August 30, 2015

If You Can't Remember, Does It Mean The Abuse Wasn't Real? - Part 1


ONE | is the grass always greener

Eleven years ago, at the age of 31, I encountered Childhood Sexual Abuse for the first time.

At a women’s conference near the Shenandoah Valley, I sat and listened. I don’t remember what the speaker’s presentation was about that evening, but I remember asking if I could speak with her. I remember telling her that I didn’t understand why I had become such an angry person, with yelling fits and difficulty controlling my emotions. She asked if she could ask me a few questions and her response changed my world… forever.

As I sat in a room full of chattering strangers, the only thing I seemed to hear were words of one sentence that I had never heard before. The retreat speaker told me, “You were abused as a child...” I think I was somewhat unemotional at the time, I can’t really remember. But since, I’ve wondered about her statement. Was it true? How did she know? Should she have told me even if it was true? …is this was why I was always called “special” growing up. Was this what was “special” about me?

I returned to my room at the conference center. I sat in the corner of the room and stared out of the over-sized windows into the distant mountains. A cool, spring breeze flowed through the windows bringing calm to such sterile news, yet covered me with muddled and perplexing astonishment at the same time. I wondered what just happened to my perfect childhood. I wondered what my husband going to say… he didn’t marry me broken, I thought! Yet, I’ve been broken all this time and didn’t know it!

Now I can see an astringed and lonely, school-aged girl on the playground seeking seclusion from classmates - yet hoping for her teacher’s approval and loyalty. A shy little girl with undetected learning disabilities that made reading and writing difficult, abstract and exhausting - yet allowed her imagination the ability to protect her spirit. A reserved little girl living in complete co-dependency on her “perfect” family – yet, not understanding that, sometimes, the most perfect families are often the families with the most to hide. A respectful little girl never bending the rules, never questioning the rules or rebelling against them – yet, always thankful for the protection they provided her to hide within.

In some ways, it feels like I am still in that room overlooking the mountains still today… left wondering if that little girl’s life was a lie.

I am a Mid-West girl turned Southern wife and a mother of four.  I currently work in marketing, web and social media content.  I have degrees, have taught and professionally performed as a professional musician, an artist and in stagecraft.  If I were to describe myself, I would say I am creative, impractical, organized, imaginative, honest, frugal, and like being in control.  I have always dreamed of being a published writer or professional speaker - then I realized, I really didn’t have a story to share... well, several years ago life presented me with journey!  My name is Rayne... I don’t yet have a story to tell, but I have a journey to share.




August 28, 2015

I’ve come to think of recovery as a three stage process—from victim, to survivor, and finally to Beyond Survivor™.

As a survivor, you will have gained a sense of empowerment by no longer see yourself as the victim. You will have done amazing work to reach a place where you are able to acknowledge the abuse and both accept and exist with the knowledge of the abuse.

However, there are three signs that this recognition, understanding, and sense of empowerment is not enough and instead you are ready to let go of the past and move on with your life!


You want to be able to live your life without the past constantly interfering or influencing your present.

You are ready to engage in facing and owning what happened. And I want to be sure to distinguish something here. Owning what happened doesn’t mean being responsible. It means letting this experience be a part of who you are. Just like I’m a redhead, and I have blue eyes, and I love to dance. I was also abused as a child. It’s not a badge of honor and it’s also not a badge of shame. It’s just a part of my experience.


You are ready to be active, take action.

You are ready to do something about the effects of the abuse. Simply compensating and just getting by is no longer acceptable. Nor is just understanding or reflecting on the past enough.

Instead you will be willing to actively challenge the patterns of thought and behavior that you have identified during the survivor stage that have been holding you back.


You need specific tools and skills so that you can heal and live an abundant, powerful life no longer mired in past experiences.

You are no longer satisfied with just surviving your life but instead want to break free from the pain of abuse and move on toward feeling ‘normal’, which simply means that you know who you are, feel confident, and are able to navigate life’s bumps in the road with ease and clarity.

