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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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!

child-safeguarding


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In-Studio Interview June 4th  “Helping The Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse”

**UPDATE** Tammi and I were warmly welcomed by Geoffrey Riley and the staff at JPR. The recording of the interview is now available at the link below. 
Listen tomorrow “LIVE” on JPR as we give an in-studio interview, along with CAC Executive Director, Tammi Pitzen. The interview starts at 8:30 a.m. PT (That’s 11:30 am ET) for my folks back home so you don’t even have to wake up early 😉

JeffX, THURSDAY 6/4 @ 8:30: David Pittman began writing a blog about being sexually abused as a teenager. The blog caught on, and led to the formation of a non-profit group, Together We Heal

TWH works to help survivors heal, and to help educate the public about child sexual abuse. 

Those are goals shared with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County.  

Both organizations are part of a child abuse symposium this week in Medford. David Pittman and CAC Executive Director Tammi Pitzen join us in the studio.  

http://ijpr.org/post/helping-survivors-child-abuse

Copyright © 2015 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Sometimes I Just Get So Tired…

Sometimes, not always, I get so tired of fighting a battle with those who are supposed to be the one doing the protecting… 

Sometimes, not always, I get so tired of losing said battles to churches, fundamentalist “Christians” and other so-called “people of faith” who seem only to care about the money in their church coffers and potential lawsuits against their precious denominations. Tragically and simultaneously these same folks don’t appear to give a rat’s ass about the innocence, lives and souls of children…

It feels like everyday we turn on the news and hear of another case. This week was no different with Josh Duggar from the TLC show, “19 Kids and Counting” and the news he admitted to sexually abusing at least 5 girls in his family.

It’s 6:24 am and I’m tired. No that doesn’t accurately describe how I’m feeling. In truth, I’m exhausted. Exhausted because I’ve been awake since around 4 a.m., due to screaming myself awake from ANOTHER nightmare of seeing Frankie Wiley’s face over mine and feeling him holding my childhood frame down while he sexually abused me over and over, just as he did for almost 3 years.

I have no doubt this was triggered from the reports of the Duggar family doing more to protect the offender than the victims. Much the same way I feel how the Southern and Georgia Baptist Convention treats myself and countless others who’ve fallen prey to predators they continue to protect.

The only solace I had this morning was my beloved wife, Linda. Because of her, I was once again gently awakened with her loving touch and soothing voice before the nightmare became too much for me to handle.

She asked if I wanted to talk about but at that moment it was simply too much. So I’m doing now what I’ve always done since I began therapy for the sexual abuse I endured, I write. It’s one of my few true releases from the torture, torment and pain.

And in some small way I hope it reveals to other victims/survivors who’ve been through a similar trauma that they are not alone, that we are not alone…that I am not alone…

With every post or article I publish, I try to extend some measure of hope and potential for healing for what we’ve been through. And this one will be no different. It’s just that in the moment I’m too tired to feel like much of an encouragement. Instead, this time I sure would like to hear from you. To hear you say, I know what you mean David.

Over the next 2 weeks I’ll be standing in front of countless numbers of parents, guardians and other adults, looking to me for answers. And I will provide guidance, solutions and direction. I will do so with confidence, conviction and courage. But right now, at this very moment I’m just tired, hurting and scared.

Thank you to all of my friends, family and fellow survivors and advocates. It’s because of y’all I can manage to move forward on my own healing path. And for this same reason you can too.

Thank you for “listening” to me today. This is another example of why it’s so VERY important that we all be there for one another. We all need each other because as we say here…

Not alone, but…together we heal

Thank you to our TWH family. You mean so very much to me. You’ve helped me through and to overcome so much. This is the 8th year since I first came forward about having been sexually abused as a child and in October I will celebrate 10 years of being clean from narcotics. None of this would’ve been possible without your love and support and I genuinely love and appreciate you all from the core of my being and bottom of my heart.

David

Copyright © 2015 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


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What is Required to Have a Life of Hope and Healing?

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?

Part 2

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.

WORK

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.

SUPPORT

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.

BELIEF

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.

And I can promise you it’s worth it!

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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How Long Have I Felt Alone?

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.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Sexual Exploitation of Children: What If Anything is The Church Going to Do About It?

The following was posted on August 30th, 2014 at our friend and colleague, Boz Tchividjian’s blog, “Rhymes With Religion”. Boz has been a consistent advocate for children from his time as a prosecutor to his current position as the founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment),

Being a grandson of Billy Graham, one would reasonably assume the work he does would be welcomed at churches, especially Southern Baptist, whose numbers are an approximate 15.75 million among 46,000 congregations.

We are learning, quite tragically, most churches only do the work of eradicating sexual predators in their midst when forced to do so. And even then, seldom to never is there any acceptance of responsibility or “heaven” forbid an actual apology to the victims and their families. Even more egregious are the few times a conviction for sex crimes against a child are secured.

Thankfully there are groups like GRACE, SharedHope, Together We Heal and others doing what we would all expect and should demand of the Church – protect children and care for those who’ve fallen victim to this most heinous of crimes. But until that occurs, we will continue to do the work. Our children are worthy of and owed protection; and survivors of the trauma of childhood sexual abuse deserve to be cared for and shown compassion and love.

Thank you Boz and thank you SharedHope for the work you do to advocate for all children and those already harmed by the wickedness of sexual predators and those who protect and defend the indefensible.

