The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Tony Rodgers

When Tony was raped as a small boy, the deep wound might have shuttered his soul and severed his emotional ties to others. But the opposite happened. Perhaps because of the gentle, bone-deep love of his grandmother, who nurtured him tenderly in the months following the rape, and because of the elements of Tony’s own old soul, his heart never closed. Instead, the traumas of Tony’s childhood opened him to the pain and vulnerability of others, a gift that he is slowly learning how to manage. As a veteran teacher in the Oakland public schools, he is immersed in the wounds of countless young students. Breathing in their pain, he is learning also to breathe it out.

A recent, life-changing visit to his ancestral home in Africa has catalyzed a new period of reckoning in Tony. Standing alone in the dungeon of the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, where the agony of his ancestors reverberated through his bones; walking the streets of Addis Ababa, where a many-thousands year old culture resonated deeply within him; Tony is coming to grasp the fine weave of personal and ancestral threads that have come together to create him. Holding the beaded necklace representing his ancestors, he is beginning to look ahead, and to ponder where that unfinished tapestry might yet lead him.