NEWS | Anne Lim
Eternity #68 April 2016
Child sexual abuse survivor Mark Stiles was in a morass of anger and hate when Jesus spoke to him.
An alcoholic, he had drunk three bottles of wine the night before the Holy Spirit hauled him out of bed very early one morning with a burning need to write his story.
He was so angry he almost pounded the table through the keyboard as he unleashed the poison inside him.
Stiles had been 12 when he was sent from his home in leafy Canberra to the “dark and scary” Gill Memorial Army Boys Home in Goulburn operated by the Salvation Army.
For 14 months, a Salvation Army officer 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 into Institutional Responses for Child Sexual Abuse.
“He would punish me by taking me down to the bathrooms and making me scrub the toilets with a toothbrush … 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.”
The trauma from those nightmarish experiences left Stiles feeling he wasn’t worth anything. His life became ruled by fear, distrust and anger. Many times he found himself putting a gun to his head trying to pull the trigger.
“I wrote my story out of a place of real hate and anger, but I came to realise it was the most cathartic thing I’ve ever done,” Stiles, now 57, tells Eternity.
Three days after expunging the hate inside him, Stiles was driving home to the Gold Coast from the Sunshine Coast when he heard a male voice calling to him.
“I heard this voice very clear in the car and he said, ‘Mark, Jesus is alive.’ And I just had to pull over, and I totally broke down into tears.
“I don’t know, maybe my heart was ready but the Father definitely called me and over time he has taught me how to love.
“Some people have looked at me like my lift doesn’t go to the top floor, and I don’t care because I know what I heard and today I’m a man that’s been healed and I can love people.”
Stiles’ transformation began from that pivotal moment. From habitually drinking a bottle to a bottle-and-a-half of spirits a night, he stopped drinking straight away.
He found a church family at Gold Coast Genesis Church, and gradually as he was discipled his heart was miraculously changed and he was able to forgive those who had abused him.
“I went from a man of hate to a man of love. I went from high blood pressure and alcoholism to being restored. I went from hating a whole range of different types of people – I was very judgmental.
“And one of the gifts he’s given me – I don’t get angry at people any more. I try and see what their life’s like rather than judge people.”
When he was called to give evidence at the Royal Commission he chose to use his real name rather than prefer the anonymity of a code, as did other victims from the boys home.
“We’ve had a whole generation of men and women who wouldn’t talk about these things and I wanted other victims to know that it’s OK.”
Stiles recalls that when he ran away from the boys home, and reported the abuse to the police, “the copper gave me a belting and took me back to the home, and I got another belting.”
When Stiles gave his testimony at the National Day of Prayer and Fasting in Canberra last year, he was humbled that church leaders of various denominations washed his feet in an act of atonement.
“That broadcast was shown all over the world and the most exciting thing for me was that there may well be hundreds of people out there who have been helped by that,” he says.
Until he heard the voice of God in 2010, Stiles had been addicted to seeking other people’s approval “because you’re never good enough.” Now, as a child of God, he has discovered a sense of self-worth and identity.
“I always believed in God, but I grew up fatherless and then having the experience in the boys home I could never ever see God as father,” he explains. “I thought he was this omnipresent being with a cat o’ nine tails that when we did something wrong we’d get a flogging for it.
“Now I know my worth and my value. When you say yes to Jesus [you] become a son or daughter of the most high. You’re adopted into his family.
“My identity is in the fact that he has taken me into his household. I was 52 years of age and I finally had a home to go to, I finally had a dad that I talk to and he talks to me. He told me ‘your past is not the pathway to your future. You’re my son now and you’ve come home and now life is for you. You’re free – free of hate.’ ”