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Mark David's story

‘Have you ever heard the Cinderella story? Well, I was the Cinderella. I had to make all the beds, I had to do the dishes, I had to wash the clothes.

'I had to do all this and at the same time I was being sexually abused by my stepfather … And I never went to school. I never got the freedom to know what it was like to be out and free, so this is how my life begun.’

Mark’s parents separated in the early 1960s when he was very young. He thinks whatever happened between his mother and father, his mother took it out on him because he shared his father’s name. She treated him cruelly, sometimes locking him in a wardrobe, or making him stand in a corner all night with his hands in the air.

His stepfather was an alcoholic and was physically violent towards Mark, who said he knows for a fact that his mother was aware of the sexual abuse too.

When he was about 15, Mark stole a motor vehicle and ended up being made a ward of the state.

He told the Commissioner: ‘I didn’t even get a chance, I didn’t even get a look-in … My first bit of trouble I ever got in, and I went ward of the state straight away. I hadn’t been in a home before that.’

Mark was sent to a series of juvenile justice institutions, and said he was abused by male staff members and other boys at each of those homes. The stress caused him significant problems with bedwetting, and grinding his teeth, both of which continued into adulthood. He didn’t report the abuse because he was too embarrassed and ashamed.

‘I put a lot of blame on my stepfather. I put a lot of blame on the others too, but mainly on him because he’s the one who originally started it … I thought, "This was part of life. This is it, this is right".’

He said he understood only much later that what happened to him was a crime. In the meantime Mark turned to drugs and alcohol to block out the pain and the memories. The abuse made him angry, bitter and frustrated. He has spent many years in and out of jail, and is currently serving a long sentence.

In the late 2000s, after being charged with an offence, Mark was assessed by a clinical psychologist who diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. This was when he finally began to understand the impact the abuse had on his life.

‘It took me 44 years to come out with it … all them years of having girlfriends, or mothers of my children, where I was bedwetting or I was acting in rage and being violent towards them … I can’t get that opportunity now to tell them why this all happened because I never knew.

'And it wasn’t until I got locked up nearly 10 years ago that I come out and said, “Look, I’ve had enough of this”. It’s like the abusers know we were going to keep it hidden. That we’re not going to say anything and I just thought one day, “No, I’ve had enough”.’

Mark started to educate himself while in prison and went from not being able to read or write to obtaining qualifications in business and Christian ministry.

‘What I felt this time is what have I got left? I’ve got nothing left. So I was forced into a corner where I had to turn to God, I had no one else to turn to … I only wish that I’d got this opportunity to do this on the outside, not in jail.’

He reported the abuse in the homes and the abuse by his stepfather to police but nothing came of either report. He sought redress from the state government and was offered financial compensation, which he turned down as he didn’t want to sign the waiver. However, the government does pay for regular counselling, which he considers a lifeline.

He said the emotional pain will never go away but he no longer cares what others think of him. And the therapy has helped him so much that he no longer wets the bed or grinds his teeth. He has forgiven his mother for her terrible treatment.

‘I’ve been running all my life. I always end up coming back here. I went to Sydney, I went to Queensland, I went to Western Australia – I got locked up for the most stupidest things.

'And to be quite frank, do you know, I felt so safe in jail. I felt safe. No one can get me, I’m locked up at night and no one can get at me. That’s what it does to you.’

Mark said this time around he has changed himself and been rehabilitated. He’s very proud of getting qualified as a junior minister, and he’s looking forward to helping others who have been through similar struggles, once he is released.

‘It’s a shame that 50 years have gone, and I’ll never ever get them back. I don’t know how much life I’ve got left in me. I won’t be coming back to jail, I know that.

'I should have done this years ago though. I shouldn’t have left it so long … But putting it all that aside, I’ve achieved something. Maybe a few other people should take my lead and do that.’

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