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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Jason Waszczak

On February 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm Jason was working with a crew on a retaining wall in Sumner, New Zealand when the earthquake struck. The cliff collapsed, and Jason was seriously injured. His friend, Ian Caldwell, was killed. The last words Jason heard from him: “Run, Jase, Run!” Every year, on the quake’s anniversary, Jason visits Ian’s gravesite.

Jason was traumatized, but it was not his first brush with trauma. Two years earlier he had been stabbed and nearly killed in a unprovoked assault. And as a young child Jason was sexually abused on numerous occasions by a friend of his mother’s, and in health camps spanning over two years. These multiple layers of trauma sent him into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse and of wrecked relationships. He carried deep layers of pain from his childhood. He was afraid to be around males. He seemed to sabotage himself whenever things started going well. He was plagued by nightmares. Like most men, he had been taught to “bottle up” his pain. Hard pain led to hard drinking, which led to nine drunk driving charges.

In the wake of the earthquake Jason began walking the long road toward healing. He found help at Christchurch’s Men’s Center. He found help in counseling. He found help at the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust. He gave up drugs and alcohol.

Jason began the coursework he needed to become an electrician. He worked two jobs to support himself and his son. He earned back his driver’s license. He now works fulltime as an electrician, and he has restored hope in his life. “I’m a simple person. I don’t need a lot of money. I want time, time with my son.”

Come February, when he visits Ian at the cemetery, he can tell him about the progress he’s made in rebuilding his life, and the role he intends to play in the rebuilding of Christchurch.