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

Mark Dekkers

At the age of 47 Mark sat down to write a farewell letter to his 19 year old son, to explain to him the act of suicide that he was about to commit. But as he recounted his painful past Mark found himself also recounting the moments of beauty that had graced his life. And so the suicide letter turned into an unburdening of Mark’s soul. He recounted the sexual abuse he had suffered at the age of 13 at the hands of a fraudulent karate teacher, abuse that had derailed Mark’s life and sent him careening toward years of drinking, of drug abuse, of damaged relationships.

When Mark sat down with his son and gave him the letter, his life changed. He and his son cried together, and then his son coaxed Mark into disclosing not only to him, but to the world. It was an act of profound unburdening. The letter was posted to Facebook and circulated around the world, and responses of gratitude and encouragement poured in. Mark learned that the decades of painful isolation, of carrying shame and guilt that was never his, were never necessary. In one brave act, he set them aside. And so began the hard work of healing.

Sadly, the healing might have begun much earlier. At age 26 Mark had come much closer to suicide, had hung himself and been saved from death by his father. That episode resulted in hospitalization. He told the psychologists and psychiatrists about the abuse, but they brushed it off and discounted it, and prescribed pills, “to a drug addict!”

Not so this time. Mark has forged a very positive relationship with his therapist and aims to start a survivor peer support group. He is grateful to experience relationships without the burdens of shame and secrecy that saddled him in the past.