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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Jeff Kline

Jeff was growing up a confident child in a small, Massachusetts college town. He and his friends roamed freely. Then, when he was eight years old, a teenager found him alone. Pressured and coaxed to follow the teenager, Jeff found himself in a vacant cemetery where the teenager cornered him in a fenced-in family plot and sexually abused him.

Like so many survivors, Jeff was silenced by it. The abuse he suffered remained a secret for over forty years. He never believed that it had any impact on him, but he saw himself reacting to life’s challenges with a level of despair that seemed out of synch. In college, Jeff studied, swam and ran his way out of his despair. Graduate school followed, and Jeff emerged with a doctorate in economics focused on forestry and the environment.

Finally, in his 50’s, Jeff disclosed the abuse for the first time. He began working with a trauma therapist on what had happened to him decades earlier in the cemetery. After one session, he went to his office and Googled “male sexual abuse” and found the Bristlecone page. “I just looked at those faces and I spent the rest of my day crying in my office. I could see in those people, myself.”

Jeff has continued his work, and now sees with greater clarity the timeline of his life, the connection between events, the links between who he is and what he experienced as a child. One day he walked out of his therapist’s office feeling a newfound self-awareness. He recalls, “It’s as if someone took a lid off my life and I could finally see the blue sky and brilliant sun again.”