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 Easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”

One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Douglass who said,

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Please keep these two things in mind when you begin to think, “it’s just too hard to talk with my kids about sexual abuse”.

Here in the USA, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of childhood sexual abuse before they turn 18…don’t let your child be another statistic, don’t let them become another David, or Linda, or or or…

They need your strength and guidance…you CAN talk with them and they will be grateful you did!!

 

If you’re finding it challenging to talk with your kids, please read this post for some guidance:

How To Talk With Your Kids about Sexual Abuse

You are NOT your abuse.

You are NOT what they did to you.

You are NOT your trauma.

You ARE the cleverness that survived.

You ARE the courage that escaped.

You ARE the power that hid & protected a tiny spark of your light.

You will fan that spark into a bonfire of righteous rage and love,

and with it you will burn all their lies to ash!

Do you feel the heat yet Frankie Wiley???

Copyright © 2015 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Clergy Sex Abuse Study

We have received a request to participate in a research project. These studies can help with the understanding and treatment of those who have suffered abuse.

Please only participate if you feel strong enough emotionally, mentally, etc., to do so. We don’t want anyone to be triggered due to the level of questions asked.

Most research on clergy abuse has examined the perpetrating clergy rather than the survivors they have impacted. Because so little is known from the survivors’ perspective, a study is being conducted by researchers at Nova Southeastern University (IRB protocol # 04241319Exp) to examine the unique psychological and spiritual effects of clergy sex abuse on those survivors.

We are looking for adults (those over age 18) who survived childhood abuse (before the age of 18) by either a clergy member or a member of their family to participate in this study. Information from survivors of sexual abuse by a family member will allow us to examine how clergy abuse may impact survivors differently than familial abuse.

If you choose to participate in this study, you will be asked to complete an anonymous online survey with questions about your sexual abuse history and your current psychological and spiritual functioning. Because of the importance of having a comparison group, feel free to share this study link with others you know who may have been abused, even if the abuser was not clergy.

Please help extend our knowledge of the effects of clergy sexual abuse by following the link below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KFW9XCR

If asked for a password: clergy

David


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How Long Have I Felt Alone?

Feeling Alone, it’s a familiar feeling. It’s altogether too familiar. As a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA), I struggled for decades with it. I had it twisted around me like a straight-jacket of discomfort. The result was a never-ending quest for love and acceptance in all the wrong places with none of the right people.

This desperate pursuit eventually had me asking many questions about myself and my life.

Is that why I spent so many years seeking intimacy through empty sexual encounters?

Is that why I would take enough narcotics to drop a work mule and then get out on the road looking for party after party, person after person, hook-up after hook-up, connection after connection.

After I reread that last sentence it dawned on me. It’s that’s word, “connection”. I was looking for a true connection but in the most vile of environments, from the least genuine of people, and in the sketchiest of places with the most dangerous of drugs.

Sadly, when I’d meet a decent person, I’d find a way to sabotage whatever connection was made.

Over the last few years I’ve learned there are different types of “survivors” of CSA. First, there’s the type who grew up with abuse being so much a part of their lives, having no memory of life without it, that it was their “norm”. The second type consists of those who had, up until the abuse began, some sort of “regular” childhood. Once the abuse began, everything changed. Either they became withdrawn or they acted out, with combinations and variations of the two.

From listening to fellow survivors stories, It’s been my understanding that it depended on how old they were when the abuse began, how many years it lasted, who their abuser(s) were, plus a multitude of other factors. But please don’t misunderstand, whether the abuse occurred once or a thousand times, victims are left feeling alone.

To anyone looking at my life, I gave the appearance as if all was fantastic in my world! It would seem as if nothing so evil and certainly crimes so heinous could not be happening to me. After all, my abuser had total control over me. He was in the position of both male AND spiritual authority over me. In essence, he had possession of my mind, body and soul. He convinced me that no one would believe me anyway. And on top of that, the time and place where I grew up, we did not talk about anything negative and we certainly didn’t tell anyone else outside the family about such things. Who am I kidding, we didn’t even tell our family.

