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Male Survivor Stories – The Bristlecone Project

Men who were sexually abused or assaulted may feel isolated and stigmatized by what happened to them. The truth is that millions of men from around the world have had these experiences. Below are stories from a growing community of male survivors. This multimedia awareness campaign, called the Bristlecone Project, was founded by Dr. David Lisak in 2013.

“The Bristlecone volunteers welcome you. They are a courageous group who are no longer willing to be silenced by stigma and shame. They’re men who confront the past, but who walk forward into the future.” — David Lisak, PhD, Bristlecone Project Founder

About the project | Participate | Order the documentary film

Alain Kabenga

“That I can stand before camera, that I can stand before people and talk—it has been a long journey.”

View his story

Aaron

A Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army and combat veteran, Aaron has transformed his childho...

A Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army and combat veteran, Aaron has transformed his childhood trauma into a mission to help fellow survivors.

Aaron's Story

Alan

Speaking out publicly and working to change Georgia’s statute of limitation laws have...

Speaking out publicly and working to change Georgia’s statute of limitation laws have helped to Alan to get his power back, a crucial step in his healing.

Alan's Story

Alan

Profoundly neglected as a child, then sexually abused by priests, Alan has finally foun...

Profoundly neglected as a child, then sexually abused by priests, Alan has finally found a community among fellow survivors at MSSAT in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Alan's Story

Alastair

Alastair has transformed his own trauma by creating community resources for fellow surv...

Alastair has transformed his own trauma by creating community resources for fellow survivors, from Leicester, England to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and soon beyond.

Alastair's Story

Andrew

“[Poetry] seemed like the best way to express some of the things that were going ...

“[Poetry] seemed like the best way to express some of the things that were going on for me.”

Andrew's Story

Andy

“You know I’ve been sober for over twenty-seven years now.”

...

“You know I’ve been sober for over twenty-seven years now.”

Andy's Story

Bill Johnson

Nightmarish memories have forced Bill to re-define his childhood, but he has embraced the challenge and the meaning it has given to the rest of his life.

View his story

Anthony

Tony’s love of acting, and the human connection he found ...

Tony’s love of acting, and the human connection he found through it, gave him a pathway to healing after he was abused by a mentor.

Anthony's Story

Barry

After 46 years of silence, Barry finally disclosed his secret, and now he is looking ah...

After 46 years of silence, Barry finally disclosed his secret, and now he is looking ahead to a new life of openness and activism.

Barry's Story

Bill

“[Piano] feels like therapy. It really is healing, because I control the music an...

“[Piano] feels like therapy. It really is healing, because I control the music and what comes out.”

Bill's Story

Bjarne

“I wanted to know more about how to help people […] Nobody is talking about...

“I wanted to know more about how to help people […] Nobody is talking about these things.”

Bjarne's Story

Brent

“I guess what led me to come forward is these emotions were just rising.”

“I guess what led me to come forward is these emotions were just rising.”

Brent's Story

Brent

Overcoming a childhood ravaged by severe domestic violence and sexual abuse, Brent has ...

Overcoming a childhood ravaged by severe domestic violence and sexual abuse, Brent has found within himself a wellspring of compassion for himself, and for those who harmed him.

Brent's Story

Brian Brozovic

“We have to feel. We have to. We have to break out beyond… the ‘man box.'”

View his story

Bret

“I’m no longer comfortable being a survivor in silence.”

...

“I’m no longer comfortable being a survivor in silence.”

Bret's Story

Brett

“I just wanted someone to see that I was going through this, and to kind of come ...

“I just wanted someone to see that I was going through this, and to kind of come along beside me.”

Brett's Story

Brian

“I am becoming the man that I needed when I was a child.”

...

“I am becoming the man that I needed when I was a child.”

Brian's Story

Brian

It has taken Brian’s steadfast, lifelong commitment to healing himself to overcome wh...

It has taken Brian’s steadfast, lifelong commitment to healing himself to overcome what a child rapist did to him in a single day.

Brian's Story

Brigham

“Coming alive has been a liberation. Not all at once. It is happening day by day....

“Coming alive has been a liberation. Not all at once. It is happening day by day.”

Brigham's Story

Callen

An iron will, “Irish stubbornness,” and the written word have carried Callen from a...

