He is the author of the book I Conquered My Desert where he shares some of his life experiences as a rape survivor.
He is also the founder of the organisation Open The Can of Worms which helps men confront their hidden shame.
Benji Mtloung (40) recently spoke about the shame he felt as a rape survivor at the Beautiful Scars event hosted by Rethathile Lechela.
According to WHO, South African men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Benji was once one of these men who did not want to live anymore due to the pain he endured as a teenager.
“I was born in Soweto and grew up in the Free State. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. When my parents struggled to take care of me and my siblings, I went to live with my aunt who was very abusive. I was exposed to sex and forced to watch people doing the deed in the house,” he says.
“We lived in a very small house with two rooms and there was no privacy. I would see women walk around the house naked or see adults having sex. My aunt and her boyfriend would often fight, there was no privacy and just violence and alcohol. I was young at the time and knew nothing about a woman’s body.”
At school, he was bullied because he came from a poor home.
“I was bullied in primary and high school for being the poorest and smartest child,” he says. After a few years, he and his siblings moved back home with his parents who were stable enough to take care of him and his six siblings.
Problems started again when his parents passed away. His mom fell ill and died, and his father struggled to raise the kids.“When my mom died, our father changed women like socks,” he says.
“He was no longer providing for us and being the only boy, I had to be my own parent and take care of myself.”
Not long after that, his father passed away along with his six other siblings. He was a teenager when his dad died.
“After my dad passed away, there were nine of us and my six siblings passed away within a decade. Everyone just kept dying, contributed to my internal anger.” Benji was then taken in by a neighbour, who he would often visit.
“The lady and her husband helped me out with food and clothes, and they took me as one of their own,” he says.
Until one day when he was raped.
“I remember it well. It all started in January; I was coming from town carrying groceries. I knocked at the door, and as I was about to enter the house, she told me to look through the bathroom window and I saw that she was completely naked applying lotion. I was shocked, I dropped the plastic bags and ran home,” he says.
“She tried calling me the whole week, I remember she had bought me a 3310 cell phone and she kept calling me to apologise, but I was afraid. But after a few days, she came to our house to apologise.
“She said she is sorry. She didn’t mean to scare me and that I should trust her because she is like a mother to me. I felt her remorse. I could see how sorry she was. She hugged me and as we let go, she kissed me. Not like a mother to a child but a boyfriend kiss. When I tried to break away, she was on my neck,” Benji adds.
Afraid and helpless, he says he was forced into an erection.
“A lot of men asked me how can a man claim to be raped. But I was forced into an erection. My flesh acted against my will. I ended up entertaining a woman as old as my mom,” he says.
“She was preparing me to be her sex slave. When she left, I closed the door, I felt dirty. I could not sleep, the flashbacks. The next day, she came to fetch me to her place. She said, I am not a boy anymore, I am a man now. She said, I am more of a man than her husband and she promised to take care of me,” he says.
“The first few times were horrible but she continued every day. She would sometimes dress up in lingerie. We did it every day, sometimes more than once. I didn’t feel like a victim anymore. She raped me every day until I thought it was normal. I started to feel like a man and that my friends were immature.”
They spent more time together almost like a couple.
“She could get rid of girls who were interested in me. She would say, leave my child alone, he is focusing on school. Her husband loved me more, he would take me on outings. I wanted to tell him but I thought he would kill me. I felt I did something wrong. There were times I wanted to report the matter to the police but who would believe me? Then it was hard for police to believe women, as a man, I would be shamed,” he says.
Benji lived with the secret for many years. This affected Benji’s education and when he got older, his relationships.
“My relationships did not last,” he says.
When he eventually got married, his marriage turned abusive.
“My ex-wife and I went for counseling, but I know our marriage was affected badly by my childhood traumas,” he says.
But knowing what he knows now, he wants to help men who feel they do not have a voice.
“I have since learned that the lady who raped me is still alive and me having accepted Christ, I wish to meet her and let her accept Christ as a saviour so she would be forgiven. I am on a quest to confront her for closure,” he says.
“I am not just a man now, but I am a man of God, a counselor, minister, and I talk to people about these issues. I don’t want her arrested, but I pray she changes her life.”
Benji says children need to be protected from an early age.
“I often speak to inmates charged with sexual assault many grew up seeing women walk around naked and they believe they have access to women as their property. Many do not know any better and most have been victims of sexual assault. But we don’t realise you are grooming a future rapist. We need to teach a young boy and girl to respect a woman’s body.”
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