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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Together We Heal & Victims Services of Palm Beach County Join Forces

I am proud to announce a new partnership has been formed between TWH and the Victim Services Division of Palm Beach County.

In addition to the services, support and guidance we already provide here at TWH, we will now have additional resources available to current residents of Palm Beach County who were victims of sexual crimes anywhere in the U.S., or for those who were victims of sexual crimes that occurred in Palm Beach County.

I met this week with the Therapy Coordinator of the division and I can say with complete confidence and greater joy, they have an outstanding group of therapists and advocates who genuinely care for the welfare of survivors. I consider it an honor for TWH to be working with them and I saw first-hand what a valuable addition we will be to each others organizations. Our focus and goals are the same, as is our desire to help survivors of sexual abuse any way we can.

And most importantly they have the same model as TWH, they do not charge for ANY of the services they provide. Here are the new resources TWH now has access to, in addition to what we already provide:

* Education and information about Victims’ rights
* 24 hour crisis response to hospitals, law enforcement agencies and crime scenes
* Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and a Forensic exam site ~ The Butterfly House
* Criminal Justice advocacy and court accompaniment
* Assistance with filing State Crime Victim Compensation applications and
Restraining Orders
* Information and referral to community resources, including shelters and Legal Aid

If you are in need of therapy, want the aid of a support group, or just need someone to speak with about the recovery process, we now have twice as many people to help you.

The only requirement for their help is that you either be a resident of Palm Beach County, no matter where the crime occurred, or that the crime occurred in Palm Beach County and you now reside outside the county, anywhere in the U.S.

Their website is – http://www.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/victimservices
Main Office : (561) 355-2418 option 3 – Monday – Friday 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
24/7 Hotline : (561) 833-7273
Toll Free : (866) 891-7273
TTY. : (561) 355-1772

In addition to their English-speaking support groups, they also have a support group for Spanish-speaking individuals in need.

I cannot stress enough how critical this cooperative effort between our organizations is to survivors of sexual abuse. It’s one more step in extending TWH’s reach and capabilities and it’s all to aid our fellow survivors. And let me say again, just like TWH, ALL SERVICES ARE FREE OF CHARGE.

Please know if you are in need, there are people who will and can help. All you need to do is reach out and you will find open hands and hearts waiting for you. You may contact us first if you’d feel more comfortable, or contact them directly. Either way, we are both here for you.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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2013 Annual Mid-Atlantic Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect

Our partners at the Maryland Children’s Alliance are hosting the 2013 Annual Mid-Atlantic Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect – Please take a moment to read –

http://marylandchildrensalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/midatlantic2013.pdf


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Waiting To Be Found.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), I have been searching for sometime to figure out a way to summarize the challenges survivors face. But due to the levels of pain and varieties of struggles each individual confronts, it seemed like this wasn’t possible. That is until I was watching, of all things a tv show, when I had a moment of clarity. A young lady had been kidnapped and was all alone. While listening to the dialogue of the actors and imagining how a real kidnap victim must feel it hit me like a ton of bricks…

The loneliest feeling in the world…is waiting to be found.

And there it was. My own personal struggle was wrapped up in that one, simple but excruciatingly painful statement. Survivors of CSA know this feeling. We live in constant fear of people learning what we are currently going through or have been through. We live in perpetual terror that our deepest, darkest secret will be exposed. Our fear, shame and guilt is compounded daily in our hearts, it weakens our spirits and like a weight, its sits on and sinks into our thoughts – emotionally, mentally and at times even physically. It feels like an wrecking ball holding us down, preventing us from moving, from doing anything or going anywhere.

The tv show I was watching showed the kidnap victim left to die, held down by spikes in the desert, hands and feet bound to those spikes. She was all alone, in the middle of nowhere, with no help in sight. And during this time, she had no idea if she would ever be found, or if she would die alone, with this horrific secret.

And in that story is the analogous representation of the degree of despair felt by survivors of CSA. We have that same sense of abandonment, of being all alone, all the while, we need and we want more than ANYTHING, for someone, ANYONE, to FIND OUT and to FIND US!

In its simplest terms, what we need is much like the moment a child has a parent rip off a bandage from a banged up knee or elbow. When a band-aid is pulled off it hurts like hell, but then when done, there is this immense sense of relief. And the growing sense of relief is so much more powerful than the instant moment of pain. Thats not to say we don’t get that band-aid ripped off over and over again when we relive the experience by telling our story, or testifying in court or being deposed, but by engaging on a healing path, we can find a way to move froward productively. Just as a survivor feels extreme emotional trauma in the moments/hours/days surrounding the time people learn the truth about their abuse, once the initial pain subsides, the healing can begin.