An iron will, “Irish stubbornness,” and the written word have carried Callen from a childhood of abuse to an adulthood as a successful playwright and activist on behalf of male survivors.

Callen's Story

Darrel Carson

“I’m not gonna complain about the road I had to travel because I like where I am.”

View his story

Cam

“Why can’t I understand that some questions don’t have answers?”

...

“Why can’t I understand that some questions don’t have answers?”

Cam's Story

Christian

“Don’t hesitate. Find a friend, find a buddy, because there’s always someone ...

“Don’t hesitate. Find a friend, find a buddy, because there’s always someone out there listening, and believe me people want to listen and help.”

Christian's Story

Colin

“I thought that my life had no purpose, so I was just drifting through life, but ...

“I thought that my life had no purpose, so I was just drifting through life, but then when I unpacked it, it was all about social justice”

Colin's Story

Daniel

A fierce commitment to healing, to honesty, and to his creative talents has propelled D...

A fierce commitment to healing, to honesty, and to his creative talents has propelled Daniel along the road to recovery.

Daniel's Story

Das

As a teenager, Das could not disclose his abuse when his girlfriend revealed her own. B...

As a teenager, Das could not disclose his abuse when his girlfriend revealed her own. But three decades later, he righted that “self-betrayal,” and today he and Amanda are building a life together.

Das's Story

Dave

Dave found solace in books, and meaning through language, and courage in the act of dis...

Dave found solace in books, and meaning through language, and courage in the act of disclosure.

Dave's Story

David Pittman

With the help of family and friends, David battled his way back from addiction to confront and overcome the abuse that had destroyed his faith.

View his story

David

“[My therapist] just said, it–was–not–your–fault. And just like that—so...

“[My therapist] just said, it–was–not–your–fault. And just like that—something huge changed.”

David's Story

David

Only when he began to confront what had been so long hidden did David begin to free him...

Only when he began to confront what had been so long hidden did David begin to free himself from its effects.

David's Story

David

Faith, loving parents, his stalwart father, and musical talent helped David reclaim his...

Faith, loving parents, his stalwart father, and musical talent helped David reclaim his life and recover from a childhood rape that could have shattered him.

David's Story

Dennis

With his faith in God and in himself, and with the help of an “angel,” Dennis is tu...

With his faith in God and in himself, and with the help of an “angel,” Dennis is turning around a life marred by sexual trauma and drug abuse.

Dennis's Story

Desmond

“I went from being kind of in an autopilot state of mind through life, to being a...

“I went from being kind of in an autopilot state of mind through life, to being a part of life.”

Desmond's Story

Don

“Realize that after a time you’ve gotta do something about it or suffer for the...

“Realize that after a time you’ve gotta do something about it or suffer for the rest of your life.”

Don's Story

Dugal Armour

With the steadfast support of his wife, and with capable hands that turn found objects into sculpture, Dugal has confronted the past and become a leader for fellow survivors.

View his story

Don

Faith and determination have helped Don to overcome the abuse he suffered and to look a...

Faith and determination have helped Don to overcome the abuse he suffered and to look ahead to a career in counseling fellow survivors.

Don's Story

Douglas

“I need to get out in front of this and not be afraid to disclose and … to ...

“I need to get out in front of this and not be afraid to disclose and … to deal with it.”

Douglas's Story

Ed

Ed has battled against abuse, bullying, betrayal and indifferent government agencies. H...

Ed has battled against abuse, bullying, betrayal and indifferent government agencies. He’s now setting his sights on a new start in a very different land.

Ed's Story

Eelim

A sublime sense of humor, an iron will, and talking with fellow survivors are helping E...

A sublime sense of humor, an iron will, and talking with fellow survivors are helping Eelim to overcome the legacies of severe trauma.

Eelim's Story

Emery

Abused as a child by a priest, it was in prison that Emery re-connected with his Maori ...

Abused as a child by a priest, it was in prison that Emery re-connected with his Maori roots and found the strength to pursue healing and re-connection with fellow survivors.

Emery's Story

Eric

“These words need to be spoken, and not just for me. We all need to acknowledge w...

“These words need to be spoken, and not just for me. We all need to acknowledge what we are all surrounded by.”

