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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A Woman of Conviction, Courage & Comfort – Barbara Blaine

 

As I once read somewhere,

A religious upbringing can bring comfort.
It can also turn a child’s life into a living hell.

Barbara Blaine understood this as much as any of us who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of the church while we were children.

I learned of the passing of Barbara Blaine, as I am sure many of you did, with the message from her family. But it has taken me a few days to be able to talk about her and the impact she had. I believe I can best express my gratitude for Barbara by using an example of one of our normal interactions.

A typical phone call from Barbara would go something like this, “Dave, can you meet me in Tampa Saturday for a press conference in front of the Diocese there? We just learned of a priest who had…”

This call would of course, come on Friday, the day before the request. And I could rarely say anything other than, “what time do you need me there?”

You see, Barbara had a way of being persuasive that no one could deny! And that’s part of why we loved her!

One of the other reasons we loved her, and maybe the most important, is because she had not only lived our same pain, but was one of the first we could tell. Before I could tell my family, what had happened to me, there was only one group of people I trusted with that information. Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy and Barb Dorris with SNAP.

You see, SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) was founded by Barbara Blaine. And when you’ve been betrayed by the church, any church, and your faith has been shaken or even lost, you find it difficult to trust people. Barbara was one of the very first people I felt like I could trust again, and I wasn’t the only one.

Thankfully, Barbara helped quite literally, MILLIONS of survivors of sexual abuse understand that they weren’t alone. I can remember the day I first called SNAP, and it was the first time I heard someone tell me these words…“you’re not alone David, we are here for you and with you.”

Thank you, Barbara, for being there for me. Thank you for allowing me that first opportunity to help fellow survivors through and with SNAP.

Thank you for being the original “voice for the voiceless” when it comes to clergy who have stolen the innocence of childhood. Thank you for never wavering when it came to exposing the cover-up of this abuse within the church. And thank you for showing us all how to tenaciously demand their accountability, while at the same time, providing comfort for those they harmed.

Decades before Together We Heal, or GRACE or any of the other organizations who do so much to help now, there was Barbara and SNAP.

We are all now working on what you began Barbara…and I hope we will continue to make you proud.

 

Below is the letter from her family.

Family-Statement-About-Barbara-Blaine-9.25.17


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September 11, 2014 – Big Changes on a Big Day in Our Collective History

Once again, we were given the honor of speaking out on behalf of both drug addicts and survivors of childhood sexual abuse in recovery. We discuss the struggles of both, the ability to find a healing path and what to do in those moments of feeling “stuck“.

When you have a moment, please take some time to listen in on this invaluable information that I know can help begin a transformative time in your life if you have challenges with one or both.

The dialogue between myself and Misa Leonessa Garavaglia brought up some great points toward finding a healing path. Please do listen and let us know if we can help.

Healing Addiction, Part 1- Addiction and Child Sexual Abuse

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/beyondabuseradio/2014/09/12/healing-addiction-part-1-child-sexual-abuse-and-addiction


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He Would Tell Me

Recently I had the pleasure of having breakfast with my friend and colleague, Boz Tchividjian. I’m so thankful for the friendship he and I have developed and while talking he gave me one more reason to be thankful. He brought to my attention something I had not given enough consideration. It’s from his insight this article originated.

We were discussing the reasons behind why I didn’t say something about my abuse and why other survivors don’t tell or speak up while the abuse is occurring. During the conversation I told him something my mom had said to me. He stopped me and said it was important and to say it again.

He asked if there had been any indications to anyone that the abuse that was happening. I told him about one man in my life who had been a positive, male role-model for me. When I was about 13, he was talking with my mom about my abuser (but at this time no one knew) and said, “there’s something that’s not quite right about that guy spending all this time with those boys. I can’t put my finger on it but I know there’s something that’s just not right.” To which my mom said, “If something were going on with David, he would tell me.”

It’s those last four words that bears repeating…“he would tell me”.

