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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Jim Austin

As a child, Jim was very close to his grandmother. They talked every day. “She was my best friend.” When Jim had just turned twelve, his grandmother became ill and then died. His grandmother’s death created a vacuum. Jim longed for the presence of an older adult in his life, someone he could talk to.

A predator sensed his need. Jim had a newspaper route in Toronto. The last customer on his route was an older man who sensed Jim’s grief and his need. He began grooming Jim, and then ingratiated himself into Jim’s family, and then sexually abused Jim for three years.

Like most survivors, Jim internalized the abuse. He blamed himself. He took the burden of shame and carried it on his shoulders, and suffered the resulting impact on his feelings of self-worth. He carried a bone-deep feeling of inadequacy.

Jim’s recovery began in 2008 when he attended a conference on male sexual victimization. He was there because, as a social worker in a maximum security prison, he was finding that more and more inmates were disclosing to him their histories of childhood sexual abuse. Jim listened to a speaker describe his personal history of abuse and was overwhelmed. The memories and the flashbacks began to pour in. Finally, a few months later at a remote fishing camp with three close friends, Jim broke down and disclosed his own history. His friends listened, and they supported him, and then made him promise to get help.

And Jim did. With the unwavering support of his wife and two sons, he has relentlessly pursued both his own healing and making connections with fellow survivors and working on behalf of survivors, including men locked up in prison.