Louis Cole's story

Louis grew up in a ‘functional’ family in regional South Australia. When he was about nine, his parents divorced, but his mother re-married the following year. Louis was a ‘Grade A’ primary school student who was heavily involved with sports. He was dux of Grade 6.

Louis’s high school grades were also good, and he played sports at a senior level. However, in his early teens, Louis began smoking cannabis occasionally, but over the next two years, he began smoking it three or four times a week. In his mid-teens, Louis experienced a bipolar episode and was sent to a psychiatric unit. This was in the mid-1980s.

During his five weeks in the psychiatric unit, Louis was ‘heavily sedated’ because of his bursts of anger. During this time, he met David Ballard, an older man and fellow patient. Twice, while Louis was sedated, Ballard fellated him. Ballard then forced Louis to call his mother and tell her that the reason he was in hospital was because he could not ejaculate.

When Louis reported the sexual abuse to his psychiatrist, he was told that it ‘couldn’t have happened’ and that he was ‘delusional’. Louis still has trouble disclosing details of the abuse because he fears no one will believe him.

‘The hardest thing is that no one took me seriously.’

When Louis left hospital and returned to school, he found his school work challenging, and his sporting performance declined. After his girlfriend cheated on him and broke off their relationship, Louis attempted suicide by overdosing on his stepfather’s medication.

Louis was then transferred to another high school near his home. He enjoyed school, but his ongoing use of cannabis, and the effects of his prescribed medication, made it difficult for him to apply himself to his studies. He left school in the late 1980s.

Throughout his adult life, Louis felt that it was ‘easier’ to abuse drugs than to talk about his experience of sexual abuse. For a number of years he lived on the streets and travelled across the state, and had episodes of manic behaviour.

In the late 1990s, when Louis was in his late 20s, he decided to change and help himself. He checked into a rehabilitation centre in Queensland where he became able to see the patterns of his illness and behaviour. Learning to identify the difference between depression and manic episodes helped him enormously. After three years in the rehabilitation centre, Louis signed out and moved to central Queensland.

Louis still suffers from bipolar disorder. He ‘hasn’t had much of the depression these days’, and is supported by a dual-diagnosis therapist who has helped him through his drug and alcohol issues. More than 30 years after his first disclosure, Louis disclosed the abuse to his therapist.

Louis can admit himself to hospital when he needs this support, and has arrangements in place to prevent him from discharging himself before he is well. The last time he was subjected to a coercive care order was in the early 2000s.

Louis married and had children, and his family relationships have been a significant factor in his resilience. The support he has received from his wife has been ‘overwhelming’.

He has also developed a significant relationship with God, and changed his ‘attitude’ about his diagnoses. Louis currently provides support services for mental health patients which he finds to be ‘inspiring’.

After contacting the Royal Commission, Louis reported Ballard to the police. He had the confidence to do so because he knows that people now believe his story. He intends to follow up on a police request to provide a statement.

Louis believes that child safety procedures should be implemented in all psychiatric hospitals, that patients should be accommodated with patients of the same age, and that nurses should have a ‘direct line of sight’ to children.

He would also like to see all reports of child sex abuse taken seriously, all children who report abuse questioned in a stable environment, and more counselling available under the Mental Health Care Plan.

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