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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Helping Parents Educate Their Children about Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA); Three words no parent ever wants to hear in association with their children. While nowhere near as tragic as hearing its happened to a child of yours or anyone you know, the responsibility of talking with your children about CSA can seem almost as terrifying.

Next to providing counseling for survivors of CSA, one of our greatest endeavors at Together We Heal is helping parents educate their children on how to better protect themselves from sexual predators.

A few months ago I had the good fortune of becoming fellow advocates and friends with a gifted children’s book author named Holly-ann Martin. In addition to the brief bio about Holly-ann, I’m listing three books she wrote that I highly recommend for all parents. Her books address three key issues concerning CSA: Privacy – Protection – Prevention.

Holly-ann is the founder and Managing Director of Safe4Kids. Her experience spans twenty-five years with the Western Australian Department of Education and Training (DET), in a variety of school settings. Her unique approach to child protection education is underpinned by a whole community focus. This focus is centered around providing safer communities for children through engaging school staff, parents and care givers, local police, health workers, Department of Child Protection staff and early years childcare and education workers. Holly-ann’s emphasis centers on developing a language and culture of safety for children and adults alike, improving communication and highlighting and broadening the networks available to children when they are feeling unsafe. The sustained delivery of these programs is the key to creating a positive influence on both individual and community behavior.

It’s NEVER too early to begin educating your children. If you’re a parent, be sure to pick up a copy of each and if you’re not a parent, get copies and give them to your friends that are.

The Parent’s Helping Hand Book (an easy guide for teaching kids protective behaviors)
http://www.safeandhappykids.com.au/product/the-parents-helping-hand-book/

Matilda Learns A Valuable Lesson
http://www.safeandhappykids.com.au/product/matilda-learns-a-valuable-lesson-by-holly-ann-martin/

Hayden-Reece Learns A Valuable Lesson that Private means “Just For You”
http://www.safeandhappykids.com.au/product/hayden-reece-learns-a-valuable-lesson-that-private-means-just-for-you-by-holly-ann-martin/

One update….here are the links for those in the US who want to get the books.

Below are the Amazon links that are more affordable for people in the USA to purchase.

http://www.amazon.com/Matilda-learns-valuable-lesson-Holly-ann/dp/0980529433/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1386038996&sr=8-5&keywords=holly-ann+martin

http://www.amazon.com/Hayden-Reece-learns-valuable-lesson-Private/dp/0980529441/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1386040221&sr=8-3&keywords=holly-ann+martin

http://www.amazon.com/The-Parents-Helping-Hand-Book/dp/0980324092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386040270&sr=8-1&keywords=holly-ann+martin

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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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.

—–

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


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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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Qualified Therapists/Counselors/Coaches Needed! **Updated 11/5/2014**

Our needs are increasing for more therapists/counselors. Please read and contact us ASAP!!

My name is David Pittman and I am the Executive Director for “Together We Heal”. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides cost-free counseling/therapy for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally we give presentations, workshops and seminars on how parents can better protect their children from sexual predators.

We already work with dozens of licensed therapists, counselors and life-coaches, who donate their time and talent in order to help survivors begin the healing process and work through the multiple mental health challenges they face. But that number still isn’t enough.

With ever-increasing healthcare costs combined with the limitations placed on mental healthcare providers, as well as the rising number of survivors coming forward, we find ourselves in greater need of more therapists/counselors willing to work with us to help survivors of abuse.

It is with these factors in mind that I come to you now asking for your generosity. We need more volunteers who are qualified in working with victims who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Below is a brief list of the variety of challenges these survivors face and we need for you to have experience in these areas.

Abandonment Issues
Addiction & Recovery
Anger Issues
Attachment and Abuse Issues
Depression and Anxiety
Panic Disorder and Phobias
Personality Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)

I know this is an unorthodox approach of reaching out to professionals, but we are in desperate times, and these survivors need us to take drastic measures. We are following the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital model, that no one be turned away because they can’t afford it.

We do not ask for or require any minimum time from any of our volunteers. Whatever time you are able to give, we are grateful for and appreciate. Even if you can help just one or two survivors, that would be a tremendous gift! And the need is not just in the U.S., we need therapists/counselors from all over the world as people reaching out to us come from all continents.

I know what I am asking is not easy, but I also know there are enough good-hearted people in this world who are willing to help these survivors. I know because I am a survivor of CSA and its because I had the good fortune of having such a therapist come into my life and help me that I am where I am today. It is to you I am speaking directly.

Please contact me at (754) 234-7975 or email me at dpittman@together-we-heal.org – Contact me anytime and I will respond ASAP.