I know I have said this before, and I’ll continue to say it until there’s no breath left in my lungs. If you are or have been a victim of CSA, reach out now. You are not alone. You may have been left in the desert, but you now have people looking for you and available to help you. If not with TWH, find someone, some group, somewhere. They are all around and willing to help you. And may we all find the peace we deserve.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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You Have Worth and Are Worthy.

I recently read an article from childabusesurvivor.net and in it they referenced a story from the Jewish Survivors of Sexual Abuse blog. It’s a story I had heard years before in a training seminar but as the author of the blog stated, “Sometimes we just need to be reminded!”

In the room filled with more then 200 people, a well-known speaker started off a seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill, asking, “Who would like this $20 bill?”
Hands started going up.
The speaker said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill.
He then asked, “Who still wants it?”
Still the hands were up in the air.
Well, he replied, “What if I do this?”
And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty and asked, “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
The speaker stated: My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.
We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.
Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who LOVE you.

In the post, the author stated that, “The $20 bill is still worth $20, but once the speaker got done with it, it was different than when it started. Abuse does affect us, it does change us. It leaves scars, or dirt and creases to stay with the metaphor, but even with those effects, the value of the bill stays the same. It just takes some effort to smooth out the wrinkles.”

And I believe this is an excellent point that needs repeating. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), we often feel like that crumpled up bill. Like we’ve been run through the wringer and left out on our own. Which brings me to the point I really want to emphasize.

Alone…

It’s a horrible word and feeling for survivors of CSA. We talked about it in our monthly support group meeting this past week. We went around and talked about how each of us, in our own unique but similar ways, experience the feeling of being “alone”. Not loneliness, but truly “alone”.

As we went around I heard words and phrases like “rejection”, “not believed”, “discarded”, “isolation” and one that really stuck with me, “I felt like my core was stolen”. It was that last one that I could entirely relate. As I laid in that bed, time and time again, as the abuse continued, more and more of me felt like it was disappearing, like the core of who I was, was no more. So as the years went on I tried to fill that void with things, substances and people.

The things being objects of desire, whether it be a simple knick-knack I called a collectible or a new car. The substances were narcotics that numbed me from the feeling of being alone and pain that permeated every pore of my body. And the people were a series of failed attempts to feel loved and wanted. But no matter what I tried, nothing and no one could fill that void, that feeling of being alone.

It wasn’t until I finally came to terms with what had happened, the crime perpetrated against me that I could even begin to have some sense of who I really was, what my core was made of. And I believe most survivors struggle with this. So what do we do? How do we move forward if you, like myself and others, feel that “core” is not what it should be?

The first thing you MUST know is that you are NOT alone. Right now in the USA, there are between 55 and 75 million survivors of CSA. And that’s just the ones we can count based on statistics of those who’ve come forward. So know you have many people that have been through what you have. In addition, there are now many groups established to provide the help, support and guidance that once did not exist. Whether its Together We Heal, NAASCA, RAINN or the many others out there, you have a place to go, so please reach out, and find one that will help you.

And finally, what I found that helped me begin to move forward was getting some professional help. Therapy, in it’s many forms, is available to you. For some, you might have the funds to pay for it, or if you have insurance, utilize it. And for those that have neither, there are now groups that will help you at no cost. So whether you have the funds or not, there’s no reason to not find a therapist or group that can help guide you on a healing path. A path that will help you find your core, a path to no longer feeling alone. So take a little lesson from that $20 dollar bill…reach out and find your worth. You are worthy and deserving of it.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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Grooming – How Do Sexual Predators Get Into Our Lives?

After posting my story of childhood sexual abuse, I was asked an important question by a concerned parent. How did this monster get into your life?

The answer is both simple and complex. The easy part is that they don’t have the appearance of a monster. They don’t look like some James Bond or Cartoon character villain, with beady eyes, horns coming out of their heads, or a big neon sign saying, “STAY AWAY, PEDOPHILE HERE!” Sadly, they almost always look like everyone one else. The gentle minister, the encouraging coach, the neighbor always willing to lend a hand or the family member who seems to be there just when you need them.

And this is where the complexity comes in. How do you distinguish genuine care from pure evil? While there are no set in stone answers, there are some clues to look for and ways to evaluate what is going on. And though nothing is fool-proof, I hope it’s at least a start for you to help figure out friend from foe.

One of the most frightening things about pedophiles/sexual predators is that they seem so “normal”. They are notoriously friendly, nice, kind, engaging and like-able. And they target their victims, often insinuating themselves into that child’s life through their family, school, house of worship, sports, and hobbies. But don’t ever forget, pedophiles are professional con-artists and are experts at getting children and families to trust them. They will smile at you, look you right in the eye and make you believe they are trustworthy.

So let’s first define exactly what grooming is and then we will go into the steps involved.

Erika Lyn Smith, of the “Missing And Exploited Children Site”, gives a thorough explanation of what we are talking about.