Eric's Story

Geoff Cavell

“It was actually the hardest thing I’ve been through, but at the same time talking became the easiest thing I’ve ever done, once I had taken the leap of faith.”

View his story

Eric

Drops of love enabled Eric to survive his violence-marred childhood, and to transform h...

Drops of love enabled Eric to survive his violence-marred childhood, and to transform his suffering into a motive for action.

Eric's Story

Frank

Frank has disentangled the knots created by his abuse, and liberated the poet and music...

Frank has disentangled the knots created by his abuse, and liberated the poet and musician that lies within him.

Frank's Story

Gino

Gino credits his faith in God and loving family – his wife and three children – wit...

Gino credits his faith in God and loving family – his wife and three children – with giving the strength to overcome his traumatic childhood.

Gino's Story

Graham

Graham found safety and strength in the forests of northern Ontario, and in his own roo...

Graham found safety and strength in the forests of northern Ontario, and in his own roots in the Ojibway nation.

Graham's Story

Greg

Greg has transformed childhood trauma into “a fractured but effective healing” by d...

Greg has transformed childhood trauma into “a fractured but effective healing” by drawing on his own and his Nana’s integrity and resolve.

Greg's Story

Greg

A work colleague, a priest, therapists, fellow survivors, and Greg’s own courage and ...

A work colleague, a priest, therapists, fellow survivors, and Greg’s own courage and perseverance have enabled him to confront the past and open up a hopeful future.

Greg's Story

Harold Glen Hull

“The Army gave me stripes. I got ’em quick. But I knew I was hiding behind the stripes.”

View his story

Greg

Greg has journeyed far, both physically and psychologically, to reach the place of

Greg has journeyed far, both physically and psychologically, to reach the place of
healing that now graces his life.

Greg's Story

Hank

Hank Estrada has found peace in the serene landscape of New Mexico, and love in his 30 ...

Hank Estrada has found peace in the serene landscape of New Mexico, and love in his 30 year relationship with his life partner.

Hank's Story

Harold

A letter from his sister sparked Harold’s journey toward healing from years of abuse ...

A letter from his sister sparked Harold’s journey toward healing from years of abuse at the hands of his parents.

Harold's Story

Iciyapitate

Matching the tenacity of his wounded soul, Iciyapitate has confronted the legacies of t...

Matching the tenacity of his wounded soul, Iciyapitate has confronted the legacies of the savage abuse that marred his childhood and looks forward now to a life of caring.

Iciyapitate's Story

Isaac

“…the intersection between being raised Mormon and being gay, but also bein...

“…the intersection between being raised Mormon and being gay, but also being a survivor…”

Isaac's Story

Jack

A soul mate, a community of fellow survivors in Christchurch, and poetry have all helpe...

A soul mate, a community of fellow survivors in Christchurch, and poetry have all helped Jack to survive and emerge from a childhood devastated by trauma.

Jack's Story

Jason Lee

“I firmly believe to my soul that we, as a culture, need to talk about this more.”

View his story

James

Confronting the legacies of generations of sexual abuse within his family, James now lo...

Confronting the legacies of generations of sexual abuse within his family, James now looks ahead to helping fellow survivors as a victim advocate.

James's Story

James

James marshaled the resources he needed to launch his recovery and now shares his love ...

James marshaled the resources he needed to launch his recovery and now shares his love with abused and neglected dogs.

James's Story

Jaron

Jaron found the inner strength and the external help he needed to overcome childhood ab...

Jaron found the inner strength and the external help he needed to overcome childhood abuse, adult trauma, and discrimination, and he still smiles infectiously.

Jaron's Story

Jason

“It’s been a long haul and it hasn’t been easy, but I keep thinking to myself...

“It’s been a long haul and it hasn’t been easy, but I keep thinking to myself, ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel, you just gotta get there.'”

Jason's Story

Jay

A Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and FBI agent, Jay has confronted and overcome challen...

A Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and FBI agent, Jay has confronted and overcome challenges out in the world and within himself.

Jay's Story

Jean-Paul

“The grace of God can really reach from heaven down to the earth. And saved my li...

“The grace of God can really reach from heaven down to the earth. And saved my life.”

Jean-Paul's Story

John Benton

John faced down his abuser, 25 years later, and found the road to redemption.

