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Chanel's story

Chanel grew up in Queensland in the 1990s and early on developed a passion for sport, competing from a young age.

She was in her early teens when she met Steven Rappel during a sports competition. Rappel acted as a ‘feeder’, providing food and water to competitors during events. He was in his 50s and closely affiliated with an elite club.

Chanel’s contact with Rappel increased not long after their first meeting, as he ‘provided an opportunity’ to take her training further. He became involved with her family, taking them out for meals and giving Chanel’s mother gifts.

Rappel chaperoned her and other teammates to compete overseas. He began to refer to himself as the team ‘manager’ and at one stage Chanel saw two other girls sleeping in his bed. When she questioned him, he told her it was his ‘job’. ‘He would always justify [his behaviour] as normal.’

When Chanel later went overseas to another event, Rappel allowed her and teammates – all of whom were underage – to drink alcohol. He defended his actions by saying ‘what happens in [country], stays in [country]’, and this upset Chanel. She left the hotel crying and Rappel followed and comforted her.

After this Rappel began to confide in Chanel via text and social media, telling her his problems. When they were together he held her hand, and then began kissing and hugging her. He told her that his relationship with his wife was ‘over’ and that he loved Chanel.

This abuse progressed until he made her masturbate him and perform oral sex. She isn’t sure how many times he sexually abused her. When they weren’t away for events he would pick her up and go for drives. He’d fondle her in the car and take her to hotel rooms, where he performed oral sex and digitally penetrated her. She was often in trouble with her parents for being late home, but felt she couldn’t tell them or anyone else what Rappel was doing.

At one stage during an international sporting trip Chanel was discovered in Rappel’s hotel room and reprimanded for breaching the competition’s rules. Rappel, however, wasn’t punished because he wasn’t seen to be acting as an official member of the team.

After she returned from the trip, Chanel began to feel depressed and ‘snappy’ and her school work and sporting performance deteriorated. Her parents noticed the changes in her behaviour and took her to see doctors.

When Chanel was 17 she was again away at an event and Rappel raped her. Afterwards she decided to stop competing so she could get away from him.

At around this time Chanel’s parents found messages Rappel had sent to her and they prevented her having any further contact with him. She believes her parents notified her sporting club of the abuse and the club funded a few sessions for her to see a psychologist, which she did not find helpful.

Chanel was visited by police who were investigating Rappel in relation to another complaint of sexual abuse. She made a statement and Rappel was charged with child sexual abuse offences against her and another girl.

A year after the complaint, the hearing started but charges relating to Chanel were discontinued. She thinks this was because of a technical point of law and issues of consent.

Chanel decided not to take civil action against the sporting club. She has lost her passion for competition but trains for fitness and enjoys mentoring children. ‘I don’t have the same enthusiasm for it. I think as a kid I was always motivated to get on the team. I don’t see the enjoyment of it anymore.’

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