My mom and I have a strong and healthy bond. Because my dad was not in the picture for the first 23 years of my life, it resulted in mom and I having lots of time together and the opportunity to forge an incredible relationship that we still have to this day. I would go so far as to say it’s an uncommonly good relationship as parent/child relationships go. I remember while growing up, most of my friends saying at some point, “I just can’t talk to my mom or dad about…”. I never had that issue with my mom. We were always close and always talked about everything. I remember telling her when I had sex for the first time. I told her about the first time I used drugs. When I got arrested for said drugs, it was my mom I called to bail me out. So it’s clear you can see I’ve felt comfortable enough in telling her about the good, the bad and the ugly.

All except for one thing.

And sadly it’s that “one thing” that has resulted in the majority of the misery, struggles and pitfalls of my life.

The point I’m trying to make, is that if I had such a difficult time telling my mom about the abuse, when we were so close, how much more difficult is it for children who don’t feel as close to their parents or feel the freedom to talk with them about anything and everything? Neither my mom, nor anyone else knew about my abuse until 2006.

It’s a mistaken belief that I think most parents have. They believe, as my mom did, that if there were something wrong, their children would let them know about it. Or as I said earlier, “he would tell me”.

It’s a tragic error of belief and one that I hope to reeducate all parents. No matter how close you are, or how strong your relationship, if your child is being sexually abused, it’s almost impossible for them to tell you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you love them any less than other parents. It’s just beyond description how hard it is for those of us who were abused to tell anyone.

The reasons behind the “why” are as many and varied as there are individuals. We’ve discussed them previously here on the TWH blog and will do so more in the future. But for the discussion today, it’s not about the “why”, it’s about acknowledging a false assumption and correcting it.

As I said, my mom genuinely believed if someone were hurting me, I’d tell her. After all, when a student picked on me, or in one case, when a teacher was being hateful to a friend of mine with a speech impediment, I told her about that. So she had no reason to believe otherwise. Except for one important thing, back in the 70’s and 80’s, nobody talked about Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Back then, all we were told was, beware of strangers and “stranger danger”. It turns out, “stranger danger” is almost a myth. 90-95% of CSA happens at the hands of someone who is known, trusted and/or loved by the child. And because no one was taking about it, there was no “Oprah’s 200” , or organizations like SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, G.R.A.C.E. – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Together We Heal.

Due to this lack of information and groups whose entire existence is to help survivors of CSA, parents didn’t know what signs to be looking for or signals that their children might be sexually abused. “Grooming” was a term reserved for haircuts and keeping your appearance neat. Now we know better. But sadly, parents are still waiting until it’s too late to discuss CSA with their kids. This is not a one-time conversation to have when they’re 15 or 16. By that time, it’s more likely any abuse has already occurred or is still ongoing.

In order to give your child the best chance to remain safer from sexual predators/pedophiles, parents MUST start young. They must start young and have it become a “normal” part of the routine questions asked of the child’s day. How was your day? How was school? Do you like your teachers? Has anyone made you feel uncomfortable? Has anyone touched you in a place they shouldn’t? And educating your child on what is appropriate touching is essential to the conversation.

Obviously, depending on the age of the child, there are age-appropriate terms and verbiage. But the questions need to be asked, the conversations need to take place, and all of this needs to be done EARLY and OFTEN. If not, we leave our children susceptible to the ploys of predators. We now have plenty of books, pamphlets and resources on how to have these talks with children of all ages. So please take advantage of the information my mom didn’t have, of the resources I didn’t have available. Do this so you lessen the chances of your children enduring the torture, abuse, rape, and resulting decades of emotional, mental and physical struggles. Do this so your children don’t become another statistic like I did, another 1 in 6 boys or 1 in 3 girls.

