The Bristlecone Project is an awareness campaign of 1in6.org. Photographs and text by David Lisak, Ph.D.
At the age of 20, during a family visit in the mountains of North Carolina, James’ grandmother put her hand on his leg. That touch triggered a torrent of memories, ultimately exposing an inter-generational pattern of sexual abuse that scarred the lives of parents, grandparents and many others. It is a legacy that James has been grappling with for two decades. It is a legacy that has shaped him, but also one that now feeds his determination to help others who face a similar legacy.
For James, the legacy included a longstanding reluctance to trust people, especially women. He has confronted those fears, has been married twice, and those relationships have brought him the gift of fatherhood. He is raising three sons, including his youngest, an autistic child who requires a profound level of devoted care. James’ own struggles have made him a better father. His own suffering has yielded an empathy and compassion that now benefits his children.
James has sought and received help in his effort to confront and transform his legacy. Counseling, and a men’s group at a local rape crisis center have been instrumental. After two decades of actively dealing with the past, James is now looking forward. He recently completed an associate’s degree in criminal justice, and he is looking ahead to work as a victim advocate, a role that will enable him to help other survivors in their struggles with their own legacies.
Originally posted on 1in6.org