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

Matt Ashton

What would drive a middle-class young man to spend eleven years in a violent, drug-infested motorcycle gang?

That journey began when Matt was eight years old. He went to the neighbors, where he was to spend some time playing with an older neighbor boy. Instead, he was threatened with a gun and sexually assaulted. The assaults were repeated regularly for four years until his parents moved the family away.

In his teens, Matt’s parents separated and his mother moved away from New Zealand. By sixteen, Matt was on his own. By seventeen, he had joined the army. One night, in the barracks, a drunken corporal tried to assault him. Matt fought him off, but was left feeling like the abuse he suffered as a child was following him into adulthood.

So, at age nineteen, Matt joined the violent motorcycle gang, where he was surrounded by men who had his back, men whose violence would protect him from the predation that had haunted him. “It gave me a place to spend the night and feel semi-safe.” But there was a cost. His life was surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and near-constant violence. Stabbings, beatings, even murder.

Then, at age 31, Matt’s mother and sister asked him to go to church with them. With their prompting, and the minister’s, Matt committed himself to a new path in life. Soon Matt found himself in a radically different and unexpected role – as a father. He raised “three beautiful girls” – a step-daughter, a niece, and his own daughter. Raising these girls, he says, has been the happiest part of his life.

But the turnaround in Matt’s life – abandoning drugs and alcohol – meant he had to face the tormenting memories that those substances had suppressed. That is a journey that continues.