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.


Why do some Male Survivors have to be “Hyper-Male”?

The following is an interview I recently did with fellow male survivor, Brian Cardoza. When I asked Brian to begin telling me his story, he said something that rang true to me, and I believe those of you who’ve been through a similar trauma will appreciate it…he said,

“It’s not the easiest thing to do, to intentionally recall the trauma of 20-30 plus years ago.”

Brian went on to say the abuse started after his father left the family. When he got home with his mom he went to his dad’s room (the parents were separated at the time and sleeping in separate rooms) He recalled the absence of his father in this way.

“There was not even the memory of a cigarette.”

His mom told him, “The reason he left is because you couldn’t make him love this family.”

This was the beginning of the abuse.

The emotional abuse progressed into physical abuse. And when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, he began being sexually abused. His brother’s best friend raped him. It occurred not just with the brother’s permission, but with his encouragement and instruction. It started at the fragile age of 6 and continued until around age 9.

The physical abuse only ended at 12 because that’s when Brian’s growth spurt began. As Brian told me, it only stopped because I became “too big” for them to “hurt” me.

And then, on December 14, 1989, he was thrown out of the house. This was in Anchorage Alaska. And on that first night, he almost froze to death. So, began struggles of other kinds.


D.P.  What challenges do you feel are unique to male survivors of sexual abuse?

B.C.  I think there are very few things that are unique to male survivors. Trauma is human-centric, not gender specific. I have never met a woman who didn’t experience the first 10-12 things that I have, guilt, denial, anger, etc.

What I do think is inherently unique, or maybe the biggest difference between male and female victims of sexual abuse is it causes a man to question himself about a fundamental issue.  A person’s sexuality is core to who they are, and when a boy is sexually abused by a man, it almost always causes him to ask the question, “Am I gay?”

I have talked to many male survivors, and I’ve never met one who didn’t ask the question, “does this make me gay”. And this questioning of sexuality causes so many struggles.

They may have never had any proclivities to men prior to the abuse. They may have never had any inkling about homosexuality. But after the abuse occurs, that’s the first question they begin to ask themselves.

Especially with certain societal norms, if the abuse was perpetrated by man, it can make a guy ask himself, “Can you still call yourself a man?”


D.P.  Based on that last statement let me ask you a follow-up to that; What challenges have you faced with masculinity?

B.C.  I’ve said this ad nauseam; if a friend of mine drank 10 beers, I had to drink 20. If a friend of mine had a 1-night stand, I had to have 12.

I had to be “Hyper-Male”. I had to be THE Man.

I know now, through therapy and introspection, that attitude came from being thrown on that bean bag. (this is a reference to being raped by his brother’s friend) Now I realize that to prove my manhood is idiotic. I was born a man, I am a man and that’s just the way it is. I don’t need to “prove” anything.

That’s part of why it is hard for men to come forward. To admit that a man raped you makes them feel somehow less than a man.

From the time I was in preschool on, my mom would read to us stories like Tarzan and Conan, iterating to us that real men took what they wanted. Real men didn’t get hurt emotionally. Real men wouldn’t allow these kinds of things to happen.

And when they DID happen, I had nowhere to go.

Because my abuse started so early, I didn’t realize I was being abused. To me, it was just Tuesday.


D.P.  What has helped you the most in the process of your healing?

B.C.  Ironically is was an argument I got into with a girlfriend. It came at a point in my life when I thought I was at my best. I believed I was in a perfect relationship. I was in the best shape of my life. Everything was just as I thought I wanted it. And then, one day, she picks a fight with me.

What I actually was; emotionally numb and passionless. She screams at me, “you have no passion, you have nothing you give.” And with no emotion I replied, “yep”.

That language stuck with me and I started on a 2-day bender. So, I started asking myself. Why am I in love with the things that have made me numb? Why can’t I connect with this beautiful woman?

I finally acknowledged to myself, this may have started because I was raped.

So, I called the Boston area rape crisis center and thankfully they made me an appointment to start therapy. My catalyst for doing this was being introspective enough to look at what my girlfriend was saying to me and realizing there was a direct correlation to what happened in my childhood. When I began therapy, a lot of the extraneous stuff started to go away.

It also taught me you can never find the solution to a problem when you are in the middle of it.


D.P.  If there was one thing you could say to a young boy who is currently being abused, or an adult who hasn’t told anyone yet?

B.C.  When I am open, up-front and compassionate with what happened to me, all I really do is “shut-up”. What I mean by that is, times where I have spoken with someone, when someone is about to reveal something to me, the feel of the room changes, their demeanor changes, and then I “shut-up” (be quiet) and let them decide what they want to do. I have found that to be the most successful. The first thing I do when someone reveals their abuse, is I thank them. I thank them profusely and profoundly. Because they need to know what they have just done is the very first step in their own healing.

