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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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 Either they became withdrawn or they acted out, with combinations and variations of the two.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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Get Over It!

I can’t tell you how frequently, because sadly I’ve lost track of the number of times a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse has told me someone in their life said to them, “why can’t you just get over it?”

Someone commented the other day in one of the online support groups that I belong, “sometimes the feel of this group is to be passed the past. I am simply not. My one on one therapy has been shit. I don’t feel I have gotten any better. If I post some bad things or things I feel I don’t know it’s like I fail. It is not you, it’s me :(”

So I replied – “please know you are not alone with the feelings you’re having. Many of us, including myself, wonder when things will “get better”. In group this week we even talked about how we didn’t understand why, after going through so much therapy why we would still have the past come back and bite us in the butt. We even have members of our family or friends say, why don’t you just get over it? The thing is, we never “get over” what we have been through. The best we can hope for is to “work through it” and to heal. And so together, helping one another with what has helped each of us, we try to do just that. Combine our cumulative learning and coping skills to better handle “it” when it rears it’s ugly head. I guess I’m just trying to say, we’re here for you, I’m here for you and you’re not alone.”

What’s really sad to me is when people in our lives, people we care about and love utter those words, “get over it.” It’s as if they think we’ve been in a car wreck or had a bad cold. How they can be so insensitive to spew such verbal poison is beyond the pale.

I know, and thankfully so, they can’t possibly comprehend the hell and torture we’ve been through. But to lack even the slightest amount of decency or courtesy boggles the mind. Even more baffling is when it comes from a “professional” or someone who HAS been sexually abused. In those situations it’s clear they have not faced their own demons and so to make themselves look or feel better, they say words that cut to the bone and do more damage. It’s that type of thought and speech that causes survivors of abuse to either stop talking or further bury emotions and the trauma that they desperately need to work through. And now, because someone has said what they have, the healing process is delayed, derailed or denied altogether.

I remember being told as a youngster, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. Well here’s my message to all those who tell us to get over it…

…shut your pie hole! You have no clue what you’re talking about and you’re hurting more than helping so do everyone a favor and keep your mouth shut!

Can you tell I’m a little aggravated about this issue?

And to all of my fellow survivors, please hear me when I say this…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and the dingbats who would say such words. They don’t know what we’ve been through. Keep doing what you’re doing by working with your therapist, attending group therapy and relying on the support, guidance and comfort of those who care enough about you to say positive affirmations. We CAN heal and we CAN do it together.

Healing and recovery from childhood sexual abuse is challenging enough as it is. If someone is not a part of your healing, disregard them. And cling tightly to those who show you true love, empathy and support.

I had a fellow survivor give me the perfect example of the struggle we face. They told me of a relative who had a permanent physical disability and how comforting the family was toward them. And yet, when it came to their own pain from sexual abuse, this same family was completely indifferent.

Just because people can’t “see” our injuries doesn’t make them any less real. Simply because someone doesn’t have the capacity to look inside our hearts and souls, doesn’t make the pain we feel any less severe. Instead of assuming we’re ok, how about taking the time to really listen to what we’re saying. In doing so, you might just be the one who helps someone in pain beyond what you could ever imagine or bare. You could be the one that makes all the difference in the world.

As I was writing this I thought of something to say the next time I hear those words…I’ll ask them, would you tell me to “get over it” if I had cancer or heart disease? Of course not because that would be ridiculous. Well, what we are going through is like a cancer of our minds and disease of our hearts. If we don’t address it in a healthy way it tears us apart from the inside out.

So please, be careful what you say to those in pain, to those who have been utterly devastated as children to the point it affects us adversely as adults. We need to be loved and supported, not dismissed with hateful words. And be thankful it didn’t happen to you and pray it doesn’t happen to your children. I bet you wouldn’t tell them to…get over it…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Easter – A Conflict of Emotions

For many of us who were raised in a religious setting, but also endured childhood sexual abuse at the hands of someone in the ministry, this time of year can be a conflict of emotions. For me, there was a time when I abandoned the organization that I felt had abandoned me and my fellow survivors. Unless it was a wedding or a funeral, I wouldn’t darken the doors of any church, synagogue, etc. I would even go so far as to say, for a time, I held God responsible for what happened to me and had genuine feelings of hatred toward the church and God.

