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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It’s That Time of Year

***UPDATE TO THIS POST***

Day 4 of our week of fundraising – Not Short But VERY IMPORTANT

My thought process behind not setting a “dollar goal” for our fundraising week was in the belief that those inclined to give would give as much as they could. And for those who didn’t realize fundraising was our primary way of getting the monies needed to operate Together We Heal, it would explain the need. Evidently either things are still too tight or the amount needed isn’t clearly understood. I’m thinking a little of both but more so the latter. So with that in mind I’m going to better clarify what is needed.

Last year, in order to pay for therapy that wasn’t done pro bono, to travel to give presentations and workshops to educate parents, guardians and others on how to better protect children from sexual predators, to keep the website and all our online presence up and running, to work on reforming statute of limitation laws, and more events and behind the scenes work than would be read if I itemized them all; we needed in excess of $5,000.

And the need increases every week, every month and will certainly increase for 2015 as more survivors learn of the aid we provide at free of charge to those who either can’t afford it or that don’t have access to insurance to cover the costs.

We are setup on the same premise as St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital; we don’t turn anyone away based on money. If they don’t have it, we find a way to get therapists to donate time or raise the money to pay for it. Which brings us back to today.

We need your help to continue the work we do. We cannot without your help. Because of your gifts, lives have been changed and saved. This is no exaggeration. Survivors of CSA need your help. Children need your protection. And with your help we can and will continue to do all of these things and more.

We are setup the way we are because this is what saved my life. Because someone was willing to help me when I had no money or ability to pay, help was given to me when I needed it most. I was able to finally address the struggles and issues that were destroying my life. The sexual abuse I suffered as a child was eroding what little was left of my life. So now, Together We Heal is doing the same for others. But we genuinely need your help. When we started there were just a few survivors asking us for help. Those days are long gone. We now have survivors from all over the world and we work with therapists and Counselors on three continents. And this happens because of your previous donations. As we grow, so grows the need for more funds. Please give so we can help more, serve more and protect more.

Thank you all so very much

Please go to our website and find the SMALL “donate” button at the bottom. The big donate button isn’t working right now but we’re working on it. Also, you can send a check to:

Together We Heal, Inc.
2336 NE Rustic Place
Jensen Beach, FL 34957

Just make the checks to “Together We Heal, Inc.” We are an official 501(c)(3) so your donations ARE tax deductible!

David

http://together-we-heal.org

***This was the original post***

Well everyone, we’re coming upon the time of year when all of Together We Heal’s annual “bills” are due. It’s also the time of year I dread the most. Not because of the bills necessarily, but because I’m forced into a position to do something a hate doing…asking for donations.

Unfortunately the work we do doesn’t take place free of charge. I could go into the list, and will do so if anyone wants an itemized list, but rather than bore you with the details, please know the need never ends.

We have survivors of childhood sexual abuse who need counseling, a website that requires money to operate and travel expenses to give presentations and workshops. These workshops help to educate the public on all matters of CSA, the grooming techniques of sexual predators and how to keep our children safer from them.

We are not setting a “goal” we are going to trust that the amount needed for the upcoming year will be met by what your heart says to give. I can tell you that lives have been are continuing to be changed because of what you’ve given in the past. And with the holidays just around the corner and many events planned for 2015, the need will only grow.

If you will, please go to our website and find the SMALL “donate” button at the bottom. The BIG donate button isn’t working right now but we’re working on it. Also, you can send a check to:

Together We Heal, Inc.
2336 NE Rustic Place
Jensen Beach, FL 34957

Just make the checks to Together We Heal, Inc. We are an official 501(c)(3) so your donations ARE tax deductible!

I would not ask if we didn’t truly need. And as I said, I hate doing this but it’s necessary for us to continue the work we do to help survivors, change the laws protecting predators and prevent childhood sexual abuse. Thank you in advance for any amount you can give!

David

http://together-we-heal.org


23 Comments

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


26 Comments

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


26 Comments

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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Do You Want A Future?

Truth is truth, right? And if it is so, then whether we agree with it or not, it’s still the truth. You may not agree with the concept of gravity, especially if you’re like me when you step on a scale. But if you step off a second floor balcony with no net to catch your fall, you will discover a hard, cement-tasting truth.

Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno and multiple other thinkers were at one time called heretics. In the end, what they found to be the truth went against ALL popular “scientific” notions of the day, religious beliefs or merely values held at the time.

I say this to bring to light the following truth I’ve discovered in my own life –

“You must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”

I know, I know, sounds like a psychobabble cliche, but just as we call something a “generalization”, there’s a reason, that’s because they are “generally” true. So this time, with a non-judgmental or preconceived notion, let me repeat and have you read it once more…

…”you must enter your past to fix your present. If you don’t, you will have no future.”

I admit it sounds a bit ominous. And while it may be hard to hear, I’m merely trying to make a point, emphasizing the truth I discovered in my own life. It wasn’t until I went back to my past; the acknowledgment of the childhood sexual abuse that I endured from ages 12-15, that enabled me to begin to work through the issues of the present of that time. Once acknowledged and beginning to heal, I finally, for the first time in almost 10 years, began to see the potential of a future that lay ahead.

Once upon a time, I was heavily addicted to multiple narcotics to numb myself from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. This led to three arrests, jail time, fines, no drivers license for a year, loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages from a career I was genuinely passionate about. And in varying degrees, it cost me a relationship of five years, another of four and even an earlier one of six years. This “past” was destroying my “present” and if something didn’t give, my “future” was going to be even more limited than it already was!

But my story is not an isolated one. It’s not even unique and definitely not as harsh, from my perspective, as some others have been through. But that’s just from my life view. We all have a different one.

