The stories of healing from these courageous men will inspire a range of emotions.
If you need support, 1in6's free and anonymous online helpline is available 24/7.
Chat now Hide this note

The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Eric Stiles

As Eric describes his violence-filled childhood he uses a metaphor to explain how he survived: the resurrection plant. These are plants, like the Rose of Jericho, that can survive years without water, miraculously coming back to life when a drop of water comes their way. Eric survived on the drops of love he received from his mother and grandmother, before both were taken from him in a catastrophic ten days when he was 13 years old.

He recounts a scene in a car when he was eleven years old. Eric had already suffered years of sexual abuse and bullying, at home at the hands of his older brother, and at school at the hands of countless tormentors. Alone in a car with his mother, Eric innocently asks her, “what’s gay? Some kids call me gay.” His mother responds, “What do you mean?” And his mother, sensing his suffering, tears up and answers: “Some day someone will love you for who you are.” That drop of love still infuses Eric when he recalls it.

Other drops arrived, paradoxically, with pneumonia, an illness that regularly gripped Eric during his childhood and sent him to the hospital for weeks at a time. Weeks when he was safe from his brother’s nightly predations. Weeks when his only visitors were his mother and grandmother, who brought him drops of love.

The deaths of Eric’s mother and grandmother left him bereft, and alone. He survived, and he suffered, for many years believing the message transmitted by his abusers and tormentors: that he was fundamentally less than. For years, the drops of love were very few, and very far between.

But unlike rain, drops of love can be generated from within. Somehow, Eric has found a source within. Drawing on that source, he took himself to college, earning a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree, creating a framework in his life that has enabled him to transform his suffering. For many years now, Eric has worked in the field of sexual violence, as an advocate, and as a specialist in providing services to male survivors of sexual violence.