Overcoming the odds: Surviving a violent past

By Kim Essex - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) – Huntsville resident Mark Rideout was sexually molested and relentlessly beaten by your own mother from the age of four.

He says these events led him to a life of drugs, gangs and violence, but he dug his way out of that life and into the light of a new one.

Rideout is a living testament that it's never too late to make a change and now his life experience is helping others.

He recalls the hell he endured as a young boy. He was taken away from a young mother who by 18-years-old had four children.

He was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in a house with 23 people, including uncles.

At night, he says his mother's brothers would rape and molest him and his brother.

"I lived with that. I didn't tell, I didn't know to tell. It was just a spooky secret I had," remembered Rideout.

Eventually they were placed back with their mother, only to endure even more physical torture.

"That's when the beatings began," he recalled. "I'm talking about extension cords, extensive beatings, flunking out of P.E. because you where ashamed of whelps on your back and legs."

He was taken away again because of the beatings and he ran away from his foster home. He was eventually placed back with his mother where the beatings resumed.

Finally at the age of 14, and after enduring another beating, Rideout decided he had enough. He packed his belongings in a guitar case, left home and never looked back.

Once on the streets, he was taken in by a family of professional thieves and was eventually recruited into the notorious gang, the Crips.

"I believe the Crips gave me everything that a father could. It gave me a home. It gave me a place to stay. It gave me a support system and protection," said Rideout.

This began his violent reign of terror.

"I have done every crime except rape. As a child I was very, very violent," he said.

Rideout says in his career, he committed armed robbery, many burglaries and drive by shootings resulting in death. One violent act involving a rival gang member stands out in his mind.

"We saw this Blood and we beat him bad. And we threw him down a sewer hole. We never heard from him again," he remembered.

After four years with the gang, he was asked by his brother to work security for a traveling tent revival. The preacher was from Huntsville.

Rideout decided that night he wanted out of the violence, out of the gang and out of California.

He relocated to Huntsville, met his wife and began a slow and painful journey, one he still navigates after 22 years of marriage and after raising three children.

"I didn't know it, but I'd been through a tremendous journey. I'm not knowing this until three or four months ago and I am 46," he said. "I am not realizing that this is a journey that is not to be survived."

He is not only a survivor, but also a motivator. Rideout is now committed to helping other young men who may find themselves in a similar situation.

"I'm hoping I can tell them my story and it's not pretty. It's not something they can glory in and want to be like. No one wants to be raped. No one wants to be beat," he said. "It's like I strip myself naked before the class."

He says in order to reach these young men, he has to keep it real.

"I'm in the raw. I don't hold anything back because between the porn, internet and rap music, they are getting it in the raw and if you sugarcoat it in any way, it won't have any effect," he explained.

Rideout admits he is still haunted by his past. He never brought any legal actions against the uncles who he says molested him. He says the Lord will deal with them.

But he remains focused on helping other young men avoid the same pitfalls he could not.

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