The Bristlecone Project: Men talk about sexual abuse as a child and how they're coping.

Bill Martin spent the first four years of his life in foster homes. He was adopted and then was sexually abused by multiple offenders.


All images from The Bristlecone Project, used with permission.

Like most victims of sexual abuse, he struggled with an inner voice that told him he was broken and damaged and would say, “Did you ask for any of this?” To which, he’d respond, “No, I didn’t ask for any of this. How can you?! SEVEN years old!”

He now finds solace in the ocean and in playing the piano.

Bill is part of a group called The Bristlecone Project that aims to tell the stories of men who survived sexual abuse as children and have come to a place where they can talk about it and help others heal.

The statistics are staggering — yes, staggering. I can use no better word to describe it.

According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before age 18. (And 1 in 4 girls, though this project is specifically about males.)

That's 21 million men who walk around with the shame and guilt of having been sexually abused as a child.

It’s sometimes harder for men to process their own abuse, especially when young, because it kind of touches on the concepts of maleness and masculinity that our society has foisted upon us. “If I were a real man, I would have fought them off!” is a frequent refrain that men who’ve been through it have been known to think.

The Bristlecone Project aims to let men who have been through childhood sexual abuse tell their stories on their own terms.

There’s already a sizable collection of photos and personal stories on the website, but the bigger goal is to create a series of short videos where these men express themselves, what they've lived through, and how they survive.

Powerful? Damned right.

Mark Godoy Jr. was abused at age 8 by an older cousin. He told his parents despite the abuser's threats, and fortunately, it ended.

He still retains some anger and self-blame from those days, however, and has channeled some of that into his art. He also speaks to high schools about his experiences, which helps him heal and provides an opportunity for those kids to begin healing.

Mark's story is exceptional. Many people don't come to terms with their abuse, which is why this project is so important.

Check out the Kickstarter for The Bristlecone Project.

The makers are seeking $50,000 to produce the videos and get them housed somewhere on the web where they can be accessible to everyone.

More in the clip below:

Finally, just know that this is hard stuff for anyone to process. If the stories or images above leave you feeling the need to talk to someone, go to 1in6.org, which is the organization making the videos, and you can get 24/7 online support.

And, as always, if you're feeling desperate or like you might be likely to harm yourself, there's also the suicide hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

Family

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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