When emailing, please send your CV, resume, list of certifications/degrees, or the life experience you’ve had that qualifies you to help others, so we can go through the proper vetting process.

One last point. We aren’t looking for cookie-cutter therapists and counselors. The needs of survivors vary tremendously and because of that, we have people from many types of backgrounds that work together with us. Being a survivor of abuse or having life experience can be just as important as a degree on the wall. What we need are folks that genuinely care for and want to help others. Please keep this in mind and allow your heart to guide you when considering becoming a part of this amazing team.

Respectfully,

David Pittman
Executive Director, Together We Heal


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Its All About Perspective, So Whats Yours?

As recovering addicts and/or survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we often compare what we went through to that of others. It’s human nature. We think to ourselves, well what they went through was so much worse than myself, what gives me the right to complain. Or conversely, we look at another and say, oh come on, that’s all? We constantly do this.

I remember sitting in my first few NA rooms, listening to story after story and thinking, I’m not like these folks at all. I’m no crackhead, walking the streets, selling my body for a $10 high. Or I would rationalize, I’ve NEVER shot junk in MY veins or shared a needle with a disease-riddled body. Then one day I heard a story not so different from mine. It’s what therapists and sponsors call “your moment of clarity”. It’s when you finally come to terms with your own addiction and figure out, an addict is an addict is an addict. It doesn’t matter what the drug is, or the background your come from or even what you’ve done to get high. It’s when you acknowledge that you have no control over the drugs that control you.

And being a survivor of CSA is no different. It doesn’t matter who abused you, how often it happened, what they did to you or they made you do to them. A survivor is a survivor is a survivor. One case is not “worse” or “lesser” than another. To illustrate let me share a story a trusted friend told me many years back. He asked me to answer what appeared to be a simple question.

Three scenarios:

First, a teen about to go on their very first prom date when, BAM! A huge zit appears at the very end of their nose. With no way to conceal and no time to heal, panic and anxiety set in.

Second, a young man has just been told by the Dean, his academics did not pass this semester and will be on probationary suspension for 1 term. How does he begin to explain this one to mom and dad? And did I mention, he’s on scholarship because they have no money to send him to college.

Third, a couple just received a $30,000.00 bill from the IRS. Evidently their CPA was didn’t file properly and no matter what, they are now liable for all monies, plus penalties. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it, they MUST pay and they don’t have enough savings to cover it. And oh yeah, their daughter just came home pregnant from college. Another two mouths to feed and bodies to keep warm and safe inside their home.

So the query is…which one is “worse”?

Being the bright young man I was at the time, I told him, oh this is easy! I’ve already had a “zit moment” that totally embarrassed me in high school. He or she will eventually forget all about that nonsense! As for the young man in school, I could relate. Got into some trouble in college and had to “sit out” a semester myself. No biggie! I went to Florida for that term, worked for my dad and when I’d “done my time and penance”, I reenrolled, finished up and graduated from the University! So the answer was clear, the couple with the 30k debt to the IRS. What a horrible position to be in. With no foreseeable way to pay, with a child and a grandchild returning “home” in need of mom and dads support, both emotionally and financially. This was a no-brainer.

Turns out, I was the only one with no brain! You see, we each “see” the prism of crisis through our own life experience. If we have already been through an event, we understand what lies on the other side. What potential outcomes there may be. Even what variety of options are available to us. But to each and every one of those folks, the situation before them was the “worst” they had ever faced at that point in their lives. With NO idea of how they were going to get through it. It’s truly relative when it comes to situational crisis. There is no such thing as a “bigger or lesser” problem. To whomever is going through what they are going through, at that moment, it’s the biggest challenge they’ve had to face.

So keep this in mind when working with others or when addressing your own struggles. Remember to be compassionate to those around you. And don’t forget to give yourself a break too. We all need some sympathy and empathy in our times of trials and tribulation.

One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. –Anonymous

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal


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Is Forgiveness Necessary?

Forgiveness. What an amazing word. What an honorable act. What an indescribable sensation when once we receive it and also too, when we dispense it.

Our good friend Webster defines “Forgive” as – To pardon an offense or offender. To grant pardon for or remission of an offense; To cease to feel resentment against. Synonyms include, absolve; excuse; exonerate; exculpate.

Also mixed in with the word “forgive” is “forgiveness”. Words associated with it are: Mercy; Charity; Compassion.

I’ve struggled a long time with these words. You see, when the very organization that is supposed to teach you the meanings behind these words refuses to protect you. Even goes so far as to take aim and target you as being a bad person. When, in fact, you are the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a minister. It becomes increasingly difficult to find any forgiveness for those who allowed it to happen, for those that covered it up, for those that protected the abuser instead of the innocent child, and especially the one who raped, molested and sexually assaulted you.

