4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

#MeToo, from here to Africa

“So many girls out there are being molested by their own fathers, by their own cousins... It’s out of control.”

Bénie (center) and her four kids, in west African styles
Bénie (center) and her four kids, in west African styles

“I was sexually abused as a child,” says Benie Kouyate. By making that simple statement, she has broken a thousand taboos. If publicly admitting such abuse is difficult here, it is impossible in Africa, she says.

Benie lives here, but she is from Conakry, the capital of Guinea, on the west coast of Africa. I saw this handsome woman in a white dress the other night at the Westin Carlsbad. She was receiving a humanitarian award for her work fighting against the sexual abuse of women and children in places like Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Burkina Faso. I sat at one of those round conference tables after she had given her acceptance speech. 

“What happened to me as a child,” she said, “nobody ever thought of me being a victim. When it came out that this person had a sexual encounter with me, it was viewed as something that was consensual. And this was when I was 13, 14. Nobody cared to even ask me what happened. Not even my dad did. So I had to continue growing up with that pain in my heart, with that anger. And I am not alone. I know there are so many little kids, so many babies, so many girls out there who are being molested by their own fathers, by their own cousins, by their own stepbrothers. It’s out of control.

“The worst part is, you are bringing shame to the family by speaking out, because you are a woman, and you [allowed] penetration. They say, ‘Oh, he’s being a man. He can’t help it.’ It also happened with my kids’ father, my ex-husband, in Michigan. He was very abusive, very insecure. Whenever he felt like I was cheating, he raped me. That’s how he handled things. But I had to keep it bottled up.”

Benie with award and son Benjamin.

Then came 2017, and Harvey Weinstein. “That was really the tipping point for me. All the Hollywood actresses came out with their allegations about Harvey Weinstein sexually abusing them. I was like, ‘Why am I keeping my story to myself? Why can’t I do something about it?’ So I went on social media, on Facebook, and actually talked about the instances when I was abused as a child in Africa.” 

Her actions were shocking to her family, but something good came out of them. “I ended up meeting this guy who couldn’t believe that I really didn’t care about my image. So he said, ‘What are you going to do about this?’ And I said, ‘I want to make a difference. Whenever I get some money, I’ll make a difference with a foundation.’ And he said ‘Well, I’ve got a foundation and I’m going to give it to you right here. If you just stop [putting yourself in danger].’ I said, ‘Okay, okay.’ And that’s how The Benie Foundation started, to give women and children somewhere to go when they are abused. And it’s run from here.” She points to her head.

Does she feel she’s gaining acceptance back home in Guinea? “Well, last time I went to Conakry, the elders welcomed me, people came and sang, they danced for me, they cooked for me, made prayers, a lot of prayers to protect me from those who are against us. These are things they do for people they recognize as leaders. So we are no way there, but we are on our way!”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Borrego Days Desert Festival, Movie In The Cemetery: Hocus Pocus

Events October 23-October 27, 2021
Next Article

Women at the Elephant Bar, Carlos Murphy’s, the Belly Up Tavern helped my career as doctor

Schizophrenia, overeating, death – what lay ahead after UC San Diego med school
Bénie (center) and her four kids, in west African styles
Bénie (center) and her four kids, in west African styles

“I was sexually abused as a child,” says Benie Kouyate. By making that simple statement, she has broken a thousand taboos. If publicly admitting such abuse is difficult here, it is impossible in Africa, she says.

Benie lives here, but she is from Conakry, the capital of Guinea, on the west coast of Africa. I saw this handsome woman in a white dress the other night at the Westin Carlsbad. She was receiving a humanitarian award for her work fighting against the sexual abuse of women and children in places like Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Burkina Faso. I sat at one of those round conference tables after she had given her acceptance speech. 

“What happened to me as a child,” she said, “nobody ever thought of me being a victim. When it came out that this person had a sexual encounter with me, it was viewed as something that was consensual. And this was when I was 13, 14. Nobody cared to even ask me what happened. Not even my dad did. So I had to continue growing up with that pain in my heart, with that anger. And I am not alone. I know there are so many little kids, so many babies, so many girls out there who are being molested by their own fathers, by their own cousins, by their own stepbrothers. It’s out of control.

“The worst part is, you are bringing shame to the family by speaking out, because you are a woman, and you [allowed] penetration. They say, ‘Oh, he’s being a man. He can’t help it.’ It also happened with my kids’ father, my ex-husband, in Michigan. He was very abusive, very insecure. Whenever he felt like I was cheating, he raped me. That’s how he handled things. But I had to keep it bottled up.”

Benie with award and son Benjamin.

Then came 2017, and Harvey Weinstein. “That was really the tipping point for me. All the Hollywood actresses came out with their allegations about Harvey Weinstein sexually abusing them. I was like, ‘Why am I keeping my story to myself? Why can’t I do something about it?’ So I went on social media, on Facebook, and actually talked about the instances when I was abused as a child in Africa.” 

Her actions were shocking to her family, but something good came out of them. “I ended up meeting this guy who couldn’t believe that I really didn’t care about my image. So he said, ‘What are you going to do about this?’ And I said, ‘I want to make a difference. Whenever I get some money, I’ll make a difference with a foundation.’ And he said ‘Well, I’ve got a foundation and I’m going to give it to you right here. If you just stop [putting yourself in danger].’ I said, ‘Okay, okay.’ And that’s how The Benie Foundation started, to give women and children somewhere to go when they are abused. And it’s run from here.” She points to her head.

Does she feel she’s gaining acceptance back home in Guinea? “Well, last time I went to Conakry, the elders welcomed me, people came and sang, they danced for me, they cooked for me, made prayers, a lot of prayers to protect me from those who are against us. These are things they do for people they recognize as leaders. So we are no way there, but we are on our way!”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Gloria’s claims of tackling homelessness seen as cringey

Lou Correa wanted to study China at Kona Kai
Next Article

Here’s what vegans were lining up for in Encinitas

The new game in plant-based meats is pork… and imitation spiced ham
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close