Survivor Spotlight: Keith Wheeler
When Keith Wheeler was just 11 years old, he was molested at the hands of his music teacher. Keith never told his family and as he grew older, he turned to marijuana and alcohol to cope. “I wanted — no, needed — to block out the pain,” he explains.
At the age of 29 Keith had already spent years taking various medications to help address his ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety. Despite his efforts, he says that his battle with mental health issues continued to affect him, ultimately resulting in his inability to accept teaching assistant positions while earning his Ph.D. He was concerned that by not confronting his pain, he was letting the world crush him.
When starting the road to recovery, Keith suggests working at a pace that best helps you. “You are in control of your own recovery. You will heal, but it will take time,” he advises. Help can be found in friends, family, physicians and those trained to help in the aftermath of a sexual assault. RAINN provides the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) and the Online Hotline for survivors at all stages of the healing process.
Keith found that forgiveness was a key part of his recovery. Over time, and with the help of a therapist, he says he has forgiven his teacher: “True forgiveness has helped liberate my emotional pain.”
Loved ones can be crucial to supporting survivors. (Check out RAINN’s tips for helping loved ones.) His ex-wife was instrumental in his healing process. She listened to his story, gave him emotional support and helped him find the psychological counseling he needed to heal. He spent time at a counseling clinic for recovery and healing. Keith also explained how RAINN has played role in his recovery, saying, “It's inspiring to read the stories of other survivors."
“Nothing can prepare a human soul from being sexually victimized,” he says. “But with proper psychiatric counseling as well as family and friend support, the same human soul that existed in darkness and extreme sadness will begin to experience happiness again with abounding light.”
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of "America's 100 Best Charities" by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. The hotlines have helped more than 1.9 million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.