We have the information now. And now children can trust they will be believed. It’s time to back up all this talk with action. It’s time to prevent childhood sexual abuse and catch these sexual predators/pedophiles before they do any more damage. But it begins at home, it must begin early, and don’t think for one second, “he would tell me”…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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One Thing Leads to Another

Today I was making my “rounds”. No I’m not a physician, I don’t even play one on T.V. But I was reading through the regular authors, bloggers, fellow survivors and colleagues with whom I follow their writings. As I was reading Joelle Casteix’s latest piece entitled, “It All Started with a Support Group”, her words made me realize something I’d not considered prior;

If it weren’t for SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), our organization, “Together We Heal”, would not exist.

I know the genesis of most non-profits comes from a place of loss, grief, illness, tragedy or any number of other reasons we choose to take up a cause. And they are almost always good and noble reasons that provide for a need or service that others desperately require but have no access.

That being said, Joelle made me realize the reason(s) behind the formation of organizations like SNAP, The Joyful Heart Foundation and Together We Heal, that often go unspoken or taken for granted.

So as I turned my thoughts inward and asked myself, “why did we start Together We Heal”? I realized it was for the same reason as she titled her article…

…it all started with a support group.

Flash back 3 years. I had come forward about the sexual abuse I had endured as a child, and after 3 years of counseling I was looking for a support group. As I scoured the internet and government agencies looking for something, anything to further assist me in my recovery, It seemed as though I wouldn’t find anyone who could help. It was truly like looking for a drop of water in a desert.

Then, as I was about to give up, I came across a post referencing a group called SNAP. At first I thought I was mistaken, because the only SNAP I had ever heard of had to do with food stamps, or something like that. But when I found their office number and contact email, I got through, spoke to a volunteer and realized, they were exactly what I was looking for and needed.

At first I didn’t think I would be accepted because they specified “priest” in their organization’s name. And since my abuser was a Protestant, I thought here we go again, another false alarm. Boy was I wrong. Not only were they accepting of me, and all other victims of CSA, no matter the circumstance or religion, they eventually showed me I could both receive help from and become a help for my fellow survivors.

All of this was great for my own personal recovery. I was getting the help I needed from fellow survivors who understood what I’d been though. And my one-on-one counseling was still a tremendous help. But during several of our group sessions at our local SNAP meeting, I kept hearing others say, “boy I wish I had a therapist like yours Dave”, or, “if only I had insurance I could get some counseling too.” This was painful to hear. I almost felt guilty for having the privilege of personalized counseling. You see, what the others didn’t know, was that my therapy had been donated by an amazingly generous person. Someone who knew I had a need and they were willing to give of their time to help me since I didn’t have the funds or insurance to cover their standard $100/hour rate.

This got me to thinking, why can’t I recruit some therapists to do what mine is doing, donate their time to survivors in need? And the answer was simple, I CAN. And I did, and we still do! We currently have about 30 counselors/therapists who work directly with TWH, another 30-40 who work for government agencies we’ve partnered with and they too give of their time.

So why have I given you a history lesson about Together We Heal? It’s quite simple, and also profound. You just never know when one thing will lead to another. If you’re finding it difficult to get the help you need, don’t give up. I promise help is just around the corner. If you feel like you’re all alone, keep searching. I guarantee there are many out there just like you and will stand with you. And if it appears to you that there’s no purpose to your life, take another look. I too, once thought all of those things and had all of those feelings but because I refused to give up, I not only found the help needed, but now I’m able to help others who’ve been through what I went through and my life has a purpose I never knew possible.

Something Joelle mentioned in her article that I want to bring to your attention. She said, “People are talking and walking into our cycle of healing whether that be in our meetings or the meetings of other wonderful organizations. The Catholic Church and other institutions did not start or continue the cycle of healing. Victims did. Without support groups, none of this would have been possible.”

And just like it happened for her, it happened for me, and guess what?

This can happen for you too.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.

———

References:

Joelle Casteix

theworthyadversary.com


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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.

20140420-042108.jpg

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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Cooperation Or Competition – What Will Our Legacy Be?

“Its amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman

I have been working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse in a professional setting for a few years now and I’ve noticed something that worries me. There seems to be some sort of inability for all of us to work together as groups of survivors. It’s almost as if there is a competition, rather than working together in a spirt of cooperation.

