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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The Bristlecone Project

About a year and half ago I began talking with Dr. David Lisak, founding Board member of the The Bristlecone Project, President and a founding member of the 1in6 Board of Directors and a retired Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts.

As Together We Heal began establishing contacts and building a network of partners within the community of childhood sexual abuse survivors, David Lisak’s name kept coming up. In the course of my conversations with advocates from all over the USA, nothing but great things were said about him and the “project” he was working on.

Shortly before Christmas of 2013, David and I were discussing the potential of TWH, 1in6 and The Bristlecone Project working together. David mentioned he would be in Florida the following year and asked if I would be interested in participating. Not only did I say yes, I was honored and humbled to be given the opportunity. I had read the other men’s stories on the website, and in them I heard my own, and that of so many of our fellow brother survivors.

Rather than attempting to describe this amazing project, I prefer to let David Lisak’s words speak for themselves.

1in6’s latest awareness initiative – “Bristlecone: Portraits of Male Survivors

The Vision: A mosaic of photographs and words that portray the reality and hope of men who were sexually abused as children.

The Focus: The present, not the past. Who each man is. What defines him. What is the focus of his life. Each man will be portrayed through a series of photographs, a brief written portrait, and his own voice.

The Purpose: To portray this reality — who we are now, living meaningful and dignified lives — to the many men who may feel isolated and stigmatized by what happened to them. And to portray this reality to whole communities through the Bristlecone web site and public exhibitions, providing positive, hopeful role models of men who have faced their childhood experiences and who learned to live healthier, happier lives.

Unwanted and abusive sexual experiences in childhood affect men across categories defined by race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, religion and other characteristics and traits. We are committed to making the Bristlecone Project inclusive of men from a broad range of identities. For more information about participating in the Bristlecone project, please click here.

As the numbers of participants increase, the web-based Bristlecone exhibition will be tied in with local exhibitions in public venues featuring men from those communities — “Bristlecone Los Angeles,” “Bristlecone Boston,” “Bristlecone New Mexico,” etc
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People often ask, “Why Bristlecone?” So on the site, David explains and shares a poem about the tree…

Bristlecone Pine trees survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the western Rocky Mountains. Despite thin soils, strong winds, freezing temperatures, and limited water, Bristlecones can live for thousands of years, and are among the oldest living organisms on earth.

BRISTLECONE PINE
If wind were wood it might resemble this
fragility and strength, old bark bleeding amber.
Its living parts grow on away from the dead
as we do in our lesser lives. Endurance,
yes, but also a scarred and twisted beauty
we know the way we know our own carved hearts. ©2013 by David Mason

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel so honored and humbled having been asked to be a part of this inspiring project. A project I know will continue letting other men out there see, it’s ok to come forward. It’s ok to share the pain you’ve endured. It’s ok, because now you can know you are NOT alone. You have a brotherhood of men who will be there for you, stand beside you in times of need. We truly know how you feel, what you were forced to endure, but now you have all of us to lean on. And as we often say, Together we can heal.

Please take some time to read not just mine, but all of the other men’s stories. They’ve opened up their hearts and in many cases, their wounds, with the desire of helping others. May 2015 be a year where even more men find hope and healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.

http://bristleconeproject.org/men/david-pittman/

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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All In One Accord – CFFP Conference 2014

With the hustle and bustle of families and travel during the holiday season, it’s taken me a little longer than normal to write about the conference Linda and I attended in Austin, TX. Because its message and the message of this time of year are so simpatico, I knew now was the right time.

As many of you know by now, last month Linda and I attended The Child-Friendly Faith Project Conference and had the honor of speaking on Day 2.

To say we met leaders, advocates and what I consider “giants” within the community wouldn’t do it justice. It seemed like every time we turned around, heard another presentation, or were able to sit and talk in a small group, there was a striking similarity…

…We were all in one accord; We all are working to see faith communities, government agencies and private individuals connect to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and to better protect all our children from the sexual predators traversing amongst our respective communities, and in many cases “hiding in plain sight”.

It drove home the point that events like these and so many others are the launching point for the work needed to accomplish our common goals. So much so that Jan Heimlich, the Director of The CFFP said to me, “let’s begin soon working on another event of some kind where we can go into even more detail about the topics we discussed here over the last two days.” And I couldn’t agree more with her! It seemed as though we had just begun to scratch the surface and based on everyone’s responses, they wanted to hear more as well!

On day 2, we started with a video presentation from Boz Tchividjian, Founder of GRACE, who expressed his desire to see us all, coming from whatever faith background, or no religious faith, join forces for two primary purposes. First, to protect all our children from the clear and present danger of sexual predators. Second, to assist those already harmed by guiding them along a path of healing, rather than making them feeling shamed or shunned.

The conference began with two questions/objectives:

1) How can we better address child maltreatment that occurs in faith communities?

2) What should we do when religious or cultural practices are unhealthy for children?

In following Boz’s request; no matter whether our faith is based from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, from a non-denominational or non-faith background, we received information on both days about those two questions with real, actionable directives and practical ways to answer and address both and to resolve the problems. In doing so, I saw the questions being transformed;

**What now? What will we do with this information and the answers to tough questions? HOW and WILL we move forward knowing what we know?**

It would take several pages to go through all of the impactful speakers and presentations, but I’d like to highlight a couple. The folks listed are all prestigious experts in fields related to child advocacy. What I appreciated was how they were both enlightening and had practical applications.

They are speakers that I heard in person, have known and cooperated with for years or have some other working knowledge of their efforts to protect children. So as you have time, please take a moment to do some homework by finding their websites, reading their books and reviewing the amazing work they do for children and survivors of abuse.

Rev. Carla Cheatham
Marci A. Hamilton
Steven Hassan
Rev. Charles Foster Johnson
Rev. Jaime Romo
Peter Singer
Boz Tchividjian

I’ll say it again, the conference was simply amazing! We had the opportunity to meet with people who are equally passionate about helping those who’ve been abused. It’s clear they want to see TRUE change within our various faith communities. We saw the desire to make that change in a positive way from within, not just to criticize from afar. But don’t misunderstand, while those in attendance aren’t into “church-bashing”, no one pulled any punches either. When it’s time to call out one of our respective faith communities for its failure to act, or to protect, we are the FIRST to make it known what needs to be changed and provide them the steps in order to enact said change!

Upon completing my presentation, I received an extremely positive reception and made several contacts I’ll be following up with over the next month. Dr. Jaime Romo has already made an introduction for us to have an additional resource for survivors of sexual abuse and that’s just one example of many! Linda and I had lunch with Marci A. Hamilton and we’ll continue to work with her moving forward on SOL law reform. Prior to the event, Marci and I had talked on the phone, been interviewed on the same radio show, and had spoken at length about what is needed to eliminate statute of limitation laws, but it was great getting some face-to-face time with her!

We also had the opportunity to establish relationships Pete Singer, Steven Hassan, Rev. Charles Johnson and two advocates from the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center; Autumn Williams and Dianna Smoot. We also met with Joy Ryder with “Out Of The Shadows”. They will be launching their website soon so keep checking on it! “www.outoftheshadows.today” – To say it was a success would be an understatement!!

I also spoke with the lady from Atlanta who is trying to set up a conference for TWH and GRACE to educate a team of ministers at a large metro-Atlanta church.

Thank you Jan for giving all attending a catalyst for the upcoming year as we look for more ways to raise awareness, further education and reach even more of those most in need. It was an honor and a blessing to be a part of The Child-Friendly Faith Project.

May we all find the peace and healing we so desperately need. And Together, We CAN Heal!

David