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

Rees Mann

Growing up in a traditional middle-class family in South Africa, Rees received the usual “stranger danger” warnings, but he was not warned about those close to him, who might betray his trust.

At 13, he joined an out of town trip with a soccer team. The coach allowed the boys to buy alcohol and they all got drunk. Rees staggered back, barely conscious and a man (was it the coach?) took Rees to his hotel room and sexually abused him. Rees woke up horrified, vaguely remembering what happened and never spoke about it. But the experience drove him into isolation.

In high school, Rees played rugby. His coach tutored him in Afrikaans language lessons and turned them into grooming sessions and then the fondling began. Like all survivors, Rees was rocked by self-blame: “What am I doing to invite this?”  He avoided the coach, who retaliated by benching him.

After graduating, Rees was conscripted into the South African Air Force. He opposed the government’s Apartheid policies, but that did not exempt him from service. It did put him in danger.

His opinions were known among the pro-apartheid soldiers and Rees paid a terrible price. He was gang-raped by three special forces soldiers. Afterwards, Rees sat in the shower, bleeding, in the loneliest abyss of his life, contemplating suicide.

It was the image of his girlfriend, now his wife, that stayed his hand, and that kept him going. He didn’t use alcohol or drugs to suppress his pain. He used work. He kept busy, became successful, starting businesses, working seven days a week, raising his children.

At 39 he began wondering if his past traumas were affecting his parenting. So, he sought help from a psychologist, who, blessedly, was smart and wonderful.

Committed to healing and to fellow survivors, Rees is the founder of South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse. SAMSOSA provides services for survivors and works to raise awareness about the reality of male sexual victimization.