Steve’s dad died in the early 1980s when Steve was about 10 years old. Steve went back to live with his mum in Sydney and lost contact with all of his dad’s friends, the only remaining male role models in his life. Steve told the Commissioner that he ‘probably to some degree never recovered from that’.
In his mid-teens he started an apprenticeship and was quickly targeted and groomed by his boss, Warren Cahill. The grooming escalated to sexual abuse, which involved Cahill masturbating Steve and performing oral sex on him.
Steve was young and naive and didn’t realise what was going on. ‘Early on’, he said, ‘I didn’t fully understand that this abuse was what it was. At times I’d probably go seeking it out because – just at that age that I was, is just – it’s just what happened sort of thing’.
The abuse continued for several years, with incidents occurring so frequently they’ve now blurred together in Steve’s memory.
‘The actual assaults were pretty much very similar and – the biggest problem is that because it was sort of once or twice a week over a four to five year period you tend to forget whether it happened a hundred times, 200 times, 50 times.’
Despite the abuse, Steve enjoyed his work and was determined to get his qualification. In his late teens he avoided Cahill ‘like the plague’ and managed to finish his apprenticeship and get out, leaving his abuser behind for good. In many ways, however, this escape came too late.
‘I wind up losing my virginity to a prostitute at 17 just so I can know what it’s supposed to be like, rather than have him carrying on. And obviously I struggle with relationships and stuff and I’ve never really had – I sort of feel like I lost my teenage years to some degree because I just became withdrawn.’
On top of these troubles, Steve found he had serious problems when it came to trust. ‘It’s either I trust total strangers with anything or I just don’t trust people close to me with anything. It’s all or nothing sort of thing.’
By his early twenties Steve was mature enough to see Cahill’s behaviour for the abuse it was, so he reported it to a police task force that was operating at the time. They weren’t helpful. ‘Nothing ever came of it. And the person who I spoke to tended to downplay it because it was just oral sex being performed on me.’
Two years later Steve tried again, this time giving a statement to police. Cahill was charged, but only with about half a dozen offences. The rest were ignored because Steve couldn’t specify exactly when and where they’d occurred. The point was moot anyway: the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) determined that Cahill was too ill to stand trial and so the matter never went to court. A few years later Cahill died.
Around this time Steve copped the ‘biggest kick in the guts’ when he tried to apply for victims of crime compensation and was rejected on grounds that his application had come too late.
‘I was under the impression that there was no time limits. And from that report they had given me a two-and-a-half year limit from when I gave my police statement. So I’m just frustrated on that, that if that was the case then I should have been told that when I gave my statement. Would have been simple. I was in the process of raising my kids. That was my priority.’
Steve said that he never received any kind of follow-up from the police or DPP. ‘In some sense just the different systems let me down.’ He didn’t even know about Cahill’s death until recently.
‘It would have been nice to have been told somehow because I was wary of bumping into him in public, because I was possibly going to kill him … If I’d known that he was no longer around that’s one little less issue I’ve got to worry about, plus I’d have known that he’s not offending, because I had a feeling that he was still offending.’