So, when it comes to someone coming forward, be quiet and allow a survivor to tell whatever it is they need to say. Listen to understand, not just waiting to reply.


D.P.  You’ve written a book. Why did you decide to write it and what did you hope to accomplish?

B.C.  To give solace to myself. I read the story of another survivor and thought, I didn’t have it “as bad” as they did. I figured if I think this way, then there’s a kid out there who might hear mine and be able to say to themselves, I can get through what I’m going through too.

I know most of us are guilty of comparing and we shouldn’t do it to ourselves, but we do.

Ultimately, I needed to put it to bed myself. I needed to get it out. That’s why I paint and have other artistic outlets, they allow me to express how I’m feeling rather than mull over in my head.


D.P.  Is there anything we haven’t covered you would like to share?

B.C.  1 Major and 1 Minor:

Major – The minute you come out and admit that you were sexually abused, make sure you find a trauma trained therapist. I also tell everyone this, there are times that this is going to suck. There will be days when you don’t want to get out of bed. There will be days when you want to drink it away again. But what I know, is if you get out of bed, if you put the bottle down, all of it will be worth it.

Minor – There are people out there who have decided their privacy is not as important as helping other survivors. If those of who have given away our privacy can help them, then we have done what we set out to do.


Thank you, Brian, for your honest and frank discussion on this important topic. Below you will find links to Brian’s work and advocacy.


Facebook Group

Survivor Knights Philadelphia Art Show and Performance

(Art showing University of Pennsylvania, May 25th at the Rotunda)

The Bristlecone Project

The Unexpected Victim


4 Ways the Pain of Childhood Trauma Impacts Us as Adults

As a fellow survivor, one of the things I always try to pass along are insights I have learned that have helped me personally. I feel as though this is how we can best help one another. Fortunately, I have had the benefit of some amazing therapists, learned from others trained specifically in trauma, and made sure to pay attention to other survivors who really knew what I had been through. The following article is another one of these from Dr. Andrea Brandt. I hope her words help you or someone you love. Please read and share!



Whether you witnessed or experienced violence as a child or your caretakers emotionally or physically neglected you, when you grow up in a traumatizing environment you are likely to still show signs of that trauma as an adult.

Children make meaning out of the events they witness and the things that happen to them, and they create an internal map of how the world is. This meaning-making helps them cope. But if children don’t create a new internal map as they grow up, their old way of interpreting the world can damage their ability to function as adults.

While there are many aftereffects of childhood emotional trauma, here we’ll look specifically at four ways childhood emotional trauma impacts us as adults.

  1. The False Self

As a childhood emotional trauma therapist, I see many patients who carry childhood emotional wounds with them into adulthood. One way these wounds reveal themselves is through the creation of a false self.

As children, we want our parents to love us and take care of us. When our parents don’t do this, we try to become the kind of child we think they’ll love. Burying feelings that might get in the way of us getting our needs met, we create a false self—the person we present to the world.

When we bury our emotions, we lose touch with who we really are, because our feelings are an integral part of us. We live our lives terrified that if we let the mask drop, we’ll no longer be cared for, loved, or accepted.

The best way to uncover the authentic you underneath the false self is by talking to a therapist who specializes in childhood emotional trauma and can help you reconnect with your feelings and express your emotions in a way that makes you feel both safe and whole.

  1. Victimhood Thinking

What we think and believe about ourselves drives our self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves can empower or disempower us. Negative self-talk disempowers us and makes us feel like we have no control over our lives — like victims. We may have been victimized as children, but we don’t have to remain victims as adults.

Even in circumstances where we think we don’t have a choice, we always have a choice, even if it’s just the power to choose how we think about our life. We have little to no control over our environments and our lives when we’re children, but we’re not children anymore. It’s likely we are more capable of changing our situation than we believe.

Instead of thinking of ourselves as victims, we can think of ourselves as survivors. The next time you feel trapped and choice-less, remind yourself that you’re more capable and in control than you think.

  1. Passive-Aggressiveness

When children grow up in households where there are only unhealthy expressions of anger, they grow up believing that anger is unacceptable. If you witnessed anger expressed violently, then as an adult you might think that anger is a violent emotion and therefore must be suppressed. Or, if you grew up in a family that suppressed anger and your parents taught you that anger is on a list of emotions you aren’t supposed to feel, you suppress it, even as an adult who could benefit from anger.

