The Bristlecone Project is an awareness campaign of 1in6.org. Photographs and text by David Lisak, Ph.D.
Eelim is embarked on a life-altering journey to unravel the knots of terror, anxiety, and self-condemnation that were the legacy of a childhood scarred by sexual abuse. Three times he was targeted. The second incident, a single afternoon of terror when he was gang-raped at six-years-old, left scars that Eelim is still coming to terms with.
Even as a child, Eelim tried to tell someone what had happened to him, but he was shut down and that door would not open again for two decades. Instead, Eelim learned about the numbing effects of alcohol. He learned how to titrate his intake to “take the edge off,” or to blunt the onrush of anxiety.
Having learned the worst of what the world can be, Eelim decided that he was safest if he was invisible. So he reduced his human footprint and silenced his voice.
But the six-year-old boy who tried to start his journey back was still alive in Eelim. After years of depending on alcohol to make life tolerable, Eelim–on his own–realized it was a problem. So he found the will to stop. And he did.
Now confronted with anxiety and flashbacks, Eelim resumed his journey. He disclosed to family members. He went to a rape crisis center and on intake was told that men like him were likely to become perpetrators themselves. Another door shut.
Still, Eelim persevered. He found a therapist who helped him tame his anxiety. And he found the online male survivor support groups offered by 1in6. Today, Eelim is firmly on his path to healing, finding his strength, finding his voice, and finding a blessed levity in his God-given sense of humor.
Originally posted on 1in6.org