I often call this the “enough is enough” phase because you really are clear that it’s time for your life to be about something other than recovery.

For me, this was the work I did through my late 20s in order to reach the place where I am today: full of joy, able to have healthy connected relationships, enjoying my life, full of energy and purpose.

Once you have reached this place where you are ready to get off the roller coaster, you want to avoid any type of support (whether that be a counselor, support group, book) that has you repeating and reiterating the past over and over. This is actually detrimental to your recovery at some point because you begin to reinforce old patterns on a neurological level rather than heal or transform them.

Ultimately, you are ready to get complete about the abuse, let it go so the past is no longer impacting your present, and take responsibility for the choices you make in life from this point forward so that you become the author of your life.

Want some help determining what your
next step in healing should be?

August 10, 2015

Does Being Abused Impact a Man's Sexual Orientation?

Today, we continue our series from David Pittman of Together We Heal!


As a writer, sometimes I struggle ad nauseum over ways to adequately express my thoughts and feelings. So when I finally think of a way to get my point across, I have to jot it down, no matter where I am or what time it is. As I type this, it's a little after 2 am. Thankfully, I have an amazingly patient wife who understands my writing process and at what odd hours it may choose to show itself.

As I was listening to one of the late-night talk shows, a lesbian author was droning on and on about all things lesbian. So I asked myself, “Why does it seem like when someone who is gay comes 'out', all it seems like they talk about is being gay, or being lesbian, or gay this or gay that, on and on until my head feels like it's going to explode with rainbow chiffon?!” And truthfully I was about to change the channel when it dawned on me how I was being a bit judgmental.

…ok, over-the-top, pompous-ass, judgmental. Totally owning my own shortcomings here.

So I paused for a moment to think deeper, why indeed does this observation appear to have some merit? After I came down from my pearly loft, I began to apply my own experiences in order to walk a mile in her shoes.

After much consideration and empathetic thinking, I realized that this person, much like myself, had her deepest emotions and feelings suppressed, smashed down and stomped on for the majority of her life. 
I'm guessing she had kept her true self bottled up for decades. So when FINALLY she was able to speak her truth, to be herself, it was like lifting the cover off Old Faithful after having been sealed for 100 years…it's going to EXPLODE with anything and everything that has been held down all this time. 

I bring this up now because I feel like at times, that childhood sexual abuse is all I talk about. Maybe that's what others think also. And maybe some of those around me, like I was about to do to this girl on TV, would like to change MY channel. 

But here's the thing, what I have in common with this young lady, is the knowledge that too many others out there are still struggling in silence and just need a little nudge by someone like us. Someone who is willing to talk about what we've been through, what we struggle with and how we might give them the opportunity to have their own freedom, healing and hope.

So with that being said, if you have a problem with me talking “too much” about childhood sexual abuse…guess what? The problem is yours, not ours. As victims of sexual abuse, we didn't have anyone talking about this when we were kids. If we had, maybe our lives might not have been as screwed-up. And maybe if this young lady speaking helps another young lesbian to find her voice, then good on her. And good on us for letting others know they are not alone. 

There's a reason I began with this anecdote and unusually long preface and it will be revealed as we move forward.

Which brings us finally to a topic that I don't feel or think is covered often enough, ESPECIALLY with male survivors … sexuality.

Unlike life when myself and many fellow male survivors grew up, seeing a TV show today featuring homosexual and lesbian lead actors is not only no longer taboo, it's become quite the "norm". Back in the 60's, 70's and even into the 80’s, the topic of homosexuality was simply not up for discussion. And IF anything was said about it, it happened behind closed doors, with hushed voices and usually derogatory language.
The reason I bring this up is how social mores relate to one of the main struggles of male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
When a young boy has been sexually abused by a man, and the biological reaction of an erection and/or ejaculation occurs, it causes the boy an untold amount of inner turmoil, confusion and shame. We don't understand why this crime perpetrated against us has resulted in what "feels like" a pleasurable moment. Unfortunately at this young age most, if not all of us, haven't been educated as to the "why" behind an erection/ejaculation, and are left only with our childlike minds to decipher a reason. 
Tragically, we are so ashamed, feel such guilt and are utterly humiliated by the crime it causes us to feel as if we aren't a “real man”. Because our masculinity has been robbed of us, many figure either they must be gay or we decide there's something wrong with us that made us react physically in this way to the abuse. Oftentimes, as it did with myself, it goes on to cause difficulty in relationships because our first sexual experience was one of coercion and rape rather than love.

