When I was 14-years-old living with my mother and step father I was abused by my step father. He beat me up for no reason, all the time. I always watched him beat up my mother also so growing up I thought it was the normal thing to do. It was a way of showing that you are a “real” man so that women succumb to whatever you say.
The abuse continued for a long time. I went to bed every day with hatred for my stepfather. He even abused me economically. I sometimes used to go to school without a lunch box or money to buy something to eat at break time.
My step father’s biological children would be given new clothes and both he and my mother never considered me on many things. I was the black sheep.
I went to live with my grandfather. Again he abused me even when I had not done anything wrong. He would beat me or hammer my head.
Because of the abuse I developed aggressiveness. I lived a life without hope and felt that I had no choices. This had a negative impact on my life and caused me to become a perpetrator of violence. I felt that I needed to let others feel the pain that I went through growing up.
I felt hatred as a child, I also had no chance to express my feelings, and I never knew how to behave like a child. Instead I lived a life full of confusion, frustration and depression from an early age.
Eventually I was cast out of my grandfather’s house and went to the house of my father. While at that house my father’s younger brother treated me very bad. He also beat me for no reason.
It was such a vicious cycle of violence as I was taken from one relative to the next. Most family members and relatives I lived with abused me emotionally, financially and physically. I became more rebellious and grew up to be a stubborn boy. I did not consider the importance of respect for others.
Sometimes because I was a naughty boy I would be accused even for things I did not do because of the times I was caught. After that I was blamed for everything and older men would beat me up and leave me for dead.
I did not only experience the abuse at home. I became a target for older boys who always bullied the young boys at school, sports events and other social gatherings.
I left my father’s house due to the horrible treatment I got from them and decided to go back to my grandfather’s house where the abuse became worse. I thought that life would change but the abusive cycle continued.
I then decided to join the street gangs because I needed a sense of belonging. The life I lived with my peers led me to be a drug addict, criminal and an irresponsible boy who lived a reckless life.
I became involved in criminal activities which caused me pain and sorrow because I was arrested for various crimes. As a result I have learned life lessons in the hard way. I have been arrested eight times and sentenced three times. This includes for house-breaking, theft, house robberies, car theft, armed robbery and car-jacking.
During my imprisonment, I was also abused by other inmates who bullied the new inmates who knew nothing about jail or prison. The thing is abuse in prison seems very normal because of the environment. Even if you were a victim of abuse, you also turn into a perpetrator.
I joined gangsters due to the bitterness I held because of the endless abuse I had experienced. In the process I hurt other innocent souls and was full of hatred due to the fact that I was abused from an early age. Prison experiences also had a negative impact.
However while in there, I tried to rebuild my life going back to education where I have done short courses. I quit smoking, drugs and also believe in God the creator of heaven and earth. I did lot of positive things in prison, I taught and motivated many inmates inside to stop all the negative things.
I developed a vision to help young people to stop all the negativity and after my release I met a few men who came from prison and were passionate to do what was I had in mind.
We then formed the organisation called Mo Afrika Itlhokomele that helps young people to stop criminal activities and abusing drugs and encourages them to take part HIV and AIDS prevention programmes.
Today I am encouraging young and old people to stop abusing women and children. For I now realise that abuse is very bad and wrong to human existence.
I inspire people to live a good life so that they have a bright future. Abuse is a form of poison; it can separate children from their parents.
This problem requires a lot of hard work so that a solution can be found. If left unattended abuse is killing young minds. So I have decided to actually be a real man by doing what is good to women of all ages and to take care of children.
This article is part of a special series on the 16 Days of Activism for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news. For more information on the 16 Days Campaign go to www.genderlinks.org.za