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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The Bristlecone Project

About a year and half ago I began talking with Dr. David Lisak, founding Board member of the The Bristlecone Project, President and a founding member of the 1in6 Board of Directors and a retired Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts.

As Together We Heal began establishing contacts and building a network of partners within the community of childhood sexual abuse survivors, David Lisak’s name kept coming up. In the course of my conversations with advocates from all over the USA, nothing but great things were said about him and the “project” he was working on.

Shortly before Christmas of 2013, David and I were discussing the potential of TWH, 1in6 and The Bristlecone Project working together. David mentioned he would be in Florida the following year and asked if I would be interested in participating. Not only did I say yes, I was honored and humbled to be given the opportunity. I had read the other men’s stories on the website, and in them I heard my own, and that of so many of our fellow brother survivors.

Rather than attempting to describe this amazing project, I prefer to let David Lisak’s words speak for themselves.

1in6’s latest awareness initiative – “Bristlecone: Portraits of Male Survivors

The Vision: A mosaic of photographs and words that portray the reality and hope of men who were sexually abused as children.

The Focus: The present, not the past. Who each man is. What defines him. What is the focus of his life. Each man will be portrayed through a series of photographs, a brief written portrait, and his own voice.

The Purpose: To portray this reality — who we are now, living meaningful and dignified lives — to the many men who may feel isolated and stigmatized by what happened to them. And to portray this reality to whole communities through the Bristlecone web site and public exhibitions, providing positive, hopeful role models of men who have faced their childhood experiences and who learned to live healthier, happier lives.

Unwanted and abusive sexual experiences in childhood affect men across categories defined by race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, religion and other characteristics and traits. We are committed to making the Bristlecone Project inclusive of men from a broad range of identities. For more information about participating in the Bristlecone project, please click here.

As the numbers of participants increase, the web-based Bristlecone exhibition will be tied in with local exhibitions in public venues featuring men from those communities — “Bristlecone Los Angeles,” “Bristlecone Boston,” “Bristlecone New Mexico,” etc
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People often ask, “Why Bristlecone?” So on the site, David explains and shares a poem about the tree…

Bristlecone Pine trees survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the western Rocky Mountains. Despite thin soils, strong winds, freezing temperatures, and limited water, Bristlecones can live for thousands of years, and are among the oldest living organisms on earth.

BRISTLECONE PINE
If wind were wood it might resemble this
fragility and strength, old bark bleeding amber.
Its living parts grow on away from the dead
as we do in our lesser lives. Endurance,
yes, but also a scarred and twisted beauty
we know the way we know our own carved hearts. ©2013 by David Mason

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel so honored and humbled having been asked to be a part of this inspiring project. A project I know will continue letting other men out there see, it’s ok to come forward. It’s ok to share the pain you’ve endured. It’s ok, because now you can know you are NOT alone. You have a brotherhood of men who will be there for you, stand beside you in times of need. We truly know how you feel, what you were forced to endure, but now you have all of us to lean on. And as we often say, Together we can heal.

Please take some time to read not just mine, but all of the other men’s stories. They’ve opened up their hearts and in many cases, their wounds, with the desire of helping others. May 2015 be a year where even more men find hope and healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.

http://bristleconeproject.org/men/david-pittman/

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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Healing & Recovery – Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Survivor’s Story

Radio Show with David Pittman & Michele Rosenthal – Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Healing and recovery with regard to childhood sexual abuse (CSA), says David Pittman, Executive Director of Together We Heal (TWH), happens because “Ultimately, you have to make a choice.” For Pittman that choice happened when he was incarcerated for drug possession. Getting clean, facing the truth, healing and founding an organization that provides free counseling is the amazing transformation that David has brought to his life. In this interview we discussed:

David’s incredible story of trauma to triumph

How he cleaned up his act and turned his life around

2 things that help any CSA recovery

3 steps that can help you achieve success

The TWH mission and their “turn no one away” counseling policy

http://www.changeyouchoose.com/healing-childhood-sexual-abuse-a-survivors-story/

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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The Abused Addict: CSA info too important to miss!

Radio Show Recording with David Pittman and Rachel Grant – January 29th, 2014

The Abused Addict: One Man’s Journey of Recovery from Sexual Abuse

Discovering the Correlation Between Childhood Sexual Abuse and Substance Abuse/Addiction

We cover not only abuse and addiction, but also issues with sexuality, access to counseling, sexual predators grooming kids for abuse, churches that protect sexual predators, creating support groups in your local areas and so much more! Please set aside some time to listen to what I genuinely believe is valuable information for both survivors of childhood sexual abuse and those that love them.

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.


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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


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The Abused Addict – Dulling The Pain

Why me? Why did this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? I am just a kid, why did you do this to me? These are just the start of questions that children begin to ask themselves when they fall prey to a sexual predator.

