Imagine being raped at a young age, abused by your mother, and spending years in prison? That is not an easy life, but it happened to Alexander Joostenberg. How did he survive? Find out, this is his story…
“I grew up in a house of twelve people, with no fatherly guidance. My uncle was on drugs. He would be aggressive in the house and demanding. I was still a boy when I witnessed him smoking Mandrax in the house. He would ask my granny for money and if she didn’t have he would force her to borrow. I encountered fear and violence growing up in the house, because of his behaviour.
“No one guided me or showed me what was wrong. My eldest brother dropped out of school and started doing drugs. By 11 years old I dropped out too. In school I was a fighter, I was a bully, I was bullied. I lied to my mother. Saying I went to school but I never did. Eventually the school wrote letters.”
He was physically abused by his mother at a young age. “She had a lot of brokenness,” he says. He continues to say that he understands his mother struggled with bitterness because of her past.
This was not all. At the age of 7 young Alexander was raped in his own community.
“I was raped by a man in my community. Through that my whole behaviour changed. No one knew what happened because I never opened up to them until 35 when I opened up to my mother.
“By age 13 I was deep into Mandrax and gangs. I was doing all sorts of substances, anything that could give me a kick. By the age of 14 I had 43 cases against me.”
Because Alexander was a minor, he could not go to prison, and the judge sentenced him five years in the school for boys.
“My attitude never changed. I never stopped doing drugs. I was addicted. I became more involved with my gangster friends.”
Alexander committed crime after crime. It was then that prison destroyed him even further, as he explains: “Prison became a deeper level of chaos. I became a 28. In prison I was manipulated with fear. I eventually became a teacher of 28. For 9 years.”
His life changed in 2006 when an NGO called Restoreth of Justice held a programme for the prisoners.
“They taught me how to make the right decisions, the difference between responsibility and accountability. They showed me the healing power of God. That’s when they asked who would like to turn away from their old life… I stood up.”
Standing up in a room full of prisoners was a bold step to make, especially since Alexander was well known in the prison. He is still amazed that he could turn his life around, as he says, “The only way out of a gang is to be killed.”
Alexander’s brother had already turned his life around and prayed for him while he was still in prison. They wrote letters to each other.
“My brother would never give up on me. He continued to pray for me every day. The same time he was praying for me, God sent Jonathan Clayton and his outreach to reach out to me. When I was released, they worked with me since 2006 until today.”
Where is he now, after prison? Alexander is reaching out to the youth.
“I worked for 8 years as a field worker at an NGO that deals with alcohol and drugs. I did power points in schools, prisons, creating power points. I was off again with Jonathan. I’m a leader, running these programmes all over Cape Town, going into centres working with drug addicts and doing holiday programmes.”
He was sponsored to spend some time in Sweden as well, where he shared his story. Today he has been married for nearly 6 years and raises daughters. “It’s not easy raising girls, but I know I’m being a good father,” he comments.
Alexander’s efforts are not in vain. He says how many youths have turned their lives around just by his outreaches.
“Youngsters have called us to say that they’re now studying; we have one person who is now a lawyer who almost went down the wrong road because of bad friends. It’s these stories that I know we’re making a difference.”
Alexander emphasises how important it is to talk to somebody if you’ve been abused.
“Trust someone, open up and talk. If you’re not gonna talk you will never be free. Go for counselling and support groups. And most importantly get to a point of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to set you free.”
If you are being physically or sexually abused (or know someone who’s) don’t be silent, reach out! Abuse helpline: 0800 055 555
Tell us: What did you learn from Alexander’s story?