For the three years the sexual abuse occurred, no one knew what my youth minister, Frankie Wiley was doing to me, or to any of the boys he was molesting, abusing and raping at the same time. And since all of us felt we were the only ones to which it was happening, we felt completely alone. As I said, a feeling that would become more familiar than any other, and the driving force behind my desire to be loved, to be wanted, to feel “warm and fuzzy”, as the sex and narcotics both temporarily and falsely made me feel.

So as victims of these crimes, what do we do with this feeling of being “alone”? I have described how I dealt with it for the better part of 30 years. In doing so, I destroyed multiple careers, many relationships and almost lost my life.

Once I finally got clean and removed the fog of narcotics hanging over me, I was able to seek the help of one-on-one counseling and support groups that taught me proper coping skills. Now I know what to do when “triggered” or when I become overcome with the guilt, shame and self-blame associated with being sexually abused. I was also very fortunate to have a family willing to help me when I came forward about the abuse. Not everyone is so lucky. They assisted me in getting clean by keeping food in my belly and a roof over my head while I got my head clear.

I’m so thankful for all those who have helped me in the past and still help me to this day. And the reason I’m telling you all of this is to let my fellow survivors and their loved ones know what I’ve learned…help, healing and recovery are all possible.

As many of you know, I’m now married to the most amazing woman who loves me for who I am. Together, we work with victims and survivors. We see their healing begin and are witness to lives changing on a weekly basis.

I am now even able to be an active member of a church again. Having been abused by a minister, I had sworn at one time never to darken the doors of any religious institution. In my heart at that time, I believed God had allowed this and I hated Him for it. I eventually understood there was only one person to blame for the pain; my abuser, Frankie Wiley. And I see clearly now from his actions, he is not a Christian. A true Christian would not sexually abuse multiple boys at various churches over decades of time. Nor should I discount my belief because of what this sexual predator did to me and so many other little boys. I have decided not to allow his crimes to prevent me from receiving joy and peace from my belief.

My life now is one I had not dreamed possible. But when I opened my mind and heart to hope and healing, I began to finally experience what is possible for us all.

And that’s why I want all survivors to know THIS story, MY story, can be THEIR story. Turning your life into one that is both productive and fulfilling is within your reach, if only you’ll reach out to those willing to help you.

We are here to help. And together, we can truly heal.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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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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The Invisible Hand On Your Mouth

Trigger Warning due to description of childhood sexual abuse

It’s an indelible memory seared into our minds and branded onto our souls. At least for those of us who were sexually abused as children. It’s a memory we can’t shake. At some point, many of us experienced having our abuser(s) hand(s) over our mouths to keep us quiet during the acts of abuse. They didn’t want anyone to hear our cries of agony. The tragedy is that years, even decades later we feel like it’s still there, like there’s some invisible hand still covering our mouths and cries for help.

Ironically we are often asked, “why didn’t you say something then? Why didn’t you tell someone what was happening?” For anyone who has experienced true fear, and I’m not talking about horror movie scared, I’m talking about terror beyond description. Those who’ve experienced this level of intimidation and panic know exactly what I mean when I say we were going through fear that completely freezes you dead in your tracks. It prevents you from completing even the simplest of tasks. The ones that others take for granted.

Sure our friends could go to mom and dad about a bully down the street, or the weird guy at the end of the block, or the teacher who was mean to them in school. But those seem benign to us in comparison.

For us, we couldn’t do the most mundane of acts – Like driving down a road we grew up on. Or walking in the doors of a church/synagogue/mosque where our abuser held all the cards and wielded total autonomy.

Much has been written in other places, and here, about the plethora of reasons children don’t talk about sexual abuse, so I won’t beat that dead horse. What I will tell you is that it’s real, and all the reasons explained in the various media and online outlets are valid. And it’s the reason why, to us, we felt trapped and incapable of speaking out.

The reason I bring it up now is for my fellow survivors who might not have spoken yet. And to help their loved ones understand a little better.

It’s that damned “hand”. And it’s both literal and metaphorical.

We felt the actual hand covering our mouths, sometimes even our noses, to the point we couldn’t breathe. Grasping for air, grasping for help, wanting to cry out but knowing any such action would be met with harsher penalties by the abuser.