When dealing with issues of pain from childhood sexual abuse, people handle it in different ways; being a man, I can only tell you the struggles a boy and man goes though. Initially the greatest struggle was just in finding a resource for help to work through the psychological and emotional trauma. With so much abuse happening to women, it only goes to reason that the majority of available support is directed toward them. But support for men is out there, you might have to look a little harder for it but it’s there. Thus the increase in groups like “Together We Heal”, “SNAP”, “1in6.org”, “MaleSurvivor.org” and many others. But once found, the next steps can be even more challenging.

If the abuse occurs as a young boy and at the hands of a man, you struggle with the confusion of being aroused. While we may learn that physiologically there is virtually no way to stop an erection or even ejaculation, it does not diminish the damage done. As a boy or man you begin to question your sexuality. How could I have been aroused by this disgusting act? When you combine this with the still long-held homophobic rhetoric voiced by so many, the confusion gets compounded and magnified.

For myself, I “proved” my sexuality throughout college by having sex with as many women as I could. While this temporarily bolstered my ego, and reputation with the guys, all it really did was hurt many of the girls’ feelings and further hinder my ability to get at the root of my own pain.

When having promiscuous sex was not enough to keep my hurt and pain deep down enough in my psyche, I turned to alcohol and drugs. As I mentioned in the previous article, with drugs I could numb myself to the point where I not only didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t feel anything, except the high of the particular narcotic of the day.

I started off like most, waiting till I got off work and drank until I got that “buzzed” feeling. Over the next few years I would drink more and more until I would pass out each night. By drinking to that point, I made sure that while awake I was either too busy with work to think about the pain or too drunk to understand why I was drinking so much.

When alcohol was no longer strong enough I turned to drugs. I started with a club drug called ecstasy, once used by therapists for couples struggling to open up and communicate. It has become an abused “party” drug sometimes referred to as the “hug drug” for the utopia-like effect it gives you. Not only did I no longer feel emotional pain, but possibly of greater import, the “feeling”, however false it may have been, was as if everyone loved me, and this was something I craved above all else…the feeling of love and acceptance. But as any addict will tell you, the more drugs you do, the more you have to do to get the same level of high. The problem is you never do get that again.

So at this point I amplified the drug with another to try to extend its feeling with methamphetamine, commonly known as speed or crank. When this no longer did the trick I moved up to GHB. GHB is like ecstasy times ten. The extreme danger of this drug is that it slows your respiration and can do so to the point where you stop breathing altogether. What is so deadly about it, is once you reach a certain point, there is no way of reviving you. And I was doing as much as I could until I would pass out, coming close to overdosing on three occasions, that I can validate from others telling me…only God knows how many times I actually came close to death.

Eventually what occurred to me was what happens to almost all drug users and abusers. I got locked up and spent a month in jail for two convictions of drug possession. It was simultaneously the best thing that could have happened, the worst experience of my life, and probably saved me from ending up in a morgue. Having my freedom taken away, being totally humiliated, and my life threatened on two occasions while incarcerated, I realized finally where my life was headed if I didn’t stop taking drugs, so I went to NA and got the help I needed to get clean. I have remained sober for eight plus years now.

Once I got clean I had a whole new problem; I had to finally face all of this traumatic emotional pain without any filters, without any buffers. I had to face life on life’s terms; and life, for most of us, isn’t always kind and nice. It’s hard, and when you aren’t strong emotionally or mentally and don’t have the necessary tools to confront this issue, you don’t handle this easily. It was only with the support of an amazing family and equally incredible friends that I have been able to process this pain and conflict and be able to finally stand on my own two feet again, now with a clean mind and body.

This doesn’t mean that I am not still haunted daily by the memories of molestation and sexual assault, it just means that now I have the tools to handle this battle. Frederick Douglass was quoted as saying, “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This has been true in my life. The damage done by my abuser, Frankie Wiley, was so terrible that the positive done to build me up the first twelve years of my life, he destroyed in just 2 1/2, and it’s taken thirty to just BEGIN to get my life back on the right track.

I have since learned that the damage done was much farther reaching than I could have ever imagined. I wondered why it felt like it was taking me longer to work through my struggles than others who had “been just abused or were just addicted to drugs.” I recently found a potential reason behind this.

A German medical research center has now documented that childhood trauma leaves a mark on the DNA of some victims. What they have determined is abused children are at a higher risk of anxiety, mood disorders, and PTSD as traumatic experience induces lasting changes to their gene regulation. This topic is too important not to give its own deserved article, so we will save it for next week. I just wanted to bring it to your attention as a survivor or supporter so you, as did I, might begin to grasp some of your “unexplained” struggles.

Due to the derailing of my youth, I now have fewer years left on this earth to do what I believe I was always meant to do…help others in some way. So I am going to spend what time I have left to do my best to 1) prevent what happened to me from happening to other children and 2) help other survivors begin the process of healing. I am one of the “lucky ones”, or at least so say the statistics–I should already be re-incarcerated, back on the streets looking for my latest high, or dead.