Many boys and men believe a myth caused by this confusion. The myth says to you, “If a boy experiences sexual arousal during abuse, then he wanted or enjoyed it.” If you recall what I wrote earlier, I said we weren't given the proper education behind the the “why” arousal occurred. So here it is. 

It is vital to understand that males can respond to sexual stimulation with an erection and/or an orgasm – even in sexual situations that are traumatic or painful. This is how the male body and brain operates. Those who sexually abuse little boys know this. They often attempt to maintain secrecy, and to keep the abuse going by telling the child that his sexual response shows he was a willing participant and complicit in the abuse. “You wanted it, you liked it”, we are often told.

But this simply IS NOT TRUE! We were not seeking to be sexually abused or exploited. The reality is it is about a boy who was vulnerable to manipulation. It's about a boy who was betrayed by someone who selfishly exploited the boy's needs for attention and affection to use him sexually. 

In my case, I was so confused, I thought the only way I could "prove" my manhood was to have sex with as many women as possible. The result was I ended up emotionally hurting girls who cared for or even loved me and it only covered up my own pain momentarily. Pain that would always come back only for me to find other ways to try and make it go away.

I found an insightful quote from the website, as well as some good info on what I wanted to write about today so if you see a little (1in6), you'll know that's where I got it. I urge you to check out their site. I have worked with David Lisak at 1in6, and I know what great work they are doing. So please check them out! Anyways, here's the quote:

“One of the greatest tragedies of childhood sexual abuse is how it robs a person’s natural right to discover his own sexuality in his own time.”

And this is the challenge young boys face, no matter whether they are gay, straight or bi-sexual.

For young gay boys/men, they question if their attraction to men was caused by their childhood experiences.

For young straight boys, doubt and confusion creeps in causing them to question their sexuality. On the site, I found some questions young boys ask themselves. And I know how true to life they are, because I asked myself some of these same questions after my abuse occurred:

1) Did it happen because I'm gay?
2) Am I gay because it happened?
3) If anyone finds out will they think I'm gay?
4) Can I ever be a real man if I was sexual with another man?

Because these questions are too important to mess up the answer to, I want to quote the 1in6 website with their response:

“Such concerns and worries about ones masculinity and sexuality are common and totally normal. It's absolutely possible to sort them out, and to become completely comfortable with who you are as a man and a sexual being. Many other guys like you already have.”

I know this to be true because I have come to this place of being comfortable with who I am, and I know so many other male survivors who have as well. That's why we write and speak out, so as to be an encouragement for you to find and be comfortable with your true sexual self.

And right here, right now, if you've never heard or read these words, let's dispel one of the most destructive myths we face as male survivors with THE TRUTH:

No matter if you're gay, straight or bisexual, your sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse.
This is the message I wanted to get across to any and all male survivors reading today. And to any of their loved ones who see you struggling with this. We are not one way or another because of what happened to us. It might take some time for you to finally figure it out, but I promise you if work with those who truly love you, the truth about who you are will be revealed and you can have a healthy, sexual relationship. Just be patient, don't try to rush things or attempt to “prove” who you are like I did. Allow your true self to come to you in your own time. 

It won't always be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. And after what we've all been through, we deserve a life that is fulfilling in ALL ways: emotionally, spiritually, physically and yes, sexually!

Learn more about Together We Heal.

David spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.
As the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator's methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
TWH follows the saying, "one person might not be able to change the world, but you can change the world of one person."