When you are a child, those in authority have all the power. We felt powerless to stop them, or so we thought. When we were children, there were no talk shows discussing childhood sexual abuse. There were no support groups to turn to for guidance or shelter. There was nothing.

We thought to ourselves, even if we speak up, who would believe us? A child making accusations about a so-called “pillar of the community”. Or worse yet, about our parents! No one in their right minds would believe us. Or so we we’re told, and possibly in many cases it might have even been true…no one would’ve believed us.

So we did the only thing we could, just hang on long enough to survive. And most of us did. Sadly a few didn’t. We witnessed some of our closest friends take their own lives, or tumble down the road of alcoholism and addiction to the point it cost them their lives. Everyone else said, “I just don’t understand why Jimmy or Susie did that. They had their whole lives in front of them.”

What they didn’t know, was their lives had been destroyed by the hand of sexual abuse. They had no coping mechanisms or tools to effectively cope with the abuse. And due to the lack of guidance, they self-medicated, and when the pain went beyond what they thought they could bare, they ended what they felt was a meaningless life.

I know these feelings of utter despair. I know them because I also, like a couple of people I lost, felt as though life was no longer worth living. And while my feeble attempts to “accidentally” overdose were unsuccessful, my life went spiraling out of control.

Oddly enough it was what most people would consider a horrible event, my arrests and time incarcerated, that most likely saved my life. Had it not been for being locked-up, I would probably have continued to abuse narcotics until I eventually overdosed with no return.

Thankfully I did get clean, I did learn through counseling how to utilize proper coping skills to work though the pain of the abuse. And now I have a life I never dreamed possible. I have the most amazing and loving wife. And together we work with survivors and their loved ones in ways that make me feel both honored to help and humbled with rewards beyond this life or words. And I’ve been able to actually enjoy my life free of narcotics and can finally “feel” the experiences of my life.

And I tell you all of this to let my fellow survivors and their loved ones know this is all possible for them too. If I can survive what I did, and now have a life not of just surviving, but thriving, they can too! All that is required is to reach out and receive the help that’s available.

As I so often say…together, we can truly heal…

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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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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Marginalizing the Abused: Six Ways Survivors are Treated as Insignificant

The following article was written by “Boz” Tchividjian. It is an extremely insightful article explaining how survivors of childhood sexual abuse are made to feel by those in power within religious organizations.

Boz is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
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“He has worked hard to convince everyone that I am crazy.” These were the words of a woman who was speaking about a relative who had sexually abused her as a child for years. This well-known and “respected” relative has been successful in keeping her abuse disclosures ignored for many years by convincing anyone that listens that she is an irrational and troubled individual.

After years of being labeled “crazy” and being ignored, this survivor became silent and even found herself struggling with whether or not the baseless label was legitimate. Do you see what happened? A person who is well liked and well-respected in the community is accused of horrific behavior that the community prefers not to believe.

The perpetrator provides the community with exactly what it wants in order for it to look the other way. Believing that the complainant is “crazy” gives the community the excuse to marginalize the victim and the disclosure, all the while showing support to the “unfairly” accused offender.

I recently watched the acclaimed Norwegian film, King of Devil’s Island. Based upon a true story, this movie was about the Bastoy Boy’s Home for delinquent boys located on an island off of Norway in the early 20th century. During the course of the film, a housefather named Bråthen sexually molests one of the resident boys who ends up committing suicide. Another resident eventually reports Bråthen’s abuse to the corrupt superintendent, Bestyreren, who confronts Bråthen. What follows are scenes that vividly illustrate some of the appalling ways sexual abuse survivors are marginalized by our communities:

Don’t Listen: When initially confronted about the reported abuse, Bråthen responds, “You can’t listen to them. They say whatever they want.” Survivors are marginalized when communities are all too willing to accept the claims made by perpetrators and their supporters that the individual disclosing the abuse is “crazy” and should be ignored. Disregarding the claims of a survivor communicates insignificance.