So how do we do accomplish this task? How do we get from point A to point B? That is to say, how do we look into our past, into that abyss, without falling back in? Then how do we take that information, apply it to our present so that we have the opportunity to move on into a more positive future? A lot of questions with multiple choice answers, I know.

Even if you’re not an addict or alcoholic, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “admitting you have a problem is the first step.” And with survivors of CSA, this saying has some weight as well, just with a different angle. It’s not that we have to admit we have a problem, we have to admit that a horrible event and crime was perpetrated against us. And this is not an easy or small task. In fact, in my case, I made numerous trips to the place where I knew I had to address my abuser. I drove past it, I stopped at the driveway, heck one time I even got out of the car, was walking up the door of the church, when I turned around and drove back home. In total, it took me 6 trips to finally be able to speak out against my abuser. To tell the people in authority above him exactly what he was, what he was capable of, and the danger he posed to the very children he was charged with protecting.

And that last thing i just mentioned was the real motivation behind what i had to do. More than just my own self-serving, self-healing desires behind the action I knew I had to take, more important than shedding the light on the past…even more at stake was the future of the lives of his potential victims.

I know now I wasn’t his first victim, nor was I his last. And how I wished, prayed and pleaded that someone had come forward before he got to me. So now it was up to me. Now I had the strength to face the cold, hard truth. I knew if the young boys he had access to were to have any chance of a future free from the emotional, physical and spiritual torture I experienced, I was going to have to step up and tell the truth of what this monster is.

If I was to have any potential peace with my own future I had to make sure, to the best of my ability, that no other little boy in his life would be molested, abused or raped. And so I did just that. I acknowledged my past, I took action in the present, and I know now I have done all I could within my power to help those boys have a decent future. And in doing so, my future too is one of peace and healing.

So do whatever you need to enter your past in a healthy way. Whether through one-on-one counseling, group therapy or any other professional help you require. Seek it out so you can begin to “fix” your present. And by that I simply mean whatever will help you begin to heal, I know from personal experience nothing gets “fixed” to what it was before. But in doing this, by beginning to heal, you will have a chance to take back what was stolen from you and to have a future and peace you deserve.


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Why Do We Give Interviews and Who Cares?

As a public advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I’m often asked to give interviews. I’ve done local and regional newspapers, local and online radio shows, heck I’ve even been on national T.V.! Whoop dee do, right?! My feelings exactly. So have mass murderers and folks with no teeth and no shirt explaining how tornados sound. (some of which were my relatives by the way!)

Even less talented folks get syndicated T.V. shows making hundreds of thousands of dollars an episode. So you ask, why do I tell you about giving an interview? Because every once in a while, when the planets are aligned and you tilt your head the right way. It all comes together and something good comes from it!

Such was the case this Monday, April 29th, 2013. I was asked by another advocate for survivors of CSA to appear on her radio show to do an interview. She wanted me to tell my story of abuse, teach parents how to better protect their children from sexual predators…the usual path for my regular interview. But this one turned out to be anything but ordinary.

I have grown to know and respect Trish McKnight over the last couple of years as we crossed paths several times doing similar endeavors to raise awareness for our mutual cause. But with April being Child Abuse Awareness month, she wanted to make sure her slate was full of folks that were either experts in the field, had been running organizations to benefit survivors, were survivors of CSA themselves or some combination of all the above. It’s been a pretty steady cast of folks I respect and admire, so when she asked me to be a part, I was humbled. As any survivor can tell you, we have a hard time accepting our own self-worth. And this for me was no exception.

But I deferred to her wisdom, and to benefit those who receive help from the efforts of “Together We Heal”, and said, “sure! I’d be happy to do the interview with you!”

It began as most do, she had an overview of what TWH does, who it benefits, how we help survivors, etc. And throughout, everything ran perfectly. We had callers, we had those with input from online. Trish and I had good chemistry on-air. And I genuinely enjoyed the entire hour and a half we talked. And we TALKED! Non-stop the whole time! It was great! We gave a lot of important information to help parents, we talked with a caller on how we could help their child. I’m telling you, it was perfect. Or so I thought.

After we went off the air. The emails, calls, tweets came pouring in! Folks were reaching out locally and from one end of an ocean to another. The U.K., New Zealand, Venezuela, you name it, we were being inundated with comments about the show, and ALL of them were positive. Which is exactly what you want. To reach as many folks as you can in an effort to help as many as possible. But not EXACTLY what you want when you are in the business to help people. Don’t get me wrong, those encouragements mean the world to me. They are a part of what keeps us going. But there was something missing, something major.

But then, as the calls, emails and tweets started to decline, there in the midst of them was IT. THE reason why myself, Trish, Rachel, Bill, Marci, Andrew, Margie, Blair, Patricia, and so many to name here its impossible to list them all, get up each morning and do what it is we do. A simple, short email stating…

…I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I need help. Can you help me?

Then shortly after that, a second email and a third, all asking the same thing. All with their own unique, yet similar stories. We have been sexually abused and we need your help.

I immediately responded and will be arranging for their individual needs over the next week. But that’s not the point. The point is that either they were listening to the show, or someone who cares about them was, made a point to get our contact info and then followed up, making sure they had the ability to reach out to us. That’s love folks. That’s people who care about their family and/or friends.

And that’s why we do interviews.

Because we never know when someone who desperately needs our help will be listening. The point – don’t EVER pass on an opportunity because you might not get a second chance. You’ve heard the phrase, either from the Robin Williams movie, “The Dead Poets Society”, or from Latin class if your old enough, Carpe Diem – Seize the Day. Make the most of every opportunity you have. It’s when you least expect it that you get that surprise. The opportunity to help your fellow man or woman. Don’t ever waste that moment.

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal