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Marcus David's story

By age 10, Marcus was so overwhelmed by his undiagnosed bipolar disorder that he began thinking about suicide.

‘I didn’t know what was wrong with me, why I was feeling like this, but I kept on saying to myself: “If you give me the rest of the year to be okay, next year you can take me away from this world, you can take me away from this life”.’

Four years later Marcus was still alive. It was the mid-1990s and he was living with his mother in Queensland, still having suicidal thoughts and still grappling with his illness every day.

‘My behaviour became more and more erratic and strange and harder to control … Family just thought I was a sook or a drama queen and all that. So those things didn’t help.’

Marcus’s only support came from his two friends, James and Andrew. Through James, Marcus met a teacher named Neil Lennox. Lennox was compassionate and interested and he listened to Marcus. Marcus came to see him as a ‘father figure’. He didn’t realise that Lennox had groomed James for sexual abuse and was in the process of doing the same to him.

‘Slowly but surely I was groomed and courted like he was. Then I was fed drugs and alcohol, then the abuse began, sometimes with James or all three of us in the room. Sometimes he’d just want me and James to do things and he’d fill us up with more drugs and alcohol when we were wanting to stop and things like that. It just kept on going.’

Neil would make threats, saying ‘you kids don’t say anything; you know what will happen if you do’. Marcus wouldn’t have said anything anyway. He needed the alcohol and drugs that Neil provided. They were the only things that calmed his bipolar symptoms and helped him function each day. ‘He was our access to drugs and alcohol and there was a price we paid for that.’

The abuse continued until Marcus moved away at 17. From then on he had to manage post-traumatic stress disorder on top of his bipolar. ‘Education, relationships and financially’ have been the ‘big three’ impacts on his life. If not for the abuse, he said, ‘I would be independent, have proper care, be able to afford therapy instead of just the 12 sessions they give [under Medicare], which – someone like me I need 50 sessions a year minimum’.

The first time Marcus ever talked about the abuse was to a girlfriend when he was in his late teens. She was dismissive. The relationship ended soon after that. Marcus got a similarly dismissive response when he tried to explain the situation to his parents. Even after Lennox was convicted of sex offences against another boy and sent to jail, they refused to accept the truth.

‘They were told that Neil was abusing kids and they just went “Not my son. Not my child”. And every time I tried to bring it up to talk about it, it was just shut down.’

On reflection, Marcus believes that his parents’ behaviour pushed him towards the abuse and made it harder for him to get out of it. Looking forward, he’d like to see parents better educated about mental illness and sexual abuse.

‘And parents need to be held accountable, because what happened with me, how they acted and responded with me and treated me, it was child psychological abuse. It didn’t help me at all. It made things worse. I think parents need a lot of help with this. They need their own therapy and they need separate counselling to help their kids.’

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