Survivor Stories
Dave Hinchliffe

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

Reflecting on his decision to participate in the Bristlecone Project, Dave paraphrases the words of a fellow survivor who, at a national conference, gave this definition of a man: “He possesses the ability to both love and be loved, as well as the desire to leave something of value behind.” The gift that Dave wishes to leave behind, to offer fellow survivors, is the willingness to speak openly about his vulnerability. It is an act of courage shared among Bristlecone volunteers.

Raised by a foster family in the suburbs of New York City, physically and sexually abused within that family, Dave learned early on that he would have to forge his own way in life. By the age of eight he was doing small jobs in his neighborhood and town. By age twelve he had newspaper routes, and, thus, was actively cultivating his independence and resilience.

Dave found solace, escape and sometimes meaning, in books. He had, and still has, an affinity for language. That love, and strength, led him to Masters’ degrees in rhetoric, in counseling and most recently in writing. For years he worked as a school counselor, finding it natural to connect with the struggles of young people.

Despite the abuse and the emotional neglect, Dave nurtured and was in turn nurtured by his intellect, and by his capacity to imbue his life and his struggles with meaning. He came upon Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. “What this man had to say struck me as so true. The meaning of things isn’t in the things. The meaning is in us.”

Today, Dave teaches university classes in writing, and is still infusing his life with meaning and growth, as he ponders his next projects: a novel, and perhaps a memoir. He looks also for ways to influence society regarding these issues.