In the past few years, a there has been a growing interest amongst many Americans in raising awareness and combatting the international commercial sexual exploitation of children. This is when an adult solicits or engages in a sexual act with a child in exchange for something of value. Many incredible individuals and organizations are focusing on this global horror and are beginning to make a real difference in the lives of untold numbers of vulnerable children around the world. Only recently are our eyes beginning to open to the ugly fact that this evil also permeates in the small towns and big cities of this nation. This has been clearly evidenced in a report released this past week by SharedHope, a Christian organization that is combating sex trafficking and serving abuse survivors. The Demanding Justice Report is one of the first comprehensive studies of its kind that examines the domestic commercial sexual exploitation of children. The heartbreaking and eye-opening findings of this study are a loud call to action to every American. Especially to those of us who call ourselves Christ followers.

Everyone should take the time to read this report. In this short post, I want to highlight just a small sample of its findings and what they mean for those of us who are a part of a faith community:

Who are the buyers? The age of those who commit these sexual offenses against children ranged from 18-89 years of age, with the average age being 42. Ninety-nine percent of these offenders were male. In the cases where the profession of the perpetrator was available, over 65 percent were in professions of authority such as attorneys, police officers, and ministers. Fifty-six percent were identified as working in occupations that had regular access to children, including teachers, coaches, and youth service organizations.

Who are the victims? Of the cases studied, almost 80 percent of the child victims were female. Approximately 10 percent of the victims were under the age of eleven, while almost 42 percent were between the ages of 11 and 15. The rest were between the ages of 16 and 18. In at least five of the cases reviewed during this study, children who were abused were actually charged with prostitution! Surprisingly, in only a small number of the cases were the young victims identified as being a runaway.

How do perpetrators access the child victims? The study found that the most common way those who engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children access their prey is through direct contact in person, via text message, email, or phone. In almost 50 percent of the studied cases, the perpetrator was given access to the child through a third party such as a parent, older sibling, or a pimp.

What happens to buyers who get caught? This report studied four large urban locations and identified 134 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses. Of those cases, 118 were officially prosecuted.

Unfortunately, only 44 of those prosecuted cases resulted in convictions for offenses related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. For example, 38 of the perpetrators arrested for paying to engage in sexual contact with a child were only convicted of a prostitution solicitation offense!

What does our society communicate to child sexual abuse offenders when they get caught and only get charged with a prostitution related offense? Even worse, what are we communicating to precious children when they learn that the adult who violated them merely got convicted of soliciting a prostitute?

Only five percent of the 118 prosecuted cases resulted in the defendant receiving a sentence that included incarceration. This means that 95 percent of the buyers who were prosecuted for some form of commercial sexual exploitation of a child never served a day behind bars!

This past week, I have spent a bit of time struggling with what these extremely disturbing results mean to those of us who identify ourselves as Christians? Though I am still struggling, here are just a few of my initial thoughts that I’d like to share:

We often think of the commercial sexual exploitation of children being perpetrated by large organized trafficking rings upon children who are almost exclusively runaways. Though that is tragically true in way too many cases, this report seems to indicate that this abuse is being perpetrated by the adults in our community that we least expect upon children that we so often assume are not at risk. This report opens our eyes to the grave reality that the commercial sexual exploitation of children has no boundaries. All children are at risk.

There is little doubt that those who will pay money to sexually victimize a child are not limited to just those whom they pay to abuse. For every lawyer, doctor, coach, teacher, or pastor who is paying for sexual contact with a child, one can only wonder how many are doing so without the need to pay anything. This tells me that the prevalence of this heinous crime is far greater than we can determine. Furthermore, this study reminds us of how it is very common for perpetrators to intentionally seek out professions of trust and that most make direct contact with their victims in person, or using some form of technology. Do we truly grasp these alarming realities about dangerous adults who are members of our faith communities? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?

This report confirms the horror that no age is off limits to those who sexually assault children. We are also exposed to the lesser-known horror that a large number of these child victims are being delivered into the hands of offenders by their very own family members. Do we truly grasp these dark realities about the precious child victims who are members of our faith communities? Should we not be equally concerned about the children who are outside of our faith communities? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?

As a former prosecutor, I was extremely bothered to learn that so few offenders are sent to prison for raping children in exchange for money. What does it say about a culture when an adult who pays to sexually victimize a child is only charged with prostitution solicitation? What does it say about a culture that actually prosecutes sexually victimized children as prostitutes? Do we truly grasp these dark realities that demonstrate such little concern about those who sexually exploit children? If so, what if anything is the Church going to do about it? Aren’t we the Church?

Questions are a certainly a good starting point. However, simply asking questions isn’t enough. It’s too easy for many of us to feel like we have sufficiently responded to these dark realities by simply asking tough questions. In my experience, questions that are not followed up by actions are nothing more than indifference hiding behind a pretty mask. As Christians, we embrace a different reality. A reality about a God who doesn’t simply respond to the dark realities with questions. He actually poured himself out to the point of death in order to bring light to that darkness. That is the beautiful redemption story. Our response to this mind-blowing truth is to follow Jesus into the dark realities as we pour our own lives out in actions that will make a difference. Actions that expose the dark deeds of offenders, protect and serve children, and help to transform a culture that all too often protects those who must be punished and punishes those who must be protected.

May each question propel us forward into action. It’s time to get moving.

This article can be viewed at its original location here:

http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/08/30/sexual-exploitation-children-anything-church-going/

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.