View his story

Jeff

Abuse at seven, and a survivor of his sister’s homicide at 14, Jeff has devoted his l...

Abuse at seven, and a survivor of his sister’s homicide at 14, Jeff has devoted his life to other survivors and to protecting their rights in the court system.

Jeff's Story

Jeff

“It’s as if someone took a lid off my life and I could finally see the blue sky...

“It’s as if someone took a lid off my life and I could finally see the blue sky and brilliant sun again.”

Jeff's Story

Jim

“I’m trying to advocate for men […] who would like to seek service, a...

“I’m trying to advocate for men […] who would like to seek service, as best as I can.”

Jim's Story

Jim

“It’s a great way to use the lessons learned in life to help other people, to r...

“It’s a great way to use the lessons learned in life to help other people, to raise awareness, and to be creative.”

Jim's Story

Jim

A veteran psychiatric nurse, Jim has transformed the trauma of the boarding school rape...

A veteran psychiatric nurse, Jim has transformed the trauma of the boarding school rape that scarred his childhood, turning it into compassion and insight that serves others in pain.

Jim's Story

Joe

Silenced for years by the betrayal and abuse of a priest, Joe found his voice and creat...

Silenced for years by the betrayal and abuse of a priest, Joe found his voice and creatively transformed his pain and anger into the successful play, “For Pete’s Sake.”

Joe's Story

Lamarkus Ellis

His openness to others, his capacity to listen to his inner voice, and the loving support of family have nurtured Lamarkus on the path to recovery.

View his story

Joe

“He could not beat me, because he couldn’t reach all of me… who I really ...

“He could not beat me, because he couldn’t reach all of me… who I really am, my core.”

Joe's Story

Joe

After many years in addiction and in prison, Joe has been clean since 2007 and is looki...

After many years in addiction and in prison, Joe has been clean since 2007 and is looking forward to the publication of his memoirs.

Joe's Story

Joel

Today, through writing and counseling, Joel is on the mend, and he and his wife, Amy, a...

Today, through writing and counseling, Joel is on the mend, and he and his wife, Amy, are closer than ever.

Joel's Story

John

John promised that if he received help he would devote himself to helping other childre...

John promised that if he received help he would devote himself to helping other children who suffered abuse.

John's Story

John

Abused by a family member, John found support and love in his family and a path toward ...

Abused by a family member, John found support and love in his family and a path toward healing the legacies of his stolen childhood.

John's Story

Joshua

Buried for decades, the abuse he suffered hit Joshua like a Tsunami in 2016. With thera...

Buried for decades, the abuse he suffered hit Joshua like a Tsunami in 2016. With therapy, determination, and the love and support of his wife, Julia, he is lifting the weight off his shoulders.

Joshua's Story

Mark Godoy, Jr.

“I can talk about it. It’s still really painful…but if I keep talking about it, something will click…”

View his story

Julian

It took years, and hard work to tame his drinking and his anger, but today Julian can e...

It took years, and hard work to tame his drinking and his anger, but today Julian can enjoy simple and profound pleasures, like holding his son and watching him grow.

Julian's Story

Julio

Abused by an uncle, but never disconnected from his family’s love, Julio found the st...

Abused by an uncle, but never disconnected from his family’s love, Julio found the strength and courage to forgive.

Julio's Story

Keith

“I would sit in church by myself… and I would just pray that I would find a...

“I would sit in church by myself… and I would just pray that I would find an angel.”

Keith's Story

Ken

Ken fought the world – literally and figuratively – until he found his way into a p...

Ken fought the world – literally and figuratively – until he found his way into a peer support group for male survivors, and he has never looked back.

Ken's Story

Lee

“It happens to everybody from all walks of life […] You can have a great li...

“It happens to everybody from all walks of life […] You can have a great life, and there’s support, there’s people there who will help you.”

Lee's Story

Lewis

Faith, hope, and love, entwined with his Maori roots, have helped Lewis to survive a ch...

Faith, hope, and love, entwined with his Maori roots, have helped Lewis to survive a childhood marred by family violence, and an adulthood marked by acute grief.

Lewis's Story

Michael Kullik

A penchant for poetry and an operatic voice have helped Michael to heal the deep wounds inflicted on him from a childhood scarred by incest and betrayal.

