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Thought-Provoking Collection of Black and White Portraits of Men who have Survived Childhood Sexual Abuse

Free To The Public Exhibition Supports Nationwide Awareness Campaign of 1in6 – A Non-Profit Organization Dedicated To The Support and Healing of Men Who Survived Sexual Abuse As Children


Mike Skinner

(NOVEMBER 23, 2015) For a limited time only, on December 5 and 6, The Heath Gallery (24 West 120th Street) proudly presents The Bristlecone Project. The exhibition is an awareness campaign of 1in6, a national non-profit organization offering resources and information to the fathers, sons and brothers who comprise the staggering statistic that 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused as children. The gallery features a mosaic of black and white images of 30 men empowered to stare into the lens of clinical psychologist and photographer Dr. David Lisak’s camera, confronting their once hidden history of abuse. With compassion, empathy, and grace, Lisak captures these survivors’ personal stories of pain, shame, and redemption. Each portrait is accompanied by a written narrative of survival and hope in the subject’s own words.

A nationally celebrated researcher, clinician, forensic consultant, as well as a skilled photographer, for more than 25 years, Lisak’s work has focused on sexual violence and its impact on lives, particularly men who were sexually abused as children. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse himself, Lisak is a founding board member and current board chairman of 1in6. He conceived the idea to photograph and interview men who had been helped by the services of 1in6 during his travels working as a consultant to universities, the military, and state and national policymakers. In 2012, armed with his camera and a deep knowledge of the destructive nature of remaining silent and hiding behind shame, Lisak began shooting this collection of portraits and recording the stories of just a handful of the 1 in 6 men who have been traumatized by childhood sexual abuse.

This is who I am. This is what happened to me. I am not ashamed. Healing is possible.”

Roughly 21 million American men have been sexually abused as children in the United States. Untreated, the psychological scars leave these men vulnerable to a significantly higher risk of developing a host of health issues including: substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, chronic health conditions, depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as social dysfunctions such as failed relationships, hindered education and career objectives, and interpersonal violence.

“My work has focused on sexual violence and its effect on the lives of survivors, particularly on the well-being of men who were sexually abused as children,” said Lisak. “Through The Bristlecone Project, 1in6 hopes to shatter the long-held and debilitating societal views that men must suffer in silence and show the public that true strength lies in the ability to confront your past as a victim, become a survivor and ultimately beacon of hope for other men with similar histories.”

“Unfortunately, deeply ingrained notions about masculinity discourage most men from asking for help,” said Steve LePore, Founder and Executive Director of 1in6. “Only a small fraction of the abused pursue the support that could allow them to overcome the negative consequences of their experiences. The Bristlecone Project was born out of the necessity to challenge and eliminate the paralyzing stigma that current culture imposes on any man who is sexually abused.”

The men featured in the photographs are corrections officers, engineers, soldiers, businessmen, students, husbands, and fathers. Brazenly staring directly into the eyes of the viewers, the men in the portraits invite the whole world to see them for who they are – survivors. The 3 foot by 2 foot portraits visually communicate the subject’s hard earned ability to proclaim — This is who I am. This is what happened to me. I am not ashamed. Healing is possible.

“We are pleased to present The Bristlecone Project at The Heath Gallery,” said Gallery co-owner Saundra Alexis Heath. “Art challenges viewers to reevaluate ingrained beliefs and societal mandates. This uniquely powerful collection of portraits offers a compelling look into the lives of brave men willing to break down the barrier of shame and encourage other victims to do the same.”

Since 2007, the mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. 1in6 helps to move these men from isolation and private anguish into active recovery by providing accurate and compassionate information, inspiration, and support. 1in6 offers a dynamic and information-rich web site (in English and Spanish) and other technologies, professional training resources for service providers, and community awareness and engagement programming for a variety of audiences. For more information about the programs offered by 1in6, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please go to http://www.1in6.org.

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