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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The abyss.

The report on abuse of children--thousands of them--in the Church-run schools of Ireland is hellish beyond description.

Here it is in full.

From the concluding comments:

More than 90% of all witnesses reported being physically abused while in out-of-home care. In addition to being hit and beaten witnesses described other forms of abuse such as being flogged, kicked and otherwise physically assaulted, scalded, burned and held under water. Witnesses reported being beaten publicly in front of other staff, residents, patients and pupils as well as in private. Many reports were heard of witnesses being beaten naked and partially clothed, both in private and in front of others. They reported being beaten and physically assaulted with implements that were for the specific purpose of inflicting pain and punishment, such as leather straps, bamboo canes and wooden sticks. In addition, witnesses gave evidence that everyday implements were routinely utilised for the purpose of striking children. Witnesses described pervasive abuse as part of their daily lives.

Physical abuse was reported to have been perpetrated by religious and lay staff, older residents and others who were associated with the schools and institutions. Detailed accounts were heard of injuries received as a result of physical assaults perpetrated by staff in the institutions, including broken bones, head injuries and lacerations that required medical treatment and hospitalisation. Witnesses consistently commented on the fact that nobody spoke to them or enquired about the cause of their injuries and that efforts were made to conceal injuries.

Sexual abuse was reported by more than half of all the witnesses. Acute and chronic contact and non-contact sexual abuse was reported, including vaginal and anal rape, molestation and voyeurism, in both isolated assaults and on a regular basis over long periods of time. The secret nature of sexual abuse was repeatedly emphasised as facilitating its occurrence. Both residential and day settings provided opportunities for perpetrators of sexual abuse to assault children in the absence of adequate supervision and through the failure of individuals and organisations to recognise potential risk to children.

Witnesses reported being sexually abused by religious and lay staff in the schools and institutions and by co-residents and others, including professionals, both within and external to the institutions. They also reported being sexually abused by members of the general public, including volunteer workers, visitors, work placement employers, foster parents, and others who had unsupervised contact with residents in the course of everyday activities. Sexual abuse was reported to have occurred both within the institutions and when children were taken away for excursions, holidays or to work for others.

Disclosing sexual abuse generally provoked disbelief and further abuse. Witnesses who disclosed sexual abuse were subjected to severe recrimination by those who had responsibility for their care and protection. Female witnesses described, at times, being told they were responsible for the sexual abuse they experienced, by both their abuser and those to whom they disclosed abuse.

Neglect was frequently described by witnesses in the context of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Neglect of a child’s care and welfare occurred both in the form of what was done to them by those who were responsible for their care and what they failed to do to protect and nurture them. Lack of adequate food, warmth, clothing, health care, hygiene and recreation are indicators of neglect of the care of children. Failure to provide for their safety, education and development are further indicators of neglect about which the Committee heard many reports, and which had implications for health, employment, social and economic status in later life.

Emotional abuse was also reported by witnesses in the form of lack of attachment and affection, loss of identity, deprivation of family contact, humiliation, personal denigration, exposure to fear and the threat of harm. Furthermore, many witnesses recalled the devastating emotional impact and feeling of powerlessness associated with observing their co-residents, siblings or others being abused. This trauma was acute for those who were forced to participate in such incidents.

Awareness of the abuse of children in schools and institutions was believed to exist within society at both official and unofficial levels. Professionals, including Government Inspectors, medical practitioners, and teachers had a role in relation to various aspects of children’s welfare while they were in schools and institutions. Local people were employed in most of the residential facilities as professional, care and ancillary staff. In addition, members of the public had contact with children in out-of-home care in the course of providing services to the institutions both at a formal and informal level. Witnesses commented that while many of those people were aware that life for children in the schools and institutions was difficult they failed to take action to protect them.

Contemporary complaints were made to the GardaĆ­, the Department of Education and others by witnesses, their parents and relatives, generally in the aftermath of an injury, when visible marks of a beating were observed or when a child who had run away was being returned to a children’s home, reformatory or industrial school. GardaĆ­ were at times reported to request leniency on the child’s behalf when they were returned, in the knowledge that absconders were harshly treated.

Children with intellectual, physical and sensory impairments and children who had no known family contact were especially vulnerable in institutional settings. They described being powerless against adults who abused them, especially when those adults were in positions of authority and trust. Impaired mobility and communication deficits made it impossible to inform others of their abuse or to resist it. Children who were unable to hear, see, speak, move or adequately express themselves were at a complete disadvantage in environments that did not recognise or facilitate their right to be heard.

The enduring impact of childhood abuse was described by many witnesses who, while reporting that as adults they enjoyed good relationships and successful careers, had learned to live with their traumatic memories. Many other witnesses reported that their adult lives were blighted by childhood memories of fear and abuse. They gave accounts of troubled relationships and loss of contact with their siblings, extended families and with their own children. They also described lives marked by poverty, social isolation, alcoholism, mental illness, sleep disturbance, aggressive behaviour and self harm.

Seventy percent (70%) of witnesses reported receiving no second-level education and, while many witnesses reported having successful careers in business and professional fields, the majority of witnesses heard by the Committee reported being in manual and unskilled work for their entire working lives.

There is no running from this or excusing it. Somehow, if possible, it is imperative that some manner of justice and restitution be rendered to the victims and their memories.

If it's still possible.

Revealing the names of abusers would be a small start.

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