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Break the cycle.

My work with an organisation called African Devoted Artists has taken me to Indonesia, the Seychelles, Madagascar and other countries. While my past is full of violence and abuse, my present and future are shared with a woman who means a lot to me, and my son.

This is a far cry from the four years I spent in prison for rape.

I come from a poor family of 10 children. My father was a policeman and my mother did domestic work. He was a heavy drinker who was very violent and abusive to all of us, but especially to my mother. My childhood was not happy and the abuse that I saw all the time affected me badly--it hurt a lot and made me very insecure. I also thought that violence was normal.

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When I was younger if a guy did not beat his girlfriend or other women, his friends would humiliate him and call him shameful names. I didn't want that to happen to me. I would also beat women and sexually abuse them and not think anything was wrong with it.

I thank God that I have changed.

But back then, I carried on behaving like my father did until I was arrested for rape--what we call "jack rolling" in the townships. I was sentenced for five years in prison.

My life began to change in prison when I underwent counselling and became aware of the damage I was doing to women and myself. I was filled with remorse. I joined the choir and friends would visit me and encourage me to become a better person. I gradually became an example to other prisoners because I openly admitted that what I had done was wrong and was trying to change my life.

When I was released by the 1994 general amnesty in South Africa, I took my friends advice and joined African Devoted Artist. I had worked with the organisation when I was in prison and their encouragement really helped me to begin changing my life.

I met my current girlfriend when I was released from prison and we had a baby together. I knew I had to be a good father to my son, so that he would not take the same path that I did.

I worked at African Devoted Artist for two years and we opened an advice office called the Diepkloof Multipurpose Centre. The organisation offered mostly legal advice, but had other departments including education, arts and culture.

Today, I am still on the path of change. Every day I make a conscious decision to be a better man. I want to tell men that they should not be abusive towards women and children. Your abuse teaches him or her that it's ok to go out and abuse others. It happened to me. Now, I'm breaking the cycle.

Source: The "I" Stories--Speaking out on gender violence in Southern Africa, Genderlinks, South Africa
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Title Annotation:a personal opinion of rapist who later joined African Devoted Artists
Author:Mphoreng, Phaki
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:491
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