Sebastian attended an Anglican high school in the late 1970s. In year 9 he was required to pick an elective and decided to take up rowing. The rowing coach was a volunteer named Trevor McHugh.
One day Sebastian capsized his boat while out on the lake. He returned to the shed ‘drenched to the bone with my legs covered in mud’. McHugh was there and asked what happened. When Sebastian explained, the coach offered to show him the best way to stay balanced on the boat. Sebastian said that under this pretence McHugh then touched his hips and started, ‘probing. Digitally probing’.
The same thing occurred every week for the next three weeks. On the fourth week Sebastian was raped by McHugh.
Sebastian wagged every rowing lesson after that and managed to avoid all further contact with the coach. But the impact of the abuse stayed with him.
At the end of the year he had lost so much confidence in himself that he left school and joined the workforce. He went through a string of jobs and started to drink heavily.
Sebastian said he coped by pushing his memories of the abuse, ‘down into my subconscious. … I dealt with life by either working or drinking’.
He suffered from fits of uncontrollable anger and eventually his marriage broke down. After that he engaged in a period of reckless sexual behaviour. He suffered from nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks and thoughts of suicide.
About 10 years ago, in the middle of an argument, Sebastian disclosed the abuse to his mother.
‘My mum said to me, “Well, your brother got molested by your uncle and he’s never done anything”.’
They haven’t spoken about it since.
About six years ago Sebastian’s trauma ‘came to a head’. It started because of a chance encounter that he had with a man who worked as a rowing instructor at a private school. Sebastian asked if the man knew Trevor McHugh.
‘He went white. Said, “I know Trevor McHugh. I sacked him”.’
It turned out that McHugh had a history of committing sexual offences against at least one other child. Armed with this new knowledge, Sebastian contacted police, hoping to get McHugh charged. He discovered that his abuser had died several years earlier.
Sebastian then contacted a solicitor to look into applying for victims of crime compensation. They sent him a letter saying he wasn’t eligible. After that, he hit rock bottom.
‘I can pretty much say, without a word of a lie, after receiving the letter saying, “Because the person is deceased there’s no special funding, there’s none of this, none of this, none of that”, had I had a gun I wouldn’t be here. That’s how far down I went.’
Since then, Sebastian has drawn on the support of his loving partner and children to get him back on track. He is exploring new legal options with a ‘fantastic’ solicitor and, through counselling, has gained some insight into his anger issues.
‘I think I’m getting to the stage where I now know why I’m angry, instead of just being angry at everything and everyone.’
That being said, he still struggles to manage himself day to day. He told the Commissioner that one of his biggest regrets is never having the chance to confront McHugh.
‘I feel I would have loved to have a day in court, sitting there saying, “This is what you’ve done to my life. This is what you’ve done to my relationships. This is how it’s affected me. Not once a week, not once a month, but every single day. This is what you’ve done to me”. And I would have loved to have had that day in court to say, “You are a bastard. You have stuffed up my life”.’