About a year and half ago I began talking with Dr. David Lisak, founding Board member of the The Bristlecone Project, President and a founding member of the 1in6 Board of Directors and a retired Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts.
As Together We Heal began establishing contacts and building a network of partners within the community of childhood sexual abuse survivors, David Lisak’s name kept coming up. In the course of my conversations with advocates from all over the USA, nothing but great things were said about him and the “project” he was working on.
Shortly before Christmas of 2013, David and I were discussing the potential of TWH, 1in6 and The Bristlecone Project working together. David mentioned he would be in Florida the following year and asked if I would be interested in participating. Not only did I say yes, I was honored and humbled to be given the opportunity. I had read the other men’s stories on the website, and in them I heard my own, and that of so many of our fellow brother survivors.
Rather than attempting to describe this amazing project, I prefer to let David Lisak’s words speak for themselves.
1in6’s latest awareness initiative – “Bristlecone: Portraits of Male Survivors”
The Vision: A mosaic of photographs and words that portray the reality and hope of men who were sexually abused as children.
The Focus: The present, not the past. Who each man is. What defines him. What is the focus of his life. Each man will be portrayed through a series of photographs, a brief written portrait, and his own voice.
The Purpose: To portray this reality — who we are now, living meaningful and dignified lives — to the many men who may feel isolated and stigmatized by what happened to them. And to portray this reality to whole communities through the Bristlecone web site and public exhibitions, providing positive, hopeful role models of men who have faced their childhood experiences and who learned to live healthier, happier lives.
Unwanted and abusive sexual experiences in childhood affect men across categories defined by race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, religion and other characteristics and traits. We are committed to making the Bristlecone Project inclusive of men from a broad range of identities. For more information about participating in the Bristlecone project, please click here.
As the numbers of participants increase, the web-based Bristlecone exhibition will be tied in with local exhibitions in public venues featuring men from those communities — “Bristlecone Los Angeles,” “Bristlecone Boston,” “Bristlecone New Mexico,” etc
People often ask, “Why Bristlecone?” So on the site, David explains and shares a poem about the tree…
Bristlecone Pine trees survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the western Rocky Mountains. Despite thin soils, strong winds, freezing temperatures, and limited water, Bristlecones can live for thousands of years, and are among the oldest living organisms on earth.
If wind were wood it might resemble this
fragility and strength, old bark bleeding amber.
Its living parts grow on away from the dead
as we do in our lesser lives. Endurance,
yes, but also a scarred and twisted beauty
we know the way we know our own carved hearts. ©2013 by David Mason
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel so honored and humbled having been asked to be a part of this inspiring project. A project I know will continue letting other men out there see, it’s ok to come forward. It’s ok to share the pain you’ve endured. It’s ok, because now you can know you are NOT alone. You have a brotherhood of men who will be there for you, stand beside you in times of need. We truly know how you feel, what you were forced to endure, but now you have all of us to lean on. And as we often say, Together we can heal.
Please take some time to read not just mine, but all of the other men’s stories. They’ve opened up their hearts and in many cases, their wounds, with the desire of helping others. May 2015 be a year where even more men find hope and healing from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.
Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.