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Steven Bradley's story

Steven grew up in rural New South Wales, and attended the local primary school in the 1960s. His home life was turbulent, with a mother who was cruel and violent, and a father who was abusive and belittling.

‘When I was in Year 6 … [Mr Falconer] was my teacher … and he was also the cub master.’ Falconer sexually abused Steven, both at school and during cub activities. ‘He used to make excuses to keep you back after class and it was always boys, I noticed … There was a storeroom behind the classroom and he used to get us in there …

‘He would sort of find really, you know, simplistic things, excuses … to get us there. I remember being in there with more than one other kid.’ This was confirmed in the early 2000s, when he mentioned the teacher’s name to a friend, ‘and he said, “Oh yeah, he used to play with our backsides, our bottoms” and I was interested to hear that he said, “our”’.

Steven believes that Falconer targeted him. ‘I was his favourite, because I come from the most damaged background. I was the neediest … the most vulnerable. He used to touch us on the backside, but he … had anal sex with me in there on my own … in the storeroom, and at cubs, sometimes in the hall afterwards … and in his car he’d … fondle me.’

Steven doesn’t believe that Falconer would have needed to threaten him not to tell anyone about the abuse because, ‘I think I was so pleased to have the attention, even though I paid a price.’

On one trip with the cubs, Steven recalled that in the car, ‘I felt about 10 foot tall because I was sitting next to the teacher’, but when they arrived at their destination, Falconer made him stay in the car after the other boys had got out, ‘and then he fondled me …

‘And so, I got the usual thing of, a lot of shame around … wanting the attention, but then the price you had to pay. So there’s that guilt going on and I paid a price for that through my life, not trusting that people give you anything for nothing. That you’ve always got to pay a price. You gotta earn love, so to speak.’

The abuse stopped when Steven finished primary school and he stopped going to cubs. ‘The next year … we’d go down there on cub night, me and some other mates … to throw rocks on the roof to annoy them.’

During his final year at primary school, Steven began ‘acting out’ in the classroom. ‘I used a compass to punch a lot of holes in my desktop … He saw it … I thought I was really going to cop it, and all he did was make me cover the whole lot with plasticine. I remember thinking … “That’s a really light punishment for something like that”.’

Steven recalled, ‘I never complained to anyone, but I clearly remember just breaking down in the playground, absolutely crying, and two male teachers looking down at me, and just turning their backs and walking away. I couldn’t verbalise it, and they weren’t interested in finding out … That’s as clear as right now, that memory’.

In high school, Steven became ‘loud and … a bit overbearing’ and his schoolwork suffered. ‘I think … I was shut down completely and I became quite arrogant and flippant and it was almost like I was throwing crap at the world … to push the world away … and I alienated a lot of people throughout my life. That was another way of protecting myself.’

Steven has struggled with relationships. ‘I’ve only had one relationship longer than a year.’ He has also alienated people in his workplaces, ‘by being extremely arrogant and know-all’. He has attended Alcoholics Anonymous since the mid-1980s, and has been having therapy for mental health issues for over 30 years.

With his current psychologist, Steven is ‘really treating the PTSD for the first time and I’m starting to … deal with the emotional stuff, whereas for a long time I’ve just dealt with intellectual stuff … I’ve got a lot of … self-awareness, but actually feeling feelings, and talking about it are two different things, so I’m struggling with that at the moment.’

Steven has often contemplated taking his own life. ‘I’m still struggling, you know. The pain’s still there … Every morning I wake up [and] plan my suicide, and that’s been going on most of my life … But usually, if I get out of bed and have a shower, and get something to eat, [the thoughts] sort of drift away. So I’ve got to be a bit on guard about that.’

Steven told the Commissioner, ‘The amazing thing [my current psychologist] did, that no one’s ever been able to do before was she made me realise there’s not only a wounded, almost destroyed child inside of me, running the show, there’s actually an adult here, because you know, a child couldn’t have done a lot of the things I’ve done in my life.’

It has taken Steven a long time to begin talking about the abuse. During his many years of therapy, he has not always mentioned it. ‘It’s sort of been slow to come to the surface … I find it a bit embarrassing … You feel like you’re weak, or you should have fought back or … also the guilt about the fact that I enjoyed parts of it, which was the attention.’

One thing that plays on Steven’s mind is ‘how many kids [Falconer] must have abused. The amount of access he had to children, and the fact that I know he did it with at least four in … my class and he would have been … maybe late 20s … You imagine in another 30 or 40-year career how many victims …

‘Two of my best mates, their younger brothers committed suicide after they left school. I know of another young guy as well … I’ve often wondered how many kids from [my town] have committed suicide over this and … whether he was actually caught or did he go on … I’ve had an enormous amount of angst about that.’

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