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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Bret Holton

For many years Bret was haunted by nightmares, weighted by depressions, perplexed by huge gaps in his memory of his childhood. Bret had escaped his family and volunteered and served in Desert Storm, but he could not fathom the unseen “blueprint” that was shaping his life. Then, when Bret was 39, his older brother died suddenly of a stroke. Visiting the family farmhouse for the first time in years, Bret discovered in his brother’s room a “sex offender’s haven.” Suddenly, the past slipped into focus, and the years of sexual abuse emerged from the shrouded past.

For the first time, Bret sought help for his depressions, but received no help for the trauma that was feeding them. It was Bret who finally insisted that he needed help dealing with the sexual abuse, and with perseverance he found a therapist, and a group, who could help him. With their support, Bret confronted the traumas, and for the first time felt like “a survivor.” But more recently, he has found that he is “no longer comfortable being a survivor in silence.” Disclosing to his friends, and to an ever-widening network, and ultimately publicly, Bret realized that “the weight’s been lifted.” Working as a correctional seargent at a treatment center for sex offenders, Bret encounters men, daily, who remind him of his brother. But rather than hate them, he seeks to understand what drives them, and through that process, he has come to understand the brutalization that drove his brother, and to forgive him.