It wasn’t until I had spent many years working with a therapist and in a group therapy setting, that I realized it wasn’t the fault of God that what happened to me happened. However, the churches failure to take action, support those of us who had been harmed and take the necessary steps to prevent these predators from hurting other children still causes great pain and still has no excuse.

That having been said, I read something today that I think applies to both Easter and survivors.

“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all” ~ Leo C. Rosten.

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It’s clear, for those of us who subscribe to Christianity, that Christ stood for something, and made a difference in our lives by sacrificing His. Applying that to survivors of CSA, we too can take this opportunity to turn this awful, evil series of events that happened to us, and turn them into taking a stand, making a difference in the lives of our fellow survivors and help prevent this from happening to future generations of children.

For those that know me, and have been keeping up with all that Together We Heal is doing, you know we most definitely have passion, compassion, are taking responsibility and doing all we can to take honorable actions for this cause.

So as we go forward today in celebration of Easter, in acknowledging the resurrection of Christ, let’s apply this most critical of moments in His life to our own lives. We can resurrect our destroyed lives. We can restore what was taken. We can have our lives count for something. We can because we have survived a “death of our own“.

I’m not saying this because I believe all survivors should feel exactly like I do, and I most certainly understand if you still have reservations about anything having to do with any religious organization. I only write this to give you words of encouragement, to let you know that if I can make it through to this point in my recovery, I know you can too. But I don’t believe it should be forced onto anyone, by anyone. This is on your terms and in your own time.

So now with this perspective, I hope we all can look at today as a day where we are no longer shackled by the weight of guilt, shame and self-blame. We can experience a rebirth and resurrection for ourselves. We can because together…we can truly heal.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Healing & Recovery – Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Survivor’s Story

Radio Show with David Pittman & Michele Rosenthal – Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Healing and recovery with regard to childhood sexual abuse (CSA), says David Pittman, Executive Director of Together We Heal (TWH), happens because “Ultimately, you have to make a choice.” For Pittman that choice happened when he was incarcerated for drug possession. Getting clean, facing the truth, healing and founding an organization that provides free counseling is the amazing transformation that David has brought to his life. In this interview we discussed:

David’s incredible story of trauma to triumph

How he cleaned up his act and turned his life around

2 things that help any CSA recovery

3 steps that can help you achieve success

The TWH mission and their “turn no one away” counseling policy

http://www.changeyouchoose.com/healing-childhood-sexual-abuse-a-survivors-story/

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Abused Addict: CSA info too important to miss!

Radio Show Recording with David Pittman and Rachel Grant – January 29th, 2014

The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse

Discovering the Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Substance Abuse/Addiction

We cover not only abuse and addiction, but also issues with sexuality, access to counseling, sexual predators grooming kids for abuse, churches that protect sexual predators, creating support groups in your local areas and so much more! Please set aside some time to listen to what I genuinely believe is valuable information for both survivors of childhood sexual abuse and those that love them.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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3 Steps to Let Go of the Pain of Sexual Abuse – Radio Show Recording

On Wednesday, December 18th 2013, it was my honor to have facilitated a tele-seminar with my friend, colleague and fellow advocate, Rachel Grant.

In addition to the topics covered below, there was also a Q&A session that had some extremely challenging issues Rachel and I addressed with the callers that I know you will find insightful and helpful.

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Do you feel worthless, undeserving, unfixable, or unlovable? Are you ready to let go of the pain of sexual abuse?

If you are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken and burdened by the past, this tele-seminar is for you. You will be taught the three steps you need to take in order to let go of the pain of childhood sexual abuse. Rachel will also share with you her secret to becoming a ‘beyond survivor’.

You will learn:

• Why sexual abuse is akin to an unhealed wound and the steps required to healing that wound.
• How your brain processes experiences and how this affects your thinking, feelings, and behavior.
• To challenge the false beliefs that keep you disconnected from your genuine self.
• To develop new ways of thinking in order to shift your focus, listen to yourself, and to use affirmations that really work.
• 3 steps, rooted in science, which will lead you out of the pain of abuse.

This show is perfect for you if:

You are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and are frustrated because it seems nothing you do is helping.

You desire to reconnect to your genuine self in order to move on with your life and be the person you were meant to be.

