The stories of healing from these courageous men will inspire a range of emotions.
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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Geoff Cavell

For more than three decades, Geoff ran hell-bent back and forth across rugby fields. The running, the collisions, were actually a solace to him, a form of escape. There was another type of running in his life, a running away from a dark secret that plagued his life from the age of seven, when his father sexually abused him. He ran because, like so many survivors of childhood abuse, he carried the shame that was never his to carry. He carried his father’s shame, and it was a burden that weighed down his life.

The burden permeated his life. He kept to the periphery of his friends, for fear that he would get too close to someone and have his secret exposed. He had girlfriends, but intimacy was a threat. How do you trust someone close to you when your own father betrayed you?

Geoff was also driven. Driven to succeed, and driven to “fix” things that were broken. He became a police officer, a fixer of problems on the street. Later, he became a successful businessman, building a restaurant business strong enough to survive the Christchurch earthquakes and to continue growing.

But when you are running from something that is actually inside of you, it’s hard to get far enough away. Twice Geoff came perilously close to suicide. Once in the wake of his father’s death, and again when his marriage broke down. Fortunately, Geoff has found allies. For 22 years he has worked with a counselor he first met as a police officer. And more recently, he has found allies at the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust. With the help of those allies, and his own determination, Geoff has taken a symbolic, and yet powerfully concrete step. He filed a “historical complaint” with the police, detailing the crime that his father committed against him four decades earlier. A part of that burden was left at the police station.