Australian Survivor‘s Mark Wales has opened up about how he and his brother were sexually abused as children by a family member in the mid-eighties.
Best known as the champion of Survivor 2022, Mark has endured several challenging circumstances, especially as a former SAS troop commander.
However, his time in the military is nothing compared to the courage it took to report his mother’s cousin — Richard Ernest Jackson — for sexual abuse in 2019.
**CONTENT WARNING: The following article discusses child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
The abuser of Mark and his brother Steven was convicted of indecent dealings with children under 14 in July 2022 and was jailed for two years and four months.
Now, in an interview with ABC News, Mark has publicly addressed the abuse he endured for the first time.
What Did Mark Wales Say About Being Abused As a Child?
The 42-year-old recalled travelling with his brother from their hometown of Norman, Western Australia, to visit their grandparents in Cookerup as kids. It was there that Jackson first preyed upon Mark.
“I remember in one instance he put me on a quad bike and was riding around with me and he started touching my genitals,” he said.
“And then he took me to the milk shed and did the same thing, but more… more physically that time.”
He was just six years old.
The father-of-one then told ABC that the events were “super confronting”.
“You trust adults when you’re a kid,” he admitted. “You don’t think they’re going to do anything wrong.”
According to the Survivor star, his abuser was extremely “smart” and manipulative.
“He’d put people at ease [by saying], ‘Yeah I’ll take the kids’. Humorous guy, a bit charismatic, but he knew exactly what he was doing,” he said.
Steven, now 44, was eight when he first endured abuse at the hands of Jackson. Similarly, it took place in the dairy farmer’s milk shed.
While the brothers shared their experiences with each other, they did not tell any adults until they were teenagers.
Mark Wales Questions Whether His Decision to Join the Army Was Due to Being Abused
Mark enlisted in the Army when he was just 17 years old. However, he still wonders whether the decision came down to the abuse he endured.
The ex-soldier said it could have been a bid to take “control” of his surroundings.
“I think it had something to do with me being in the military and trying to be in control of my environment — never getting in that situation again,” Mark said.
He added that being “utterly helpless” against Jackson pushed him to find something that would help him avoid being “vulnerable” again.
“I think if you’ve been in a situation where you’re helpless … I remember [being] utterly helpless against this guy because he was bigger, stronger, could do what whatever he wanted,” he remembered.
“It definitely created that sense of, ‘I’ll never be vulnerable again, I’ll make sure that whatever happens in my life I’ll be able to look after myself’.”
Why Did Mark Wales Decide to Report the Abuse After So Long?
They now have a four-year-old son, Harry, to who Mark attributes his decision to report Jackson’s crimes.
“When you’ve got your own kid, that’s when I started thinking about it more … I can’t believe someone would take advantage of a defenceless kid,” he said. “It’s this egregious breach of everything, trust, decency, a young life.
“Then you realise it probably did affect you more than you realised.”
Mark Wales Took to Instagram to Share His Story
When ABC News’ story went live on July 30, Mark took to his Instagram to share the article with his followers.
Noting that it is a “tough one” for him to talk about, he hopes his story encourages others to report their experiences.
He also added that the “process of placing a complaint” was “easy and straightforward” — more so than some may anticipate.
“I share this story because I know there are plenty of people like my brother and I who thought too much time has passed and we would have no chance of holding perpetrators accountable. [sic].” he wrote.
“To those people: I hope our case can show you otherwise. I hope, like us, you can bring them to court where they are judged by their peers, and like us, you can find closure for the injustice you experienced.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources.
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