What happens if you can’t express your anger? If you’re someone who suppresses your upset feelings, you likely already know the answer: Nothing. You still feel angry—after all, anger is a natural, healthy emotion we all experience—but instead of the resolution that comes with acknowledging your anger and resolving what triggered it, you just stay angry. You don’t express your feelings straightforwardly, but since you can’t truly suppress anger, you express your feelings through passive-aggressiveness.

  1. Passivity

If you were neglected as a child, or abandoned by your caretakers, you may have buried your anger and fear in the hope that it would mean no one will ever abandon or neglect you again. What happens when children do this, though, is that we end up abandoning ourselves. We hold ourselves back when we don’t feel our feelings. We end up passive, and we don’t live up to our potential. The passive person says to him or herself, “I know what I need to do but I don’t do it.”

When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves. At the time, that may have helped us. But as adults, we need our feelings to tell us who we are and what we want, and to guide us toward becoming the people we want to be.


Originally Posted on Psychology Today

Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., is a marriage and family therapist located in Santa Monica California. Andrea brings over 35 years of clinical experience to the role of individual family therapist, couples counseling, group therapy and anger management classes.  


A Woman of Conviction, Courage & Comfort – Barbara Blaine


As I once read somewhere,

A religious upbringing can bring comfort.
It can also turn a child’s life into a living hell.

Barbara Blaine understood this as much as any of us who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of the church while we were children.

I learned of the passing of Barbara Blaine, as I am sure many of you did, with the message from her family. But it has taken me a few days to be able to talk about her and the impact she had. I believe I can best express my gratitude for Barbara by using an example of one of our normal interactions.

A typical phone call from Barbara would go something like this, “Dave, can you meet me in Tampa Saturday for a press conference in front of the Diocese there? We just learned of a priest who had…”

This call would of course, come on Friday, the day before the request. And I could rarely say anything other than, “what time do you need me there?”

You see, Barbara had a way of being persuasive that no one could deny! And that’s part of why we loved her!

One of the other reasons we loved her, and maybe the most important, is because she had not only lived our same pain, but was one of the first we could tell. Before I could tell my family, what had happened to me, there was only one group of people I trusted with that information. Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy and Barb Dorris with SNAP.

You see, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) was founded by Barbara Blaine. And when you’ve been betrayed by the church, any church, and your faith has been shaken or even lost, you find it difficult to trust people. Barbara was one of the very first people I felt like I could trust again, and I wasn’t the only one.

Thankfully, Barbara helped quite literally, MILLIONS of survivors of sexual abuse understand that they weren’t alone. I can remember the day I first called SNAP, and it was the first time I heard someone tell me these words…“you’re not alone David, we are here for you and with you.”

Thank you, Barbara, for being there for me. Thank you for allowing me that first opportunity to help fellow survivors through and with SNAP.

Thank you for being the original “voice for the voiceless” when it comes to clergy who have stolen the innocence of childhood. Thank you for never wavering when it came to exposing the cover-up of this abuse within the church. And thank you for showing us all how to tenaciously demand their accountability, while at the same time, providing comfort for those they harmed.

Decades before Together We Heal, or GRACE or any of the other organizations who do so much to help now, there was Barbara and SNAP.

We are all now working on what you began Barbara…and I hope we will continue to make you proud.


Below is the letter from her family.


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We’re Home!

Thank you to all of our friends and family who offered houses, rooms and sofa’s during Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, we were able to find a hotel near enough to the state line which allowed us to return once the storm had passed.

We’ve been back for over a week now, but needed a few days to get storm shutters opened, brush cleared and utilities up to speed. Other than some branches to put on the curb and few shingles to replace this weekend, we were one of the fortunate ones that didn’t have any real damage. Many others throughout Florida, Georgia and obviously the Caribbean were not so lucky.

Please help those you can when you can. Just as Together We Heal could not do what it does without your generosity, so too are those trying to rebuild their lives in need. Whether it’s a $10 donation to the Red Cross or a case of water, whatever you give will be appreciated by those who need it most!

I am currently getting caught up on emails and website responses. Please know if you’ve reached out over the last few weeks, we WILL be in touch very soon. Don’t think you aren’t important or that we aren’t here for you. It might even be a brief, “we got your email and will be in touch soon” type of contact, so be on the lookout!

Thank you for your patience and understanding.


David Pittman

Executive Director, Together We Heal

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Hurricane Irma Update

It appears that Hurricane Irma is headed to our state and places us within the famous “cone”. Since this storm is stronger than Matthew was last year, we are not going to be able to stay and weather it out. Because of the preparation needed and the travel before and after the storm, Together We Heal will not be able to respond over the next week or so to any immediate needs. I promise to get back online and responding to any emails, phone calls, etc., ASAP!

Please keep our region in your thoughts as many people will be in need just as they are in Houston. Whereas the storm in Texas was a flood event, this one will be a wind and storm surge impact and just as potentially destructive and deadly.