Helpless Souls: During the course of the confrontation with Bestyreren, Bråthen claims, “The only thing I have done is to try and help a boy who could not help himself.” Survivors are marginalized when perpetrators and their supporters paint them as helpless souls. Perpetrators are heralded as compassionate and the survivors are pitied as their disclosures are largely ignored.

Supporters Maligned: At one point, Bråthen identifies the boys who reported the abuse as “animals”, claiming that they were the real source of the victim’s harm. Survivors are marginalized when those who support them are maligned as being irrational and harmful. All too often this becomes the needed validation by some within the community to disregard allegations of abuse.

My Reputation: Just when we think that Bestyreren is going to report Bråthen to the authorities, Bråthen pulls out his trump card. He threatens to report that Bestyreren has been misappropriating funds for himself and his wife. In perhaps the most decisive scene of the film, Bestyreren makes the deliberate decision to protect his own reputation instead of reporting the abuse and protecting the lives of the other boys under the supervision of Bråthen. Survivors are marginalized when those within the community value their own reputation over the life of the abused. One way this happens is when an institution fails to report an offender out of fear that its own reputation may suffer. When speaking about the failure of boarding schools in the United Kingdom to properly respond to abuse disclosures, attorney Alan Collins recently told the New York Times, “…when teachers were discovered abusing pupils, they tended to be moved on quietly to avoid public embarrassment and damage to the school’s reputation.”

Disingenuous Response: The scene immediately following the confrontation between Bråthen and Bestyreren, shows Bråthen leaving the island with his suitcases as the boys look out their dorm window visibly rejoicing. At first it looks as if Bestyreren did the right thing. It is not until later in the film when Bråthen returns to the island that we learn the real reason for his initial departure. The Bastoy Boy’s Home board of directors had scheduled its annual inspection of the facility and Bestyreren did not want the boys reporting Bråthen’s abuse, fearing that it would get him fired. The best way to keep their silence was to make the boys think that he had terminated Bråthen. Tragically, the plan worked. The boys remained silent, Bestyreren kept his job, and Bråthen returned shortly after the inspection. Survivors are marginalized when a community is disingenuous about its responses to abuse disclosures. All too often such responses are not driven by the need to serve abuse survivors and pursue justice, but to create a positive public perception and to protect jobs.

Misplaced Focus: At the end of King of Devil’s Island, the boys begin a revolt when discovering that Bråthen has returned. Eventually, the armed forces are called in to put down the revolt by beating and capturing the boys. At no time do the authorities address the horrific abuses perpetrated by Bråthen and the fact that he was responsible for the death of a boy. Instead, the authorities focus on silencing those who were simply crying out for justice. Survivors are marginalized when the community misplaces its focus on behavior of the abused instead of the abuser. This belittles and re-traumatizes survivors, while conveniently keeping the spotlight off of the offender, where it needs to be.

The heartbreaking reality is that the marginalization of survivors is all too common in the Christian community. I have encountered many abuse survivors who want nothing to do with Jesus because of being marginalized by the very community they had hoped would care most, the Church. Just like the Priest and Levi in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are often so quick to embrace ‘rational excuses’ for why we walk away. When we do this, we marginalize the very lives that God sees as beautiful and infinitely valuable. When we do this, we marginalize Jesus.

You can read the article at it’s original post here:

http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/03/20/marginalization-sexual-abuse-survivors/

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You can learn more about Boz and the organization he founded at:

http://netgrace.org – GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

While Together We Heal, Inc., has no ties to any religious organizations, we gladly promote any group that works to protect children from sexual predators and it is clear this is the focus of GRACE.

Founded by Basyle ’Boz’ Tchividjian, J.D., a grandson of Billy Graham, he is leading by example on how churches should respond to childhood sexual abuse. We are honored to be partnered with them in efforts to help survivors of CSA, and educate any who seek to better protect all children.

The Mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize and respond to the sin of child abuse.

Obedience to Christ dictates that the Christian community must learn how to respond to those children and their families who cry out for help when they are victimized. This obedience begins with the education and training of those within the Church regarding the sin of child abuse and how to respond to such disclosures in a God honoring manner.

GRACE is an organization whose sole purpose is to equip and assist the Church and those within the Christian community to fulfill Mark 9:36-37.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.