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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Isaac Andrade

Growing up gay in an often hostile world can be dangerous. It was for Isaac.

By the age of 13 Isaac was ready to come out, to begin exploring what it meant to be gay. But that kind of exploration often leaves a 13 year old boy very vulnerable. Isaac was soon “dating” a man who was a decade older than him. Only much later did he begin to see the coercion and abuse that was intrinsic to this “relationship.”

But that was not the only trauma he endured at 13. One night he snuck out of his home and went with some friends to a party on a nearby college campus. Late in the evening, and alone upstairs, he was ambushed by someone who physically restrained him and raped him.

Isaac swore himself to secrecy. But burying a rape is not possible. So Isaac found help in alcohol. “I thought that was the best way to cope with it, because I couldn’t tell anyone. I had made that decision.” For a while, Isaac coped. Gradually, depression seeped in, and Isaac began a long sequence of treatments. But the secret remained.

It was a violent fight with his step-father that finally released the secret. Man-handled into helplessness while being verbally abused, the rape came flooding back. Isaac became suicidal.

Isaac’s journey back from that precipice has been helped by many people, including a nurse who quietly disclosed her own sexual victimization, and gave him a crucial spark of hope. With the help of others and his own perseverance Isaac has emerged from trauma with a resilient core and a magnetic smile. Now a junior in college, he is pre-med and looking forward to a career in medicine.