We will post again the moment we are back and operational.

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Child Safeguarding Policy for Churches and Ministries

September is Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor Awareness Month. So it’s appropriate that I tell you about a recently published book I believe is a must-read. Anyone who has read this blog knows I am not a pitch-man for any product, but when we come across a great resource we let know about it. This book is one we consider essential.

The book is titled, Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries, and it was written by Basyle Tchividjian and Shira Berkovits. I tell you the authors names because I know one of them personally and have worked with him professionally. The importance of that information is so you will know what I know; that he is dedicated to protecting children and helping those who have been harmed by sexual predators.

If you are person of faith, have a position of responsibility within your local church or have a ministry of any kind or size, you need to read this book. It will provide you a foundation to better protect those most vulnerable within your care, the children.

This is not just some online checklist of “things you should or should not do”. This is a comprehensive resource that covers just about anything you can think of, and some things you aren’t even aware you should know.

Whether you have already developed a child safeguarding policy and are looking to find additional resources to update your knowledge base or you need to start from the beginning and build it from the ground up. This book covers the spectrum from understanding what abuse is, the indicators of abuse and those who harm children, all the way through developing best practices, how to properly respond to abuse and training those within a ministry.

I have read this book from cover to cover and I can tell you, from a survivor’s perspective, this is what is needed for those within the church to use as a “bible” for better protecting kids. I don’t mean that as hyperbole, that comes from my heart.

Please pass this along!



What is the Real Cost of Child Safety?

“This world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything.”

Albert Einstein

Mr. Einstein was of course talking about people, both within Germany and around the world, who knew of the atrocities being committed by the Nazi’s, but were saying and doing nothing.

Tragically, this can too easily be applied to childhood sexual abuse within the Church.

Of all the places children SHOULD feel most protected, we would think a place of worship and faith would be one. Instead, children can be just as likely to find sexual predators with a culture that protects the offenders and blames the victims.

CSA survivor awareness month


With that in mind, let me ask some questions:

How much money would you spend to keep your children safe?

How much time is enough to learn what is necessary about abuse and those who would harm children?

How much effort/energy would you exert to save a child’s life?

The answers that come to all “normal”, rational people’s minds are easy, right? Any amount of money it takes! Whatever amount of time is needed! I would give anything and everything to save a child’s life!

But would you? Really??


I once met with a group of people, all who were people of faith, who seemingly spent more time asking me questions about how to get around protecting children. They asked what is “really” needed to protect children? What were the basics rather than all the details? They thought the statistics were exaggerated to get people to react. Thought that many on predator databases were made out to be worse than the crimes actually were.

Think your community is different? Think your church is different? Think you are?

Let me ask you this…what is your “price”?


We all have our price. You know, that imaginary line we cross when what is “costs” becomes greater than what we are willing to give…of dollars, time or energy. To say different is to be lying to yourself, or not very self-aware. We all have our price. I have mine.

Until I was about to drop dead from drug addiction, I was unwilling to say a word about the sexual abuse that I and others endured. Finally, I decided I wasn’t willing to pay that price for my silence any longer.

When I did come forward about the sexual abuse that occurred within the church, what I needed to hear was…we believe you, what can we do to keep this from happening again?

What I got was, “shut up, get over it, go away” and a perpetrator that wasn’t just allowed to assault more little boys, he was practically encouraged and definitely emboldened to do so by the church’s lack of action and silence.


With sexual abuse now coming to the forefront of society’s attention, I am scared…no I’m terrified, that churches run the risk of going off the tracks. Either by bunkering down in a CYA “we did all we could” mode with watered-down, so-called Christian checklists, that supposedly make a “ministry safe” for children. That churches will say, “Look, for a couple hundred dollars, we can make our church free of sexual predators by taking an online course.”

Or that they become numb and calloused from information overload, or misinformation by clerical surrogates. These things can happen without us even realizing it. Let me give you an example. Do you remember how you felt the day after terrorists attacked on 9-11? Do you remember how terrified you were?

What about now? Still just as terrified? Most would say no. That’s what happens. Its human nature.

Today, because there are so many cases of sexual abuse being made public, and just as many people trying to nullify their impact, we can forget WHY we need to learn more and do more…because there are children who have been harmed beyond what most can imagine.


Sometimes I post information of an event or resource I think is helpful. Sometimes I post about something I’ve learned and want to share.

Sometimes it’s simply something that’s on my heart…this is one of those times.

Please don’t assume your faith community has done all it needs to protect the children under its care. Ask questions, demand they do more. Lead by example and be willing to do more, give more and pay ANY price to protect your children and help those who’ve been harmed.