. And how I wished, prayed and pleaded that someone had come forward before he got to me. So now it was up to me. Now I had the strength to face the cold, hard truth. I knew if the young boys he had access to were to have any chance of a future free from the emotional, physical and spiritual torture I experienced, I was going to have to step up and tell the truth of what this monster is.

If I was to have any potential peace with my own future I had to make sure, to the best of my ability, that no other little boy in his life would be molested, abused or raped. And so I did just that. I acknowledged my past, I took action in the present, and I know now I have done all I could within my power to help those boys have a decent future. And in doing so, my future too is one of peace and healing.

So do whatever you need to enter your past in a healthy way. Whether through one-on-one counseling, group therapy or any other professional help you require. Seek it out so you can begin to “fix” your present. And by that I simply mean whatever will help you begin to heal, I know from personal experience nothing gets “fixed” to what it was before. But in doing this, by beginning to heal, you will have a chance to take back what was stolen from you and to have a future and peace you deserve.


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Is Forgiveness Necessary?

Forgiveness. What an amazing word. What an honorable act. What an indescribable sensation when once we receive it and also too, when we dispense it.

Our good friend Webster defines “Forgive” as – To pardon an offense or offender. To grant pardon for or remission of an offense; To cease to feel resentment against. Synonyms include, absolve; excuse; exonerate; exculpate.

Also mixed in with the word “forgive” is “forgiveness”. Words associated with it are: Mercy; Charity; Compassion.

I’ve struggled a long time with these words. You see, when the very organization that is supposed to teach you the meanings behind these words refuses to protect you. Even goes so far as to take aim and target you as being a bad person. When, in fact, you are the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a minister. It becomes increasingly difficult to find any forgiveness for those who allowed it to happen, for those that covered it up, for those that protected the abuser instead of the innocent child, and especially the one who raped, molested and sexually assaulted you.

And please understand I write this from my own perspective which is one of a Christian background. I don’t presume to know another’s pain, only what I’ve been through, so know this is only “my own” belief system and I’m not trying to push it on anyone else.

I give lectures and presentations to civic and religious groups, to parent organizations, even to small groups of couples wanting to know how to better protect their children from sexual predators. And you want to know the single most asked question I get? I don’t mean it’s asked a little more often than not, I’m telling you I get this question more than all other questions combined. I’m asked, “have you forgiven your abuser?”

At first, I have to admit, I didn’t really know how to respond. I was taken aback. Shocked actually. Of all the questions I expected, this was not one of them. Initially I deflected. Because in truth, I had not even given it consideration. I was so focused on keeping my abuser away from more children, so intent on preventing more children from going through what I did, and so preoccupied with helping support other survivors of CSA that it never entered my thought process. Until now.

Now I was forced to face a daunting challenge. You see, my dilemma is this. My spiritual background is Protestant. And within that Protestant faith was a teaching that we were to forgive as we are forgiven. So it says right in The Lords Prayer. On the flip side was my heart. Having been torn apart by a man who has molested, raped and sexually abused an untold number of little boys. How do I forgive that?

So I did something it took me a long time to do after having felt betrayed by the very God that my abuser claimed to represent. I spent an awful lot of time in prayer and study. I went to every doctrine of various faiths and religious texts I could find having to do with forgiveness. And time and time again I saw, forgive as you are forgiven. Jesus, Gandhi, no matter the reference, If you don’t forgive, how can you expect to be forgiven? We’re these folks right? Was I supposed to forgive this most heinous of crimes perpetrated against myself and all those other little boys?

In all the passages, texts, quotes from people of faith, when they spoke of forgiveness, they did so when addressing those who had faith, who held in their hearts a belief in repentance for transgressions. Even those that had done them wrong.

It was while having a bible study with my fiancé, now wife, Linda that we came across the scripture that opened my eyes. My spiritual eyes, and my heart.

In Matthew 6:14-15 it talks about forgiveness. And most of this chapter has to do with Jesus explaining to his followers how to do certain things. How to pray, fast, etc. And as we read and prayed we began to understand. Jesus was talking about Christians forgiving other Christians, not about forgiving the unrepentant.

So this led me to a question. Is it within my ability to forgive someone who does not have faith or who has no regret or repentance? This led me to an even deeper question from a trusted friend and man who has spent his entire adult life in study and prayer. He posed the following query, “Is a person without faith or repentance even capable of receiving my forgiveness?”

I was blown away.

Rather than paraphrasing, I will simply let him explain in his own scholarly, yet layman terms.

“Until someone has been first forgiven by God unto salvation through Christ we do not have the ability to forgive them. I will take it a step further, until a person has become forgiven by God unto salvation they are incapable of recieving human forgiveness. Only God can forgive a non Christian. That is not to say that we should not pray for their forgivness. By praying that the non Christian be forgiven by God helps us deal with the wrong done to us by that person and help’s God understand our need to forgive…Hope that is not too confusing, for most Christians do not understand that part of forgivness. Certainly, you may offer forgivness by a non Christian, but still until that person is forgiven by God for his orginal sin forgiveness can’t be recieved by the non christian.”

