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Paul Mark's story

Paul was a keen entertainer as a child and by the 1970s he was appearing on national television. ‘I just loved it. It was my passion.’

He didn’t realise that his family was relying on the income his television and performing work was generating.

‘I didn’t know at the time. I didn’t even think that I was supporting the family, like looking after the family. I was just enjoying what I was doing. I loved it.’

When he was 13, Paul appeared on a television show made by a national broadcaster. One of the producers, a well-respected and trusted presence on the show, took a particular interest in him, encouraging him in his work.

‘That’s why you let them do it, whether it’s uncomfortable or not, you just do it. My producer was my on-set dad, he treated us all like his kids. That’s why my parents trusted him to take us away.

‘He certainly had picked his favourites … he would favour us if we were sitting at a table or whatever, or if we had to go and do interviews, he’d pick out certain people only.’

Paul now understands that he was being groomed by the man. On one weekend work trip, Paul and the producer had to stay overnight in a motel some distance from Sydney. The producer made Paul share a bed with him and during the night the producer sexually abused him.

‘It was the first time I’d got an erection. It was the first time I’d ever ejaculated. At that age I didn’t even know what was going on. So, as much as telling my stepmother on the way home what happened, I was actually asking her what happened … for her to explain to me … what I went through.’

Paul told both his parents about what had happened but his father ‘brushed it off’. Paul’s stepmother was concerned but was worried that Paul might lose his job if they approached the producer personally. She felt that a specific complaint would mean Paul would be seen as ‘a trouble causer and not [be] put … up for jobs because other producers wouldn’t deal with me’. She discussed the incident in a general way with Paul’s agent, describing the producer’s behaviour as being ‘too affectionate’.

‘My agent … said, “It’s fine. Just leave it. It will pass”. [The producer] wasn’t confronted directly as such because of the losing the job thing, which happened anyway.’

After the abuse, Paul found that the affection and attention ‘continued … more so – and it continued up until the end of the contract where I started getting a bit antsy about it, getting uncomfortable and trying to get his arm off me if he was giving me a hug or whatever’.

Paul feels that the producer ended his contract because of Paul’s ‘ansty’ behavior: ‘He wasn’t going to be able to pursue me anymore’.

After the abuse, Paul ‘kept trying to work but couldn’t. It just wasn’t in me anymore’.

‘I knew I was uncomfortable with what he did. I didn’t understand it … I knew it was wrong though, because of the difference in age more so than anything. And then the male to male thing too confused me … that put another twist in my head as well.’

He focused on performance rather than television work, where he felt he could be employed based on his skill not his network. but the betrayal of trust that Paul experienced continued to affect his life. He had difficulty trusting any opportunity that came his way, believing there was always an ulterior motive.

‘[It’s] what happened with every job after that … any sort of attention I got … I analysed why … friendships, relationships – I’d think there was an underlying [reason].’

Paul has been unable to sustain intimate relationships for long periods and his employment has also been similarly affected.

‘If I feel too comfortable in a situation, I actually destroy that. So I relive it, if that makes sense. It’s what I’ve done all my life … All sorts of [work] but every single time, I’d just implode.’

He has had mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions over many years.

‘It’s been anything to suppress it … it ended up ridiculous [amounts of] illegal drugs because that’s the only thing that empowers me … drugs actually empowered me to be able to socialise.’

Paul has been clean for almost a year and feels as though ‘I’ve just been given a lifeline’. He came to the Royal Commission ‘because … I thought [my story] … might be just one more number that’ll help change something’. He had only told two people about his sexual abuse before contacting the Commission and, despite the mental health treatment he has received, he has never disclosed to a counsellor or therapist.

‘I’ve never had that trust … My father didn’t believe me, so you grow up thinking, if I tell anybody, they’re just going to go “whatever”.’

He began applying for compensation through Victims of Crime but found the process daunting, re-traumatising and humiliating, particularly in the way that the department decides the ‘recognition payment’ amount.

‘They expect you to sit at home and fill the forms out and go through the whole thing again. Half the stuff I can’t even answer because I don’t know … And then for them to say … we … assess you – between $1500 and $10,000.’

Paul is focused now on pursuing his abuser through the courts and believes the man will be charged. ‘I’m not after the money. That won’t make me happy … I’m getting him.’

 

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