It is my hope and desire for you to be able to make radical and amazing changes as you take back your life and realize your ability to make powerful choices about who you are and how you live.
Please don’t miss the opportunity to listen and gain this invaluable information. As I mentioned, Rachel is not only a colleague, she is also my friend. I know how much she has helped me and I know she can help you too.

Here is the link to the show: http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/media/3-steps.mp3

If you want to learn more about Rachel and how she might help you move froward in recovering from CSA, please check out her website: http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com/brokentobeyond


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The Other Victims Of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The following is a post a friend of mine wanted to share. She has helped me realize that as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we are just one set of the victims in this crime. I’m thankful for her sharing with me and pointing out that children, loved-ones and others also suffer the consequences of the abusers actions. Please welcome her writing and the willingness to open up her heart and hurt with us.

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When you’re growing up, you look up to your parents for wisdom and to see how you are supposed to be when you grow up. Parents are the ones you’re with the most and they mold you into who you are today.

Parents aren’t perfect, even though when we are young we think they are. We tend to place them on a pedestal and never recognize the tarnish and wear, or what may be going on inside of them. Let’s face it, our job as children is to have fun and play and try to obey our parents because in our minds, we trust they know what’s good for us.

For me, childhood was probably a little more difficult than an average child. It seemed I could never do right. I couldn’t say the right things or be the right way. Yet, somehow inside me – I still would seek out approval from my mother. Call me a glutton for punishment, stubborn, hard-headed, etc., I’ve been called worse.
My mother and I were two independent, head-strong individuals and we clashed like most teenagers do with their parents, but then there were times when I would be on the receiving end of some pretty hateful comments. It wasn’t until I was older that I came to the realization of what was really going on.

Growing up constantly being told you’d never amount to anything isn’t easy to take, nor is hearing how I’m so pathetic. Thousands upon thousands of children hear this at some point in their life. I’m not saying that I’m that different just that I have scars from the verbal abuse I endured.

So why am I on a victims of CSA website and blog? Simply put, I’m a victim of a victim.

No, I was not sexually abused but I did suffer from the effects of CSA, the effects they had on my mother. Because she chose not face the things that happened to her when she was younger, this played a huge role on how she interacted with others. Her relationships with her family and extended family suffered.

On the outside and in public, she was a stunning, beautiful woman. Very intelligent and determined to become more – do more, no one would have ever thought she was battling with her own doubts. At home, she tended to be disconnected, cold and hard-hearted. I don’t remember a lot of hugs and kisses growing up. I sat back and watched as my friends had seemingly great relationships with their mothers and would envy their mother/daughter connection. It was hard.

Over the years, my attempts to reach out and share the events of my life weren’t received very well. I think the most intimate mother/daughter moments we shared were when I got married or when I had my child. It’s still hard – sometimes I mourn that lost relationship – the memories that could have been but never were.

In my early motherhood days, I found myself reacting to things the way my mother used to – quick to anger and disconnected. I came to realize a cycle was starting and not a healthy one. I realized I was turning into my mother and not in those funny, cute ways we joke about with our friends. This cycle of hatred at the world had begun and I had to do something about it to break the cycle or another innocent child would fall victim to this madness. Another relationship would suffer.

You see, during my late high school years, my mom had confided in me her deep dark secret. She was sexually abused as a child. I never really grasped how deep the pain was, how deeply it effected who she had become. I really don’t think the light bulb of that reality hit me until after I had my own child and knew I had to break the cycle of anger.

For those of you out there afraid to take the steps to get help, please realize, you’re not the only victim. How you react to the travesty of what happened to you can last for generations. I’m asking you to take the steps necessary to begin healing – If you don’t do it for you, do it for those you love, your wife, your husband, your children and even your grandchildren.

If you find yourself in my shoes – please know you aren’t alone. Reach out to Together We Heal or find someone you can talk to. Know you are worthy and don’t believe the words spoken in anger. I know it’s not easy to accept, but you can overcome this and break the cycle.

Please don’t ever forget – To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.

By Michelle Lea Anthony-Hopper

Michelle is not just a friend, she’s also the TWH web designer, webmaster and on the Board of Consultants. Much like she was unaware of my abuse, I was unaware of what she had been through until we started working together on projects for TWH. We are honored to have her as an integral member of the TWH team and family.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal