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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Can You Recognize Predatory Behavior?

This week’s article is the second part of, and provides a response to the question we posed last week…Is your faith community safe from sexual predators?

This week’s question: Can you recognize predatory behavior?

http://rachelgrantcoaching.blogspot.com/2018/06/can-you-recognize-predatory-behavior.html

 

If you didn’t catch last weeks article, you can read it here:

http://rachelgrantcoaching.blogspot.com/2018/06/is-your-faith-community-safe-from.html


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Is Your Faith Community Safe From Predators?

This month I am honored to be the guest blogger for my friend and colleagues’ website. Her name is Rachel Grant and she is doing amazing work helping fellow survivors of sexual abuse. So, for the next 4 weeks I will be posting from here with the link to her page.

 

This week’s post is actually a 2-part post, so stay tuned for next week’s section!

 

Please be sure to explore all of the excellent information she makes available!

 

http://rachelgrantcoaching.blogspot.com/2018/06/is-your-faith-community-safe-from.html


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Believing That Change Is Possible

This year I have decided to provide something new to the Together We Heal blog. In addition to my own writings, I wanted to offer some new voices with their own survivor perspectives. With April being “Child Abuse Prevention Month” we are honored to have a fellow survivor contribute. She has taught me much about healing and I am grateful to call her my friend, Rachel Grant. Join me in reading her words of encouragement today!

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But I’ve tried to get over this before!! Shouldn’t I be better already!? I know other people have healed, why can’t I?

Often the first hurdle to jump over in this journey is to put to rest (or a least put on mute for a while) your inner critic and doubter. I know you’ve been to therapy, I know you’ve read books, I know you’ve tried just about everything under the sun and you’re still running in circles. Don’t worry, I did, too! Or maybe you’re just for the first time ever admitting to yourself that the abuse happened and that you need to deal with it. Either way, there is likely a part of you that is wondering if you can get better! I invite you to allow yourself to embrace recovery as an adventure, an exploration. Be curious, check things out – and try to leave off stressing about end results. We each have to walk our own path of recovery. Sometimes, it takes just one thing to make things fall into place. Sometimes, it’s a variety of things.

For me, I tried all sorts of things before finally coming upon the ideas that I’ll share here that made the difference for me. I hope you can be open to the journey and remember there’s a lot to learn from turtles.

Lessons from a Turtle

“Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, because they are looking for ideas.”
~Paula Poundstone

How fabulous is that! I know I’m still certainly wondering about what I’ll be when I grow up, and I know many of the folks around me are thinking about this, too.

For me, though, there are the added questions of, “Is it too late?” & “Shouldn’t I have accomplished more by now?” I took a bit more time to finish my undergraduate studies than usual; then I spent some time roaming the halls of an elementary school trying my hand at teaching and learning a lot about myself.

When I came to California, I focused on child development (and napping) as I nanny before turning my attention to psychology & coaching. Seems a bit schizophrenic, but each stage has in some way built upon the previous one. Now, most days, I appreciate my wiggly journey. Still, I do sometimes agonize about this, because I am many paces behind those who followed the straight and narrow.

When we feel the pressure to make our mark, crave the pride of achievement, desire to experience ourselves at our best, or want more than anything to be fully recovered, our first point of reference for measuring where we stand is often what others are doing or have done. Is there real value in this exercise of comparison? Well, I suppose it depends on what your ultimate goal is.

To my mind, I see two possible outcomes from engaging in this sort of reflection (to be sure, there may be others). If your goal (though possibly an unconscious one) is to reinforce negative ideas you have about yourself as being less than, incapable, flawed, etc. – comparing oneself to others is like a gateway drug to self-deprecation. There can be real value in seeing how you measure up to others, but if you can’t compare yourself to others without becoming depressed, self-critical, exasperated, defeated, pitiful, and chagrined then this is not a healthy choice for you.

 
However, if your goal is to do something about your current situation and to move forward despite time, age, circumstances then it might be possible to become inspired, motivated, encouraged, and educated as a result of comparing where you are with others who have acquired the same things you now desire but don’t have. In other words, through curiosity and studying their very straight journey, you may add some arrow-like qualities to your own path.

My point is, I can look to a coach who is my age, has my education but is much further along in building her business and making a living and think to myself, “Damn it, see, if only I hadn’t…” or I can look to see how this person got to where she is and learn – and, perhaps, learn fast! Likewise, we can keep ourselves in a loop of comparing where we are in our journey of recovery to others or lamenting that we aren’t there yet, or we can set about doing the work and learning from those who have gone before us.

We only have one life journey. Whether it be a wiggly one or a straight & narrow one – it’s ours. So, for all my wiggly friends out there – move, be active, learn and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by self-deprecating thoughts.

Just as we might discover who we want to be when we grow up from kids, we also do well to remember the age-old Aesop fable The Tortoise and the HareIt’s not how quickly you can get to where you want to be – it’s whether you get there at all.

 

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Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse.  She works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken, unfixable, and burdened by the past. She helps them let go of the pain of abuse and finally feel normal.

Her program, Beyond Surviving, has been specifically designed to change the way we think about and heal from abuse. Based on her educational training, study of neuroscience, and lessons learned from her own journey, she has successfully used this program since 2007 to help her clients break free from the past and move forward with their lives.

Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. She is also a member of San Francisco Coaches.

www.rachelgrantcoaching.com


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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.

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

Website

https://www.briancardoza.com/

Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/SurvivorKnights/

Survivor Knights Philadelphia Art Show and Performance

https://www.facebook.com/events/422082188210672/

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

The Bristlecone Project

https://bristleconeproject.org/men/brian-cardoza/

The Unexpected Victim

https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Victim-Brian-Cardoza/dp/1684098513


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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!

David

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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.

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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.  


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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.

Family-Statement-About-Barbara-Blaine-9.25.17


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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