‘The only person I can blame is myself.’
Simon takes full responsibility for the sexual crimes he committed against children. He can also see a connection between his own ‘screwed up life’ and these crimes. ‘If this didn’t happen to me, as a child, I wouldn’t be like this now. Because, the fact that I committed the offences, it was drummed into my head every day that this was right … And I am deeply sorry for my offending.’
Simon grew up in the 1980s and 90s with his Aboriginal mum, siblings and stepfather. They moved around Australia a fair bit and eventually settled in South Australia. From the time Simon was five until he was 17, he was regularly sexually abused by his stepfather. Soon after the abuse started, his stepfather‘s two friends also regularly abused Simon.
‘When my abuse started happening … I stopped talking. But my first words were … when it did start, was “Why are you doing this to me?” At that age I sort of had an understanding of – this is not what you do to your kids … And he turned around and said “This is how I show love”.
‘My mum … asked me constantly, over the years, if anything’s ever happened to me. And because I was worried about my family, what might happen to my family. If I said something at school I might be put into foster care. I sort of kept it a secret to myself because my family means everything to me. And to lose them, that would just break my heart.’
Simon went to a government high school. At the age of 14 or 15 a teacher, Neville Worth, ‘took a liking to me’. When Mr Worth’s wife died, Simon went to the funeral. Afterwards Simon spoke to his family, saying he’d like to adopt Neville as a ‘step-grandfather’ because he was now all alone.
‘They were all happy with that and then it went from there … He, sort of, took that a little bit too far … ’
Neville Worth sexually abused Simon. As part of it, he groomed him and bought him expensive presents. Simon thought how ‘weird’ it was, that he had been abused all his life, then his schoolteacher does it.
‘To sum up, I had a screwed-up life.’
‘I didn’t have any courage to say that this was happening to me by my schoolteacher because, if I did, my stepfather would’ve turned around and said that I was lying … If it did come out and I got the courage to talk to the police about my teacher, he was afraid that I was going to open up about what he did to me as well.’
When Simon was 17 his mother worked out what was going on with the stepfather and was supportive.
Simon spoke about his anxiety, paranoia, nightmares – the same ones over and over – and his inability to sleep. He feels overwhelmed and suffers severe post-traumatic stress disorder and his memories of the abuse are very clear, ‘like yesterday’. ‘I’ve had enough. I can’t sleep. If I sleep, it’s all there… ’ While on anti-depressants, he tried to suicide but his mother stopped him. He became an alcoholic and when he was drunk, those were the times that he would offend.
‘If I wasn’t drinking I know I wouldn’t have done it but I can’t blame the alcohol.’ He is currently in prison.
From prison, about seven years ago, Simon gave his stepfather an ultimatum: if he didn’t report himself to the police, Simon would. And Simon did – at the time of his visit to the Commission, his stepfather and one of his friends (the other had died) had been tried in court and were awaiting judgement.
Simon has not reported Neville Worth to the police. He has only recently told his mother about this abuse. But he did agree to let the Royal Commission make a referral on his behalf.
Simon has had a psych report but no counselling. He sought counselling but was told the prison didn’t have the facilities. He keeps to himself, in protection. In recent years Simon has connected with his natural father, who left Simon’s life when he was an infant.
Simon reflected on why he committed those crimes. ‘I’ve had people ask me that question, a number of times … and I do look it as he’s, he’s corrupted my head … But now I’ve changed … He’s no longer in my head, in that sense … and I’m never going to come back to jail. I never want to hurt a single person again … If I could turn back time, I’d gladly do so because … ’ Simon struggled to tell the Commissioner. ‘I had a lot taken from me when I was a kid, so me doing the exact same thing that happened to me, has taken a lot from them. And it’s just not right. So I have completely changed my view on life and I want to make a better life for myself.’