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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Alan Nixon

Buried in Alan’s social welfare file is a newspaper clipping documenting how the police had picked up Alan for vandalizing two police cars. They found him wandering alone along the railroad tracks, carrying a bottle of beer under each arm, intoxicated.

Alan was four years old. It is an understatement to say that Alan was not being well cared for.

Alan was removed from his mother’s custody and placed in foster care where he experienced yet more mistreatment and neglect. He was an chronic run away, so he was sent to a children’s home. Since he was too young to go to a boy’s home, he was sent to a girl’s home. Where he was sexually abused by one of the girls.

Eventually, Alan was sent to the St. John of God school. During his six years there, he was repeatedly sexually abused by two priests.

Alan’s adolescence and young adulthood was spent in and out of institutions, including stints in prison for burglary. His favorite target: churches. One of the lawyers who represented him was curious why he was always breaking into churches and asked him directly: “Were you abused at St. John of God?” Alan became one of several survivors who testified against Bernard McGrath, resulting in the ex-priest’s conviction and imprisonment.

In the wake of the criminal case, Alan began receiving some of the care he so badly needed. He was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as the lifelong legacy of being abandoned by his mother and functionally, by the state.

Today, Alan has a community in the fellow survivors with whom he meets at Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust in Christchurch. And with that community and those relationships has come a sense of belonging, and dignity.