The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

John Benton

John stood in the courtroom reading his victim impact statement. The man who had sexually abused John – a now-defrocked Episcopal priest – squirmed and tried to avoid John’s eyes. Until, that is, the judge ordered the now-convicted sex offender to raise his head and listen. It was 25 years since John had suffered the years of chronic abuse, and it had been a long, hard road. A road that had taken John through decades of drug abuse. A road that, despite John’s obvious intelligence, detoured him past academic achievement. A road that John traveled with a well of rage that at times exploded into outbursts that left walls dented, tools scattered, and his wife bewildered.

But it was also a road that led John to redemption. He found within himself the courage to confront the man who robbed him of his childhood, luring his abuser into a confession videotaped by detectives hovering in the next room. And he found the courage to face his demons, gaining strength and help from a therapist and, most crucially, from the woman he started loving at the age of 15, the same woman who weathered his emotional volatility and stood with him and loved him, faults and vulnerabilities, strength and courage. Today, John speaks publicly about his long journey, and is helping other traumatized men through coaching and mentoring.