“My heart has been healed,” says child abuse survivor
Growing up without a father and years of physical and sexual abuse sent Queenslander Mark Stiles down a road of low self-esteem, depression and suicide attempts.
Mark was just 12 years old when he was sent to a church home in 1971.
"It was a very lonely place," he recalls. "It was devoid of love, it was devoid of pleasantries... It was devoid of family."
There he suffered at the hands of one of the staff whom he says 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 Royal Commission when he shared his story with them in February last year.
Mark left the home in December 1972, but the destruction he had suffered continued to affect him every day.
When you leave a place like that he explains "you take into life a lot of mistrust, hate; you take into life a lot of arrogance, very poor opinions, those sorts of things. And they form part of who you are."
"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," Mark says.
That and the lack of a father figure in his life caused Mark to make some "bad decisions" and for years he drank to drown his insecurity and depression.
"I had no self-worth whatsoever ... life was without meaning."
One morning at 4am Mark awoke and began writing at his computer. What he ended up writing was a book of his experiences at the Home.
A few days later on his drive home from work Mark was thinking about the words he had written when he heard the voice of God very clearly say: "Mark, Jesus is alive."
"I had to pull over. I broke down into tears. It was too much," he says.
"It was the beginning of me discovering [that] what I'd wanted all my life was a dad. And I had the best one. I had the top of the tree, the very best dad I could have, which was God. God the Father."
Mark describes the next few days as rough as he fought to accept the notion of a loving heavenly Father who wanted only good things for him.
Today, however, he says he has been completely healed from the pain and destruction his childhood trauma had caused.
"I can't even begin to describe what [God] has done for me. He healed my heart, He gave me love.
"Most of all He taught me my identity: I'm a son. And I have a dad. For the first time in my life I have a dad, and I love Him to bits."
Mark says he has learnt to forgive those responsible for the abuse he suffered at the home.
"When we forgive and we learn to love, it's just the full release of everything.
"Today my message is simple," he says. "Jesus is Lord of all. To all that are lost in the pains of hurts many years ago, wherever you are, go into a quiet place and ask Jesus to touch you. Begin your journey home to where we all belong, in the lap of the Father [God]."•