As I mentioned, I was arrested and spent a month in jail. But my experience with the justice system was the exception, not the rule. While I “did my time, learned my lesson and moved on,” within three years of being released, 67% of ex-prisoners re-offend and 52% are re-incarcerated, according to a study published in 2004. The rate of recidivism is so high in the United States that most inmates who enter the system are likely to reenter within a year of their release.

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world and of the roughly two million people occupying a cell, approximately 500,000 of them have been convicted of a drug offense. With an estimated 6.8 million Americans struggling with drug abuse or dependence, the growth of the prison population continues to be driven largely by incarceration for drug offenses.

If you are shocked by those numbers, wait until you hear how many addicts “fall off the wagon.” Relapse rates for addiction range from 40% to 60%, or 50% to 90% depending on which studies you read. These rates vary by definition of relapse, severity of addiction, which drug of addiction, length of treatment, and elapsed time from treatment discharge to assessment, as well as other factors. The point is clear, relapse happens more often than not.

But of all the statistics I am “fortunate” not to be a part of, the last is most important. For the year 2011, there were 40,239 drug induced deaths and 26,256 alcohol induced deaths. Again, I told you on three different occasions, I came close…but thankfully I am still here today to be a cautionary tale of how NOT to cope with your abuse.

So this is my hope. And by that word I don’t mean what I wish for to happen, I mean it’s what I know, count on and expect to happen…the original definition of the word hope. Look it up. I have hope to help others, I have hope that they will heal, I have hope to protect children. I now have a future that was once denied me due to a sexual predator. And you too can have this hope, this expectation, this new future … just reach out and you will find us here for you.

As I learned in NA, there is no greater advocate and no better person to help an addict than another addict. The reason is simple: they know what the other has been through. For this reason I look to other survivors of childhood sexual abuse to help me as I continue to heal. For this reason I look to other survivors to extend themselves to those fellow survivors not as far along in their healing process. For this reason I ask you now, if you are in a position to help someone who has been through what you have, think back to who it was that helped you and remember how crucial it was for you to get that help, to have that shoulder to lean on, to have an understanding ear that would listen and consider this simple statement:

To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

References:
– MPI of Psychiatry, Munich Germany, 2003-2012
– Nature Neuroscience 2012
– Narcotics Anonymous, Blue Book
– Narcotics Anonymous, White Pamphlet
– National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
– Stocker, S.
– National Institute on Drug Abuse
– National Institute of Health
– U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
– International Centre for Prison Studies (18 Mar 2010). “Prison Brief – Highest to Lowest Rates”. World Prison Brief. London: King’s College London School of Law.
– John J. Gibbons and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach (June 2006). “Confronting Confinement”. Vera Institute of Justice
– Bureau of Justice Statistics US Department of Justice

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal


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Healing Does Occur – Cale Harbour’s Story

From the FB page of Cale Harbour – He has asked that I post his story and to help “Together We Heal” as it helps others. Please take time to read his story of hope and healing.

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I keep wondering how to start this story. Earlier this year, my good friend David Pittman posted the remarkable story of his struggle being a victim of child sexual abuse. David and I have been good friends for many years and I want to show my support for the work he is doing. This strikes close to me because I too am a victim of this crime and by the same person that abused David. In actuality I was victimized two different times. The first occurrence was an instructor at a summer reading program. The other was a youth minister who started out counseling me to get over the first trauma. The specific details are no longer important. Fortunately, I was not left with severe trauma from these events. However, dealing with the emotions and putting everything into perspective took some time.

David summed up the practices of child predators quite well. They start with small remarks, gestures, comments, or questions. Then some touching and assurances that everything is fine. The interaction slowly progresses and becomes more intimate. This doesn’t happen all at once. It is a detailed, thought out strategy in order to slowly break down the defenses until they can manipulate the child into satisfying their desires.

I never thought about sharing this publically until recently. I was fortunate enough to marry a wonderful woman who served as the support I needed to finish healing and move forward. For me, this part of my life has very little impact on me today. However, in reading not only David Pittman’s story but also all the other responses to his story, it is obvious that this type of personal violation can leave scars and wounds that never truly heal. It is for this reason that I felt like sharing my past as a sign that this can be overcome. There is healing and life can move forward. To anyone who has suffered from this I want to say “Healing does occur”. The Bible tells us in Joel 2:25 that He can make up for the time the ‘Locusts’ have eaten away.

For everyone who reads this, please take a look at David Pittman’s various sites for “Together We Heal”.

together-we-heal.org – Visit the website
@together_weheal – Follow on Twitter

http://www.causes.com/causes/640477-together-we-heal – Join the TWH Cause

http://www.facebook.com/Togetherwehealorg – “Like” on FB
http://www.facebook.com/groups/togetherweheal – Join the TWH FB group

This is a group David started to be able to provide counseling and support to survivors who are in need. He can use all the support we can give.