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.


4 Ways the Pain of Childhood Trauma Impacts Us as Adults

As a fellow survivor, one of the things I always try to pass along are insights I have learned that have helped me personally. I feel as though this is how we can best help one another. Fortunately, I have had the benefit of some amazing therapists, learned from others trained specifically in trauma, and made sure to pay attention to other survivors who really knew what I had been through. The following article is another one of these from Dr. Andrea Brandt. I hope her words help you or someone you love. Please read and share!



Whether you witnessed or experienced violence as a child or your caretakers emotionally or physically neglected you, when you grow up in a traumatizing environment you are likely to still show signs of that trauma as an adult.

Children make meaning out of the events they witness and the things that happen to them, and they create an internal map of how the world is. This meaning-making helps them cope. But if children don’t create a new internal map as they grow up, their old way of interpreting the world can damage their ability to function as adults.

While there are many aftereffects of childhood emotional trauma, here we’ll look specifically at four ways childhood emotional trauma impacts us as adults.

  1. The False Self

As a childhood emotional trauma therapist, I see many patients who carry childhood emotional wounds with them into adulthood. One way these wounds reveal themselves is through the creation of a false self.

As children, we want our parents to love us and take care of us. When our parents don’t do this, we try to become the kind of child we think they’ll love. Burying feelings that might get in the way of us getting our needs met, we create a false self—the person we present to the world.

When we bury our emotions, we lose touch with who we really are, because our feelings are an integral part of us. We live our lives terrified that if we let the mask drop, we’ll no longer be cared for, loved, or accepted.

The best way to uncover the authentic you underneath the false self is by talking to a therapist who specializes in childhood emotional trauma and can help you reconnect with your feelings and express your emotions in a way that makes you feel both safe and whole.

  1. Victimhood Thinking

What we think and believe about ourselves drives our self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves can empower or disempower us. Negative self-talk disempowers us and makes us feel like we have no control over our lives — like victims. We may have been victimized as children, but we don’t have to remain victims as adults.

Even in circumstances where we think we don’t have a choice, we always have a choice, even if it’s just the power to choose how we think about our life. We have little to no control over our environments and our lives when we’re children, but we’re not children anymore. It’s likely we are more capable of changing our situation than we believe.

Instead of thinking of ourselves as victims, we can think of ourselves as survivors. The next time you feel trapped and choice-less, remind yourself that you’re more capable and in control than you think.

  1. Passive-Aggressiveness

When children grow up in households where there are only unhealthy expressions of anger, they grow up believing that anger is unacceptable. If you witnessed anger expressed violently, then as an adult you might think that anger is a violent emotion and therefore must be suppressed. Or, if you grew up in a family that suppressed anger and your parents taught you that anger is on a list of emotions you aren’t supposed to feel, you suppress it, even as an adult who could benefit from anger.

What happens if you can’t express your anger? If you’re someone who suppresses your upset feelings, you likely already know the answer: Nothing. You still feel angry—after all, anger is a natural, healthy emotion we all experience—but instead of the resolution that comes with acknowledging your anger and resolving what triggered it, you just stay angry. You don’t express your feelings straightforwardly, but since you can’t truly suppress anger, you express your feelings through passive-aggressiveness.

  1. Passivity

If you were neglected as a child, or abandoned by your caretakers, you may have buried your anger and fear in the hope that it would mean no one will ever abandon or neglect you again. What happens when children do this, though, is that we end up abandoning ourselves. We hold ourselves back when we don’t feel our feelings. We end up passive, and we don’t live up to our potential. The passive person says to him or herself, “I know what I need to do but I don’t do it.”

When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves. At the time, that may have helped us. But as adults, we need our feelings to tell us who we are and what we want, and to guide us toward becoming the people we want to be.


Originally Posted on Psychology Today

Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., is a marriage and family therapist located in Santa Monica California. Andrea brings over 35 years of clinical experience to the role of individual family therapist, couples counseling, group therapy and anger management classes.  


What is Required to Have a Life of Hope and Healing?

Last week we talked about about something all survivors of abuse grapple with, feeling alone. So now what, how do we get beyond these helpless and hopeless feelings?

Part 2

What is Required to Have a Life of Hope and Healing?

The following article might seem a bit short, when considering what we are talking about. I just want to make it as straightforward as possible. Now within each of these three areas lies a multitude of layers and steps. But for our purposes, I just want it to be succinct.

I would be happy to delve into each one in more detail, and will do so in the near future. For now, I just want us all to grasp the basics for what is required.

Once you open your mind and heart to hope and healing you can begin to experience what myself and other survivors have. A life that is rewarding and fulfilling.

It requires three things; Work, Support and Belief.


Like anything in life, nothing worth having comes easy. And recovery and healing are no different. As I sat in a room with fellow survivors one evening, one asked, “when does this begin to get easier?” We all let out a nervous chuckle of sorts because we knew what they meant. We had either previously wondered this same question or were currently asking the same thing.

For those of us who were a little farther down the “recovery road”, we chimed in and said, “it’s a back and forth, up and down ride.” You’re going to have good days and bad. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve gotten things manageable and that’s when a trigger will occur and out of the blue something bites you in the tail. But no matter where you’re at; day 1 or year 20, it’s a process, and one that’s ongoing. What we all agreed upon is that the work was worth the effort. The alternatives; keeping it bottled up, ignoring it, disregarding the emotions – none of them worked long-term and would eventually lead to bad results.

So what kind of work you ask? Saying the following word is easy, following through is the work. Therapy, whether it’s one-on-one counseling, or in a group setting, it is essential. Recovery takes the help and guidance from others who are either trained and/or have been through what you have. Believe me when I say, I’ve tried doing this on my own, and I know many others who have as well, and none of us were able to make any progress until we enlisted the help of others. It’s doesn’t mean we are weak. To the contrary, admitting we needed help was both a strong and brave thing to do. It meant we cared enough about ourselves and those that love us to get that help, begin to heal and work toward becoming the person we were capable of being.


We all need it. When we first come forward about being sexually abused, how we are received can determine what happens next. So the person or people we reach out to can be key. I can’t stress this enough. Think carefully about to whom it is you first disclose. I have seen too many survivors hurt by the very ones they went to for help. That’s why we always say, please know we are here to help. And fortunately now, there are many other organizations out there who will offer this same type of real, positive and caring reception of what you’ve been through.

No matter whether it’s a friend, your family or an organization; take that step, reach out and receive the love and support they are willing to provide. And build upon it. Grow your support structure. Sometimes one person might not be available at that exact moment, so develop a group of people you can turn to during those tough times or when triggered.


I’m actually ending where I believe it begins, with belief. The first part is a belief in yourself. From there, it’s a belief that hope and healing ARE possible. And you CAN believe because there are so many who have gone before you and have constructed such a life. We aren’t different from you. We are just like you.

I’d like to say there’s something special about us, or that we have some secret recipe for recovery. But like most things in life, the simplicity is the “work”. So there’s no magic potion, no secret pill.

And that means the hope and healing we are now experiencing are within your grasp as well. As I’ve said, it just takes the work and support.

And I can promise you it’s worth it!

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.

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It’s That Time of Year


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!


***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!



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

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Learning to Heal from Abuse: One man’s mission to help

We are so honored by our friend, Boz Tchividjian, who has posted the interview he did with me about Together We Heal and what we’re doing to help our fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Please take a moment to read, not just our interview, but all of the inspiring articles Boz has on his site. I cannot thank him enough for the issues he’s confronting head-on within the church and it’s neglect of those abused. We look forward to working together with him and his organization, G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)


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.



Joelle Casteix


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.