MARK Stiles was almost lost for words when asked this week the effect that years of alleged sexual abuse by Salvation Army officers had on his life.
“Where do I begin?” he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“Mistrust. Everyday not knowing whether I said or did the right things,” he said before breaking down.
“Fear, anger, I suffer severe hypertension and I’m on drugs to control that.”
In a statement to the Commission, Mr Stiles said the Salvation Army had taken away his ability to interact with the community, “stolen my foundational life skills and caused me to panic almost every day for over 40 years.”
Mr Stiles, a Canberra electronics technician was one of two former Gill Memorial Boys Home residents who gave evidence to the Commission on Wednesday. The Salvation Army operated the home on top of Auburn St from 1936 to 1980.
Mr Stiles came to the home in August, 1971, aged 12, and left in December, 1972. During that time he claimed that a Salvation Army Officer known to the Commission as X17 sexually abused him “at least four out of every seven days.”
“Many times he would drag me out of bed at 3am for allegedly making a noise,” he told the Commission.
“He would punish me by taking me down to the bathrooms and making me scrub the toilets with a toothbrush. I was always there on my own. He would then sexually abuse me and send me back to bed at 5am. I would then have to get up at 6am to start my chores.”
Mr Stiles also claimed X17 abused him in the watchtower, kept him back after school or took advantage of boys’ absences on the weekends to assault him.
Asked by counsel assisting, Simeon Beckett to clarify the alleged abuse, Mr Stiles said it involved “penetration.”
Mr Stiles described X17 as a physically powerful man who constantly told him not to tell anyone of the incidents.
He believed he had sexually abused other boys as they had been “spirited away in the night” in a similar manner and he could later hear them crying.
Asked by Mr Beckett whether there was any authority to whom he could complain, Mr Stiles said: “None whatsoever.”
He twice escaped from the home. On the first occasion he was four streets away when the police found him. Mr Stiles said he told police that X17 had been (allegedly) sexually abusing the boys and the then manager, Captain Lawrence Wilson was physically assaulting them.
“…But the police just gave us a flogging by belting me across the neck and side of the head and took us back to the Home,” he told the Commission.
“Then Wilson flogged me when we got back for telling lies. He hit me with his open palm on my head, chest, arms and upper body.”
A police representative at the Commission said this alleged treatment was contrary to values and every effort was being made to track down records of the incident.
After the second escape, Wilson’s punishment was “so severe” he never raised the allegations again.
Earlier, Mr Stiles described Wilson as “a vicious and hateful man and in my experience, the cruellest man I ever met.”
Mr Beckett in his opening address to the Commission last week said the hearing would show “Captain Lawrence Allen Wilson was the most prolific of alleged sexual abusers in the Salvation Army Eastern Territory.”
X17 only stopped abusing him for the last two weeks of his time at Gill, Mr Stiles alleged. In December, 1972 his father came to collect him after discovering he was in the home.
He said he had never applied for or received compensation from the Salvation Army.
In 1999 he drove to Goulburn with the intention of speaking to police about X17’s alleged abuse but “couldn’t breathe and had to leave.”
“One of the consequences of the (alleged) treatment I received from X17 and Wilson is that I don’t have much capacity to make statements and choices,” he wrote in his statement.
“I have been ‘second guessing’ myself my whole life, almost every day. I feel I have gone through life afraid and my self esteem has been ‘shot to pieces.’
Seven other former Gill residents alleged sexual abuse by X17, one of whom has been awarded a $60,000 ex gratia payment.
Mr Beckett said X17 was still alive and had been made aware of the Commission.