August 3, 2015

Feeling the Weight of the World…Alone

I am so excited to partner once again with David Pittman of This month is all about male survivors, and so I'm very grateful to David for sharing his perspectives in this series.


Over the last 3 years I have had the good fortune of working with an amazing advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and someone who has become more than just a colleague, but also a valued friend: Ms. Rachel Grant. So when she asked if I would write two articles and do a tele-seminar together, as we have in the past, it was my honor to say “yes”.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it has been an arduous path of pain and healing. For over 35 years it has felt as though there have been many more “downs” than “ups”.

While I could spend an entire article just listing the challenges associated with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse; for me there were two major issues that caused the most tribulation and confusion.

The first was feeling as if I were completely alone. I thought for so long I was the only person this crime was perpetrated against and therefore it was on me alone to “deal with it”.

The second was the confusion a young boy feels when sexually abused by a man.

Today we’ll start with the first…

…feeling totally alone. 

Although feeling alone is not unique to male survivors, it is only from this perspective that I can speak. So I promise to talk openly and honestly about my own journey.

But before I begin discussing the challenges associated with abuse I want to first let all know who are reading this, that there is light at the end of the tunnel…and it’s not an oncoming train. 

Hope and joy can be attained. It won’t always be easy, but if you work with the right folks, and believe that those who have gone before you mean what they say, healing awaits.

So let’s talk about that most awful of feelings, being alone. And I don’t mean loneliness. While in and of itself, loneliness can feel horrible, it’s not quite the same as “feeling alone”. It incorporates so much more. It’s a feeling of betrayal and dismissal. It’s as if the whole world is moving along, happy and well. And you have been left behind, utterly abandoned.

Additionally, you feel isolated and different from everyone else around you. You see others around you leading “regular”, happy lives but you feel different and separate from everyone due to the abuse.

As I wrote once before about this topic, “Feeling Alone, it’s a familiar feeling. It’s altogether too familiar. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, 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.”

Here at “Together We Heal”, we work to provide support groups and counseling to fellow survivors. And whenever we get a call or email, or are contacted in any way, the VERY FIRST thing we say is…you are NOT alone. We are here for you, with you and will be as long as you will allow us. The reason for this is because of what I mentioned earlier, my own feelings of being alone. Once I finally came forward, I learned a couple of important factors.

The first thing I learned was that I wasn't the only little boy to be sexually abused by the same man. This person was my minister, and was therefore trusted by myself, my family and all who knew him. In 1981 when the abuse began, there were no talk shows about it, no news stories reporting it, no support groups that I could open up to. Hell, I didn’t even know what to call what was happening to me because I had never heard the words “childhood sexual abuse”.

And the second was that others, both men and women, told me they had the same feelings. Once I was told the truth about childhood sexual abuse; that I wasn't alone, it was then I felt as though a weight the size of the world on Atlas’ shoulders was finally lifted from my own.

And that was the turning point for my own healing. Once I learned I didn’t have to carry this burden alone, and that others would help me, it was then I finally understood the meaning of the word “hope”.

More than anything it is my “hope” that everyone who reads these posts or listens to when Rachel and I talk on her show, is that you can KNOW that hope and healing are a reality, and if she and I can have and live it, you can too!

Please…reach out, tell someone…we will be here for you.

Next week we’ll discuss a topic that so many male survivors struggle with but don’t feel the ability or freedom to talk about, the sexual confusion caused when abused by a man.

Learn more about Together We Heal.

David spent years on a healing journey that continues to this very day. This led him to seek out groups specifically for men as well as those who had been through a similar trauma and ultimately inspired the foundation of Together We Heal, an organization focused on providing counseling and guidance for those who have suffered the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.
As the Executive Director of TWH, David works to educate the public through speaking and collaborating with other groups to raise awareness and expose the sexual predator's methods. TWH now works with therapists, counselors and groups aiding both men and women in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
TWH follows the saying, "one person might not be able to change the world, but you can change the world of one person."

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