View his story

M.E.

A deep spiritual connection, inner strength and intelligence have guided Hart from seve...

A deep spiritual connection, inner strength and intelligence have guided Hart from severe trauma to a present filled with compassion and professional accomplishment.

M.E.'s Story

Manassah

“My life is once again filled with light and promise. The darkness, fear, and sha...

“My life is once again filled with light and promise. The darkness, fear, and shame are in my past. I am happy.”

Manassah's Story

Marcel

“Music is a heartbeat. It keeps me going. It moves me. It shapes me. It creates m...

“Music is a heartbeat. It keeps me going. It moves me. It shapes me. It creates me. It is who I am.”

Marcel's Story

Mark

Composing a suicide note to his teenage son, Mark instead found himself unburdening him...

Composing a suicide note to his teenage son, Mark instead found himself unburdening himself of decades of secrecy. In this act came the liberation from shame and reconnection with others.

Mark's Story

Mark

Mark is able to transform his pain through music…

...

Mark is able to transform his pain through music…

Mark's Story

Martin

With help from an “angel,” Marty found his voice, and today makes his living as a w...

With help from an “angel,” Marty found his voice, and today makes his living as a writer, an actor, a singer and a playwright.

Martin's Story

Peter Gahlinger

Persistence, good therapy, yoga and meditation, and the loving support of a sensitive partner have helped Peter to heal from the abuses of a Catholic priest.

View his story

Mason

A Major in the US Army, a seasoned attorney, a veteran of the Iraq War, and a survivor ...

A Major in the US Army, a seasoned attorney, a veteran of the Iraq War, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Mason looks ahead to a new chapter after he retires from the Military.

Mason's Story

Matt

Years of sexual abuse as a child led to years of drug and alcohol abuse and violence as...

Years of sexual abuse as a child led to years of drug and alcohol abuse and violence as a member of one of New Zealand’s motorcycle gangs. Then came a life-altering moment in a church.

Matt's Story

Max

Healed by human connection and through art, Max’s spi...

Healed by human connection and through art, Max’s spirit has lightened, and it shows in his smile.

Max's Story

Michael

Silenced by the step-father who devastated his childhood, Michael worked hard to find h...

Silenced by the step-father who devastated his childhood, Michael worked hard to find his voice and now uses it to fill theaters.

Michael's Story

Michael

“I don’t know if there are other guys like me who have been molested by their m...

“I don’t know if there are other guys like me who have been molested by their mothers who come out here and talk about it like this, but I know that if I don’t it’s not gonna start.”

Michael's Story

Michael

Michael has transformed his catastrophic childhood into...

Michael has transformed his catastrophic childhood into a passionate devotion to helping traumatized and disadvantaged children around the world.

Michael's Story

Richard O’Neil

Targeted because he was “different,” both within and outside his family, Richard battled back to become a successful professional and married man who is no longer defined by his tormenters.

View his story

Michael

Reading about courageous stories of survival; and ultimately, music, saved Michael Skin...

Reading about courageous stories of survival; and ultimately, music, saved Michael Skinner.

Michael's Story

Mitch

“The process of getting clean […] that’s what actually, finally allow...

“The process of getting clean […] that’s what actually, finally allowed me to talk about what happened to me.”

Mitch's Story

Ned

“Our [nonprofit’s] work is designed around a view… that says no one g...

“Our [nonprofit’s] work is designed around a view… that says no one gets left behind and everyone gets seen.”

Ned's Story

Patrick

Patrick has been rebuilding his capacity to trust, and his openness to intimacy with ot...

Patrick has been rebuilding his capacity to trust, and his openness to intimacy with others.

Patrick's Story

Paul

For many years Paul lived with the misplaced burden that he was somehow responsible for...

For many years Paul lived with the misplaced burden that he was somehow responsible for abuse that derailed him. Confronting the abuse has freed him from that burden.

Paul's Story

Pete

A learned hyper-independence, a talent for invention, and a connection with God have en...

A learned hyper-independence, a talent for invention, and a connection with God have enabled Pete to overcome multiple experiences of sexual abuse.

Pete's Story

Rick Goodwin

Rick currently leads Men & Healing – a freestanding clinic for male survivors with a 20 year-old track record of service.

