From an early age, Mark suffered from a number of disabilities, including Asperger’s syndrome. The Department of Human Services (DHS) arranged a place for him in a group home where he could receive the assistance of carers. Mark lived in several of these homes before he left the Department’s care for good at 18. By then he’d been sexually abused multiple times.
The first incident happened when Mark was eight years old and living at a care home that was overseen by DHS but run by Anglicare. The perpetrators were two young boys who were also residents of the home, both around the same age as Mark. The abuse occurred several times and had a devastating effect.
‘I actually scaled the roof,’ Mark said. ‘I was sitting there, sitting on the roof. I was suicidal. It was either climb up the roof or jump in front of a train.’
Fortunately, Mark never acted on his suicidal impulses. Instead, he reported the two boys to Anglicare staff who then reported the incident to Mark’s mother, Nola. Nola, who attended the Royal Commission session with Mark, recalled the aggressive way the staff spoke to her.
‘They tried to blame Mark. And I said to them “There’s no way”. I did say to them “There’s no way Mark would even think about doing anything with the two boys”. But they were still blaming Mark a lot.’
Neither Anglicare nor DHS ever reported the matter to police; but Nola did. Police interviewed Mark alone, forcing Nola to remain outside. She and Mark are still angry about that. Nola doesn’t know if the police ever took any action against the boys. Both are adults now. Nola has heard that they’re both on the Sex Offender Register.
After the incident with the two boys, Mark was moved to a new home where he stayed for several years. When he was 16 a staff member woke him in the middle of the night to watch pornographic movies, then masturbated in his presence. Mark reported the man, who was then immediately sacked and interviewed by police. Mark was interviewed too. Nola was allowed to sit in this time, and she and Mark had a much better experience.
At 17 Mark was living in a DHS disability unit. Here it was common practice for the staff to take clients to see prostitutes. Staff would see prostitutes themselves during these outings, and pay for the whole enterprise with DHS money. Mark refused to join in, so staff would dump him on a street corner and make him wait there, unsupervised, until they came back. One time they locked him in the boot of a car.
Sometime during Mark’s stay at the unit, a new resident arrived. His name was Gary and he was a 21-year-old man with intellectual disabilities. Gary had previously been charged with sexual assault. DHS knew this and brought in two extra staff to supervise him. It wasn’t enough. Mark was sexually abused by Gary several times over the next six months.
Mark tried to report the abuse to his psychiatrists but their only response was to increase his medication. Eventually he told Nola, who reported Gary to police. Nola is not sure what happened to Gary but she suspects he must have been charged, because later Mark received $7,000 compensation from victims of crime.
Ever since the abuse, Mark has struggled with anxiety. He and Nola have tried out some new treatments which seem to be working, but recent media coverage of the Royal Commission has triggered a few bad attacks. Mark tries to stay focused on his goals. He wants to take legal action against DHS and he wants to encourage other survivors of sexual abuse to speak out.
‘For all those victims out there, don’t be scared to speak up ... Don’t feel like you’re in a cage. Just speak up.’