The act of grooming a child involves spending time, energy, and money to make a child and even the parent or parents feel comfortable with the relationship. Only after a trusting relationship is established will the child predator start to become more intrusive and to test the boundaries of the relationship by pushing limits. These violations may include hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, and invading a child’s privacy while showering, dressing or toileting.

Initially a pedophile will begin to violate the physical boundaries, by accidentally touching the child through his or her clothes to see what kind of reaction he or she receives. If a child or parent questions the action the predator will likely back off and regain the trust of the child or parents before proceeding.

By befriending the parent or parents, the pedophile gains the trust of everyone in the family. Children are less likely to tell when the relationship turns sexual if the adult is someone he or she knows personally or is a friend of mom or dads. In addition, mom and dad may be less likely to listen to a child when it involves a good friend of the family.

Single parents, especially mother’s will be looking for a positive male role model if there is no father involved. Single mothers are more likely to accept offers from a child’s coach or school for help when offered. All parents needs to be vigilant when it comes to allowing someone access to his or her child, and question friendships or relationships that take up a lot of a child’s free time.

Signs that a pedophile may be grooming your child include:
• Telling a child, he or she is a “special” friend
• Bringing a child special mementos or gifts
• Talking to a child about adult issues like sex or marriage problems
• Giving a child alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
• Inviting a child to spend the night or go camping

A former F.B.I. agent named Kenneth V. Landing wrote about 5 steps he identified as the general process most sexual predators use in grooming children to be their ext victims. Below you will find this listed.

Stage 1: Identifying a Possible Victim
Although pedophiles differ in their “type” regarding age, appearance and gender, all pedophiles will look for a victim who seems in some way vulnerable.

Stage 2: Collecting Information
The next step is for the pedophile to collect as much information on the targeted victim as possible. This is most commonly done through casual conversations with both the child and the parents or caretaker.

Stage 3: Filling a Need
Once the individual has the information he needs, he then becomes part of the child’s life by filling a need. If the victim is poor, for example, the pedophile will provide him/her with expensive toys. If the victim is lonely, the pedophile will act as a friend.

Stage 4: Lowering Inhibitions
The pedophile will then start to lower the child’s inhibitions concerning sexual matters. He may come up with games or activities that involve getting undressed, make sexual comments or show the child pornographic images or pictures.

Stage 5: Initiating the Abuse
At this final stage, the pedophile begins to sexually abuse the child.

Another technique used by these predators is called the 4 “F’s”.

Friendship, Fantasy, Fear and Force.

“Friendship” is built through nurturing a relationship through bonding. The adult will usually give the child gifts, take them on special outings and show them a lot of attention.

Once a child trusts an adult, the adult can influence the child’s attitude regarding sexual behavior. Grooming may include introducing sexual content to the child as an example of what the perpetrator desires and to give the impression that the depicted acts are acceptable. If the child thinks that sex between children and adults is ok, it’s easier for the pedophile to victimize the child.

Then they will introduce “Fantasy”. They will manipulate the child with a false sense of security. They will pay a lot of attention to the child’s problems and personal matters and offer advice and counseling. They will tell the child how much they love them and that they want to have a long term, loving relationship with them.

Once the child has opened up to the pedophile, they will begin to instill “Fear” by threatening to share the child’s secrets with their classmates or their parents. Sometimes they will even threaten the life or safety of the child or of their family and friends It’s all a manipulation tactic to get the child to do what the pedophile wants them to do.

Ultimately, the pedophile uses “Force” to sexually exploit the child.

While these are by no means the only ways sexual predators work their way into ours and our children’s lives, they are at least a beginning place for parents to be on the lookout. The more information you have and the better educated you become, the more you will be able to best protect your kids.

Knowledge truly is power and we cannot give over our power to these heinous criminals. They will use every trick in the book so you have to know what they’re doing. Even more frightening, pedophiles and sexual predators work together to help each other figure out ways to gain access to our kids. Don’t believe it, read this article about a 170 page, “How To” publication put together by and for adults who prey on innocent children. They are making a concerted effort to help each other so we have to be more vigilant, more active and tireless in our work to combat these predators.

http://www.wbtv.com/story/18124513/underage-grooming-guide

I hope this is a good start on helping you to protect your children. God knows I wish my family had been told this when I was a child. Maybe they would have been able to stop my abuse before it began. So please take a page from our family history book, educate yourselves and talk with your kids.

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References:

Kenneth V. Lanning, Special Agent, F.B.I.

Erika Lyn Smith

America’s Most Wanted

WBTV

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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Please Stop This!

I’m re-blogging a post I just read that has an important message and perspective on human trafficking…please take a moment to read…

http://freedom3-14-13.blogspot.com/2013/06/please-stop-this.html