View his story

Peter

Peter has sought to infuse his work with his capacity to see those who use their power ...

Peter has sought to infuse his work with his capacity to see those who use their power to harm others, not as monsters, but as human beings in their full complexity.

Peter's Story

Phil

A breakdown at age 40, painful, but embraced, has led to a man now at peace with both p...

A breakdown at age 40, painful, but embraced, has led to a man now at peace with both pain and the transformation of pain, and with connection to others.

Phil's Story

Randy

“I’m actually going back. Back to where the abuse occurred… to reclaim my...

“I’m actually going back. Back to where the abuse occurred… to reclaim my childhood.”

Randy's Story

Raymond

Religious faith has helped restore Raymond’s capacity to trust, and therefore to conn...

Religious faith has helped restore Raymond’s capacity to trust, and therefore to connect with others. In so doing it is healing the breach created by four years of sexual abuse.

Raymond's Story

Rees

“I knew the force behind the apartheid government. I knew the power that they had...

“I knew the force behind the apartheid government. I knew the power that they had. I knew people’s stories were made, and I got violently raped for it.”

Rees's Story

Reggie

A retired NFL football player, Reggie is looking ahead ...

A retired NFL football player, Reggie is looking ahead to a Master’s in counseling and to helping other athletes who are confronting histories of sexual violence.

Reggie's Story

Tom Kerr

Centuries-old spiritual ceremonies helped unlock Tom’s buried past and propelled him to a healthier, more centered life.

View his story

Robert

“And now, most of the time, I function more like an orchestra inside.”

...

“And now, most of the time, I function more like an orchestra inside.”

Robert's Story

Rocky

Today, Rocky’s eyes glitter with life and determination, despite decades of life burd...

Today, Rocky’s eyes glitter with life and determination, despite decades of life burdens and a childhood scarred by abuse.

Rocky's Story

Scott

Healing from severe sexual abuse has been a decades-long commitment for Scott, to recla...

Healing from severe sexual abuse has been a decades-long commitment for Scott, to reclaim his voice, to tame his anger, and ultimately to forgive.

Scott's Story

Sean

Sean wrestled for much of his life with the demons set loose by years of abuse as a chi...

Sean wrestled for much of his life with the demons set loose by years of abuse as a child, but he has found connection in the community of survivors in New Zealand.

Sean's Story

Shane

“I feel I have to change for myself, and I have changed. I’m nowhere near the p...

“I feel I have to change for myself, and I have changed. I’m nowhere near the person I used to be.”

Shane's Story

Stephen

“It was running that got me through it. It made me feel light.”

...

“It was running that got me through it. It made me feel light.”

Stephen's Story

Stewart

His life possibly saved by a foster family that took him in after years of abuse, Stewa...

His life possibly saved by a foster family that took him in after years of abuse, Stewart now passes it on by helping others in desperate need of kindness and a helping hand.

Stewart's Story

Tedd

Tedd connected with a source of love that allowed him to transcend the brutality and re...

Tedd connected with a source of love that allowed him to transcend the brutality and rejection inflicted by his parents.

Tedd's Story

Tom

When Tom finally released himself from the burden of his lifelong secret, he discovered...

When Tom finally released himself from the burden of his lifelong secret, he discovered the joy of intimacy unconstrained by the fear of betrayal.

Tom's Story

Tom

Abused by a priest, betrayed by the church, but buoyed by his family, Tom has chosen to...

Abused by a priest, betrayed by the church, but buoyed by his family, Tom has chosen to hold the church accountable.

Tom's Story

Tom

Surviving and healing from years of physical and sexual torment by his mother is Tom’...

Surviving and healing from years of physical and sexual torment by his mother is Tom’s lifelong task. With the support of his wife, and fellow survivors, he is succeeding.

Tom's Story

Tony

“Being raped, being sexually abused, it’s a small snippet of my story. I have a...

“Being raped, being sexually abused, it’s a small snippet of my story. I have an amazing story.”

Tony's Story

Walter

Walter’s commitment to therapy, meditation and running have propelled him along his p...

Walter’s commitment to therapy, meditation and running have propelled him along his path of healing after a decade of sexual abuse as a child.

Walter's Story