And please understand I write this from my own perspective which is one of a Christian background. I don’t presume to know another’s pain, only what I’ve been through, so know this is only “my own” belief system and I’m not trying to push it on anyone else.

I give lectures and presentations to civic and religious groups, to parent organizations, even to small groups of couples wanting to know how to better protect their children from sexual predators. And you want to know the single most asked question I get? I don’t mean it’s asked a little more often than not, I’m telling you I get this question more than all other questions combined. I’m asked, “have you forgiven your abuser?”

At first, I have to admit, I didn’t really know how to respond. I was taken aback. Shocked actually. Of all the questions I expected, this was not one of them. Initially I deflected. Because in truth, I had not even given it consideration. I was so focused on keeping my abuser away from more children, so intent on preventing more children from going through what I did, and so preoccupied with helping support other survivors of CSA that it never entered my thought process. Until now.

Now I was forced to face a daunting challenge. You see, my dilemma is this. My spiritual background is Protestant. And within that Protestant faith was a teaching that we were to forgive as we are forgiven. So it says right in The Lords Prayer. On the flip side was my heart. Having been torn apart by a man who has molested, raped and sexually abused an untold number of little boys. How do I forgive that?

So I did something it took me a long time to do after having felt betrayed by the very God that my abuser claimed to represent. I spent an awful lot of time in prayer and study. I went to every doctrine of various faiths and religious texts I could find having to do with forgiveness. And time and time again I saw, forgive as you are forgiven. Jesus, Gandhi, no matter the reference, If you don’t forgive, how can you expect to be forgiven? We’re these folks right? Was I supposed to forgive this most heinous of crimes perpetrated against myself and all those other little boys?

In all the passages, texts, quotes from people of faith, when they spoke of forgiveness, they did so when addressing those who had faith, who held in their hearts a belief in repentance for transgressions. Even those that had done them wrong.

It was while having a bible study with my fiancé, now wife, Linda that we came across the scripture that opened my eyes. My spiritual eyes, and my heart.

In Matthew 6:14-15 it talks about forgiveness. And most of this chapter has to do with Jesus explaining to his followers how to do certain things. How to pray, fast, etc. And as we read and prayed we began to understand. Jesus was talking about Christians forgiving other Christians, not about forgiving the unrepentant.

So this led me to a question. Is it within my ability to forgive someone who does not have faith or who has no regret or repentance? This led me to an even deeper question from a trusted friend and man who has spent his entire adult life in study and prayer. He posed the following query, “Is a person without faith or repentance even capable of receiving my forgiveness?”

I was blown away.

Rather than paraphrasing, I will simply let him explain in his own scholarly, yet layman terms.

“Until someone has been first forgiven by God unto salvation through Christ we do not have the ability to forgive them. I will take it a step further, until a person has become forgiven by God unto salvation they are incapable of recieving human forgiveness. Only God can forgive a non Christian. That is not to say that we should not pray for their forgivness. By praying that the non Christian be forgiven by God helps us deal with the wrong done to us by that person and help’s God understand our need to forgive…Hope that is not too confusing, for most Christians do not understand that part of forgivness. Certainly, you may offer forgivness by a non Christian, but still until that person is forgiven by God for his orginal sin forgiveness can’t be recieved by the non christian.”

And this led me to an even greater insight. To those who said, you must forgive to be forgiven, if that were the case, it would mean there are stipulations to my faith. A “work or act” I must do. And any Protestant who knows their faith, knows we do not come to our faith through works or acts. It is by faith alone.

So not only am I not responsible for forgiving my abuser; until he is repentant, he is incapable of receiving human forgiveness for any transgressions.

That doesn’t mean we, or rather I, am recused from praying for the faith of this particular person. But at least now I have the honest belief that it’s not my job to forgive him. That’s between God and him. And honestly, I don’t believe someone capable of such things wants redemption. Not when he’s looked me in the eye, cried crocodile tears saying he didn’t do that anymore, only to find out he was molesting at least two boys when he told me that. So he’s a pathological liar, pedophile and God only knows what else.

Ultimately I believe that forgiveness, with regard to the abused, is the most individual of decisions. I believe there is more than one way to skin the “forgiveness” cat. For some, they find it helpful. For me, it’s not necessary. I have no need of it for my healing. And that’s what it’s all about. No matter which way a survivor goes, as long as they find healing and not vengeance or bitterness in it, it’s a positive.

The bottom line, my focus is on my recovery, healing and that of others that have been through what I have. I know now my calling is to do all I can to educate parents on how to better protect their children and help survivors heal. And I don’t need a burning bush or talking mule to figure that out!