I don’t have any explanation or understanding of it, but there’s one thing I do know – we need to be working together any way we can, to pool our resources for the benefit of all survivors of CSA everywhere and for the benefit of protecting children all over the world. This is much too important, our children are in too much danger and survivors need our cooperation.

I understand these are tough economic times. And I also understand the challenges each and every 501(c)(3) non-profit, public charity, and private foundation faces in times like these. I lead one, so I know it first hand. But what I also know is the very reason we formed Together We Heal was to help our fellow survivors. That’s why I am honored to work with people and organizations like SNAP, Ark of Hope for Children, The Lamplighters, Voice Found, Survivors Chat, Maryland Children’s Alliance, Victim Services Departments from Palm Beach County to Utah, Marci A. Hamilton of SOL-Reform, Rachel Grant, Jim McKenzie, Svava Brooks and soon to be working with GRACE, just to name a few. (Please forgive me for those I’ve not listed as it would take up the entire article.)

I believe with all my heart, if we join forces, we can and will see real, long-term and measurable change in the protection of children and prosecution of sexual predators.

There’s an old saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. And if we are to defeat the evils of childhood sexual abuse, we must work cooperatively.

The reason being: The forces that oppose us are larger, stronger and more well-funded than what we have in our smaller joint alliances. Even the largest of our groups receiving the most donations have bank accounts and organizational structures that pale in comparison to those we are fighting against. In order to take down these Goliath’s, we need the combined talents of all our efforts to be the “David” that slays this monster called Childhood Sexual Abuse.

The reason I’m reaching out and asking that we all work together is simple:

Our common foes – the sexual predators, pedophiles and those that protect them have most certainly “circled their wagons.” You can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV, radio or open a web browser and not see or hear of ANOTHER case of these monsters being moved, freed of prosecution, given promotions to move them away from the threat of prosecution, given reduced sentences or flat out being given immunity from all wrong doing. The only way we can ever hope to make real, substantial change is for us to become as one, united in our efforts, and not wavering one iota.

We must be as zealous in defense of those wronged and in the protection of all children from potential crime as the Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptists and Penn State, (just as examples) either were or currently still are in defending these monsters hiding within their walls as a haven for hunting.

And that’s the sad thing, they aren’t even hiding anymore. Once upon a time the powers that be would send them from one location to another. Long enough to destroy a number of lives before sending them onto the next location for more destruction. Now they just deny and/or defend. They are so well funded that they will sacrifice whomever it takes, pay whatever it costs, knowing they still have more in reserves and they don’t care how many children go down the tubes or how many lives are destroyed.

So I’m sending out an S.O.S. Please, let us all unite together. Put down the chains of competition and take on the yoke of cooperation. If we aren’t willing to take the steps necessary to be bound together, our children and the adult survivors of CSA don’t stand a chance. Together we have the talent, means and will to make our collective dream a reality, to make it so there would be no need for what we do.

How much greater a legacy would it be to say, we all had to find a new line of work because we had eradicated Childhood Sexual Abuse, just like we’ve eradicated other evils of society. But…

“Remember that, wherever there’s a will, there’s usually someone that’s in the way.”

Please don’t let that last quote be our legacy…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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SNAP News Conference in Fort Myers Florida

Barbara Blaine and I had a SNAP news conference this week helping to make the people in Fort Myers aware of a sexual predator priest. We requested that the local Bishop help prosecute this admitted child molester…as of yet no response worthy of justice for this victim. But as David Clohessy tells us, anytime we are able to get the message out, it’s a success. We will never waiver in our efforts to protect children from these sexual predators.

If you live in the Fort Myers area, please let the church officials at St. Francis Xavier know you are not satisfied with their inaction to prosecute and ineffective leadership. Together we can make a difference in the lives of children, and together we can help protect the children if this parish leadership fails to do so.

http://www.jrn.com/fox4now/news/Abuse-survivors-group-demonstrates-outside-St-Francis-Xavier-Chruch-247343791.html?lc=Tablet