Abuse in state care 'hurts forever'

Mario Marzola and his wife Lindora Marzola with documents accumulated during Mario's time in state care.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Mario Marzola and his wife Lindora Marzola with documents accumulated during Mario's time in state care.

Each afternoon when the school bell rang Mario Marzola faced a choice.

As his classmates filed away to after-school activities, Marzola would decide whether to turn left or right.

If he turned right, he would return to the unhappiness of his foster home.

If he turned left, he would run. 

'"Every day that was a big battle for me," Marzola said. 

In March 2012, Marzola received a payment of $50,000 from the Ministry of Social Development to acknowledge the abuse he suffered while in the care of the Department of Social Welfare in the 1970s and 1980s.

Marzola, who first entered state care at the age of 3, said his first memory was of his mother being taken away by police.

"I remember her being dragged down the hallway so vividly.

"I was standing there holding on to this old man's hand.

"I didn't even know who he was." 

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Marzola had lived in seven Marlborough foster homes and attended six schools by the time he was 13-years-old. 

After running away from one home with another child, Marzola remembered being splattered with the blood of his friend while he waited to receive his punishment.

He was then beaten with a razor strop by his caregiver. 

"I was probably lucky because he was a wee bit tired," Marzola said. 

He was given cold baths in the middle of winter if he wet his bed.

When he was about 8-years-old, Marzola was forced to sleep in a chook house next to a rooster that attacked him.

He suffered physical and sexual abuse at the Epuni Boys Home in Lower Hutt. 

State care had destroyed his life, Marzola said. 

"I don't know what I haven't been beaten with." 

He came out of the welfare system as a drug addict with a criminal record and no family. 

Marzola said he only turned his life around so he could be a good father. 

"I had to change because of my boy.

"I didn't want another generation of me around." 

Marzola had no photographs from his childhood. He suffered from nightmares that often woke up his wife. 

"It just hurts forever," Marzola said. 

When Marzola received a payout from the Ministry of Social Development in 2012, he said his main concern was to make sure other children did not experience what he went through.

"They said there were checks upon checks and there was no way it would happen again."

A report released last week by Children's Commissioner Russell Wills found Child, Youth and Family was failing thousands of children in state care. 

Marzola said he was shattered when he learnt 117 children had been abused in state care last year. 

"I don't want sympathy. I'm a big boy, I've been through it and nothing's going to change that.

"But 117 kids - that's just about one every two days.

"That's unacceptable." 

With the money he got from the government, Marzola bought a Harley-Davidson for himself and his wife and gave some of it to his son. 

He tried to get rid of the payout, which he considered "blood money", as quickly as he could. 

"It was never about the money," Marzola said. 

"You can't buy somebody's childhood." 

 - The Marlborough Express

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