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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Ken Clearwater

Targeted, groomed and sexually abused by a neighborhood pedophile when he was 12 years old, Ken was saved by his mother, who saw the changes in her son and called in the Christchurch, New Zealand police. Pulled from the pedophile’s clutches, Ken was nevertheless left on his own to deal with the aftermath. He was filled with rage, and he rebelled against and fought anyone with authority. By the age of 14 he had been expelled from school for assaulting a teacher. By the age of 16 he was apprenticed to a butcher. But he could not tolerate supervision, and so moved from job to job.

In 1991 he found himself in a homicidal rage over a dispute over a pool game, and he realized he needed help. So began Ken’s odyssey of searching for help from the mental health establishment. In his first attempt he was told that his problems with rage had nothing to do with the sexual abuse he suffered. In his second attempt he was told there was nothing to be done for him. Finally, Ken saw an ad in a local newspaper about a support group for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. On his third try he was able to walk through the door and join the other men, but having crossed that threshold, he never looked back. Decades later now, Ken Clearwater serves as Manager of Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust in Christchurch, and he is a national spokesperson for male survivors in New Zealand.