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A Holiday Gift by David Lisak: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog

Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve been given a gift. As a young, rebellious adolescent I was tormented by a college professor, a humorless nun. She met every one of my writing efforts with endless corrections and never graded me above an 82. I assumed that she loathed me. Then I received the last graded paper of the semester, on the back of which she exhorted me to go on to graduate school. It was the end of the fall semester, the holidays just ahead, but for decades I would not appreciate the magnitude of her gift.

Two weeks ago, eight men whose portraits and biographies appear on the Bristlecone website lent their portraits and statements to the gallery of survivors on the web site of the NO MORE campaign. These men, and their brothers at Bristlecone, have chosen to sit in front of a camera and to look directly into the camera’s lens. This simple and courageous act is a proclamation:

“We are here. We are your neighbors, your fathers and your sons. And we are not ashamed.”

Their proclamation is a gift.

To their fellow survivors, many of whom live under a stifling cloud of shame, the gift is a message of liberation and of hope.
To their communities, where ignorance and misconception about male survivors of sexual abuse remain pervasive, the gift is a window through which the reality of male survivors can be viewed, openly and clearly.

To each Bristlecone volunteer, the gift is a public relinquishing of the shame that so many of us carried for so long. It was never ours. And now, with eyes focused unambiguously into the lens, we say so emphatically.

To the lucky photographer, who like so many survivors labored for years in the certainty of his isolation, the gift is a personal connection to a brethren of men who once were wounded, but who now find within themselves the courage to thrive. Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog.


By David Lisak Ph.D.


Dr. David Lisak is founding board member of 1in6 and a retired Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has studied the long term effects of childhood abuse in adult men, and the relationship between early abuse and the later perpetration of violence. His research has been published in leading journals in psychology, trauma and violence, and he was the founding editor of the journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinity. In addition to his research and teaching, Dr. Lisak has served as faculty for the National Judicial Education Program and the American Prosecutors Research Institute and he consults frequently with law enforcement and prosecutors on sexual violence and homicide cases across the country. Dr. Lisak has conducted workshops in all fifty states, and he also consults widely with universities, the U.S. military, and other institutions regarding sexual assault prevention and policies.