Steven grew up in rural New South Wales in the 1960s and served as an altar boy at the local Anglican Church. He told the Commissioner that from when he was about nine years old until he was 12, he was repeatedly abused by the Reverend Carl Ridley and several other men from the Church.
‘Mum and Dad was at work', Steven said. ‘They’d just come round and pick you up. They were just so blatant about it.’
Sometimes the men abused him in the car.
‘They’d say, “Let’s go for a drive, and you can have a drive”. You’d pull over and they used to say, “We’ll have our little game”.’
Sometimes they would take Steven and other altar boys with them to help conduct mass at the neighbouring towns. On these occasions, Steven would have to spend the night at a house that the men had specially arranged.
‘They’d have everything set up for a kid, like a children’s set up where they had pool tables and dart boards and stuff.’
The men also plied the boys with privileges and treats, including alcohol. Steven said that the worst incidents of abuse happened during these overnight stays.
‘He used to do stuff to me – get me to read a Bible while he was doing stuff to me, for God’s sake.'
'They used to have an Aboriginal girl and we were encouraged to go have sex with her and I’m pleased to admit that I never did. I don’t know why I didn’t, but I didn’t. God, she was younger than me. She was a virtual baby from my memory.’
Steven never mentioned the abuse to anyone. ‘I was too ashamed of it. People will poke fun at you, that’s what I thought.’
He said that his mother once asked him if he was being abused and he lied and told her that nothing was going on. He said he doesn’t know why he told her that.
The abuse came to an end around the time that Steven started high school. He told the Commissioner that he can’t remember exactly how it happened, only that ‘I stopped it’.
After that Steven struggled through high school, entered the workforce and ended up running his own business. Then, shortly after the birth of his daughter, it all fell apart.
‘My life spiralled out of control. Lost total control of meself. I was so depressed. I lost me business. I didn’t want to go out the door. I didn’t want to face life. Went out in the road and stuck a gun to me head. Then hated myself more because too cowardly to pull the trigger. Probably the lowest I’ve ever been.’
By this stage, Steven still hadn’t mentioned the abuse to anyone. Eventually things got so bad that he decided to get help.
‘I knew I had to tell someone otherwise I was going to blow me brains out. I had to get it off me chest, so to speak.’
After a few false starts Steven found a counsellor that he could open up to.
‘Then all the thoughts of suicide and whatnot coming back and I was heading back to where I was, and that’s when I got onto Libby, and she’s done a wonderful job getting me to here.’
With Libby’s support, Steven got in contact with a law firm to discuss his options. He told the Commissioner ‘At no point in time did I ever ask for money or compensation’, so he felt insulted and hurt when the Church wrote back telling him that the diocese was broke and unable to pay compensation.
‘They made it about money. I didn’t. They did. That’s the first thing that those bastards thought of was “Oh shit he might sue us”. First thing. They didn’t think, “Poor bugger, with what he’s been living through”. The first thing was money. I hate them. I’ve never hated anyone in my entire life. I hate them bastards.’
Steven said that he still struggles with depression and loneliness but the counselling sessions with Libby are helping him to cope.
‘Since Libby’s been facilitating me with little speeches and talks and that, I feel much better now. I was just saying to her the other day actually, that it’s no longer at the forefront. It’s probably the first time in 40 years … I’m actually sleeping a little bit better. It’s because I’ve been able to get it off me chest. No one’s laughed at me. No one’s thought any worse of me.’