The middle child in a large, devout Catholic family, Gideon was sexually abused by his father’s relative, Steven, who was a priest.
The abuse occurred several times in the 1970s, from when Gideon was 11 or 12. It may be why he developed a great hatred of attending church, but he is ‘not sure’.
On one occasion Steven, who had baptised Gideon’s siblings and married one of them, fondled Gideon underneath his clothes while driving to a town in rural New South Wales.
Gideon tried to tell his cousin, who was also in the car, but the cousin ‘laughed it off’ and called it ‘bullcrap’. This discouraged him from telling anyone else.
On another occasion, while visiting one of the many parishes to which Steven was sent, Gideon and some of his siblings slept in a vacant convent while their parents slept in the nearby presbytery.
During the night, after Gideon had wet the bed, Steven tried to hug Gideon and rub up against him.
‘I think that’s where I was lucky because I physically was pushing while he was trying to hug me. He was relentless. I mean he tried three times.’
Later, at a time when he fancied himself a master spy, Gideon was outside his house one evening when he noticed his older brother, Frazer, arriving home with Steven.
Instead of pulling the car into the driveway, Steven stopped it some way up the street, which caught Gideon’s attention.
‘I was doing my sneaky bit and I was checking out and just watching’, Gideon said, not knowing the car would pull up at all or what shocking scene would play out in silhouette.
‘It was spinning me out because they were kissing and I could see that through the back window and I just shut down in disbelief.’
When he tried to speak to Frazer, his brother became angry. ‘It was obviously throwing him around … he pretty much said “shut your mouth” … and got upset because he thought I was spying on him, which I wasn’t – I was just spying on the world.’
Gideon didn’t know who he could speak to about his own abuse or what he saw with Frazer.
By the time he was 14 or 15 he was refusing to attend church at all and avoided Steven any way he could.
After getting in trouble with the police and abusing alcohol and marijuana for much of his life, he recalled that in his 20s, when he was ‘sad’ and ‘everything [in his life] was falling apart’, Gideon told his mother.
It may also have been around the time that Steven, having finally been reported by Frazer, was jailed for a lengthy spell for the sexual abuse of numerous children, which shocked his home town and blackened the previously good family name.
‘I pretty much told Mum straight out, “Look it didn’t just happen to Frazer. It happened to me too”. But she didn’t want to know … she didn’t ask [what had happened].’ Gideon thinks she just couldn’t cope with it.
When he saw Steven speak publicly, Gideon thought ‘Well, you know, what he did to me was wrong too. I mean, compared to what happened to Frazer I feel I was very lucky. But it [the abuse] still scared the crap out of me and turned me away. I don’t believe in religion anymore’.
Gideon’s wife said that while feeling lucky was an admirable attitude, it minimised the ‘huge impact’ the sexual abuse had on him, his children, who he is, what he could have been, ‘and how he copes. And he’s spent the last 20-something years escaping what happened in his childhood – in a way trying to forget and push it down’, which led to substance abuse and counselling for anger issues.
‘If me reporting this to police adds any more time to him staying in jail so he can’t get out, I’m happy’, Gideon told the Commissioner.
‘I want him to live there as long as possible, miserable, and just dwell on what he did.’
Looking back, he now understands why Steven was visited by the family in virtually a different location every year – not because ‘he must be wanted in all these places’, but because ‘he was getting moved on’ by the Church.
Gideon says another cousin has recently come forward about abuse by Steven and he suspects that with such a large extended family, another brother and perhaps some cousins may still be ‘too scared’ to admit what happened.
‘Apart from the ones who can’t come forward because they’ve killed themselves, I wonder how many people still haven’t come forward because they are just too scared to.’
The Catholic Church, he said, merely wanted to protect its reputation by moving Steven from parish to parish.
‘You can’t do this shit in the real world, but in the Church you can. And you can get away with it’, Gideon said.
Unlike approaching his parents again and them not wanting to hear the details – despite the scandal with Steven – Gideon came to the Royal Commission ‘to get this off my chest’.
‘I need to, sort of, have it on record. I’ve told someone and it’s actually been listened to.’