And this led me to an even greater insight. To those who said, you must forgive to be forgiven, if that were the case, it would mean there are stipulations to my faith. A “work or act” I must do. And any Protestant who knows their faith, knows we do not come to our faith through works or acts. It is by faith alone.

So not only am I not responsible for forgiving my abuser; until he is repentant, he is incapable of receiving human forgiveness for any transgressions.

That doesn’t mean we, or rather I, am recused from praying for the faith of this particular person. But at least now I have the honest belief that it’s not my job to forgive him. That’s between God and him. And honestly, I don’t believe someone capable of such things wants redemption. Not when he’s looked me in the eye, cried crocodile tears saying he didn’t do that anymore, only to find out he was molesting at least two boys when he told me that. So he’s a pathological liar, pedophile and God only knows what else.

Ultimately I believe that forgiveness, with regard to the abused, is the most individual of decisions. I believe there is more than one way to skin the “forgiveness” cat. For some, they find it helpful. For me, it’s not necessary. I have no need of it for my healing. And that’s what it’s all about. No matter which way a survivor goes, as long as they find healing and not vengeance or bitterness in it, it’s a positive.

The bottom line, my focus is on my recovery, healing and that of others that have been through what I have. I know now my calling is to do all I can to educate parents on how to better protect their children and help survivors heal. And I don’t need a burning bush or talking mule to figure that out!


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Why Do We Give Interviews and Who Cares?

As a public advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I’m often asked to give interviews. I’ve done local and regional newspapers, local and online radio shows, heck I’ve even been on national T.V.! Whoop dee do, right?! My feelings exactly. So have mass murderers and folks with no teeth and no shirt explaining how tornados sound. (some of which were my relatives by the way!)

Even less talented folks get syndicated T.V. shows making hundreds of thousands of dollars an episode. So you ask, why do I tell you about giving an interview? Because every once in a while, when the planets are aligned and you tilt your head the right way. It all comes together and something good comes from it!

Such was the case this Monday, April 29th, 2013. I was asked by another advocate for survivors of CSA to appear on her radio show to do an interview. She wanted me to tell my story of abuse, teach parents how to better protect their children from sexual predators…the usual path for my regular interview. But this one turned out to be anything but ordinary.

I have grown to know and respect Trish McKnight over the last couple of years as we crossed paths several times doing similar endeavors to raise awareness for our mutual cause. But with April being Child Abuse Awareness month, she wanted to make sure her slate was full of folks that were either experts in the field, had been running organizations to benefit survivors, were survivors of CSA themselves or some combination of all the above. It’s been a pretty steady cast of folks I respect and admire, so when she asked me to be a part, I was humbled. As any survivor can tell you, we have a hard time accepting our own self-worth. And this for me was no exception.

But I deferred to her wisdom, and to benefit those who receive help from the efforts of “Together We Heal”, and said, “sure! I’d be happy to do the interview with you!”

It began as most do, she had an overview of what TWH does, who it benefits, how we help survivors, etc. And throughout, everything ran perfectly. We had callers, we had those with input from online. Trish and I had good chemistry on-air. And I genuinely enjoyed the entire hour and a half we talked. And we TALKED! Non-stop the whole time! It was great! We gave a lot of important information to help parents, we talked with a caller on how we could help their child. I’m telling you, it was perfect. Or so I thought.

After we went off the air. The emails, calls, tweets came pouring in! Folks were reaching out locally and from one end of an ocean to another. The U.K., New Zealand, Venezuela, you name it, we were being inundated with comments about the show, and ALL of them were positive. Which is exactly what you want. To reach as many folks as you can in an effort to help as many as possible. But not EXACTLY what you want when you are in the business to help people. Don’t get me wrong, those encouragements mean the world to me. They are a part of what keeps us going. But there was something missing, something major.

But then, as the calls, emails and tweets started to decline, there in the midst of them was IT. THE reason why myself, Trish, Rachel, Bill, Marci, Andrew, Margie, Blair, Patricia, and so many to name here its impossible to list them all, get up each morning and do what it is we do. A simple, short email stating…

…I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I need help. Can you help me?

Then shortly after that, a second email and a third, all asking the same thing. All with their own unique, yet similar stories. We have been sexually abused and we need your help.

I immediately responded and will be arranging for their individual needs over the next week. But that’s not the point. The point is that either they were listening to the show, or someone who cares about them was, made a point to get our contact info and then followed up, making sure they had the ability to reach out to us. That’s love folks. That’s people who care about their family and/or friends.

And that’s why we do interviews.

Because we never know when someone who desperately needs our help will be listening. The point – don’t EVER pass on an opportunity because you might not get a second chance. You’ve heard the phrase, either from the Robin Williams movie, “The Dead Poets Society”, or from Latin class if your old enough, Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. Make the most of every opportunity you have. It’s when you least expect it that you get that surprise. The opportunity to help your fellow man or woman. Don’t ever waste that moment.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal