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).

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Canva

Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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