David Lisak, Ph.D.
Board President, 1in6.org
As a forensic consultant, clinician, researcher, and survivor of sexual violence myself, I am intimately familiar with the stigma around the issue and the silence that often accompanies it. While the reality is that tens of millions of men in the United States have experienced sexual abuse or assault, I often hear from men who think they were “the only one.” This is part of the reason that I founded The Bristlecone Project, an awareness campaign of 1in6.org that features photos, videos, and written narratives of men who have reclaimed their lives after sexual abuse or assault. By raising awareness about the issue, the campaign serves to break the silence while introducing men and the people who care about them to the possibility of recovery and to a wide range of resources to help them get there, including 1in6’s free and anonymous 24/7 helpline and weekly online support groups.
In the five years since founding The Bristlecone Project, I have received emails from a wide range of individuals, including teenage boys too young to safely participate and grandfathers in their 70’s who never imagined the possibility of disclosure. I’ve received emails from men who live in cultures in which disclosure is both emotionally and physically dangerous. For many men around the world for whom disclosure is simply not yet a viable option, The Bristlecone Project is their community.
The campaign also serves another purpose: it demonstrates the strength that it takes to be vulnerable—a quality antithetical to traditional modes of masculinity. From an early age, boys begin receiving the message that they should never be—or even appear—weak or vulnerable. For men who have experienced sexual abuse or assault, this outdated way of imagining what it means to “be a man” can make healing more difficult; indeed, a man who has had such an experience may feel that his masculinity has been compromised.
In bravely sharing their stories, The Bristlecone Project participants demonstrate that men do not need to hold onto these old ways of thinking. By looking directly into the camera, they boldly declare that they are not ashamed of what they have experienced or who they are. This is not only a powerful experience for each man who has volunteered to share his story, it can also be a transformative one for a man who sees the campaign and can finally understand that he is not alone, and that healing is possible.
I hope you will follow along as The Good Men Project publishes this series, and be sure to take care. Free and anonymous support is available 24/7 at 1in6.org/helpline. To learn more about The Bristlecone Project or to get involved, visit 1in6.org/bristlecone.
Check out the first Bristlecone Project story on The Good Men Project.
Dr. David Lisak is a founding board member of the 1in6 Board of Directors and a retired Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has studied the long term effects of childhood abuse in adult men, and the relationship between early abuse and the later perpetration of violence. His research has been published in leading journals in psychology, trauma, and violence, and he was the founding editor of the journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinity. In addition to his research and teaching, Dr. Lisak has served as a faculty member of the National Judicial Education Program and the American Prosecutors Research Institute and he consults frequently with law enforcement and prosecutors on sexual violence and homicide cases across the country. Dr. Lisak has conducted workshops in all fifty states, and he also consults widely with universities, the U.S. military, and other institutions regarding sexual assault prevention and policies. www.davidlisak.com
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