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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Edward’s father disappeared when he was born. When he was very young his mother was taken into hospital and took him with her. She died in the hospital and Edward was taken into care soon afterwards.

Edward has no memory of his mother – no photographs and no records. His earliest memory was being taken into care by nuns who ran a convent. His first memory of abuse was being in a dormitory with lots of other boys. Each bedtime, the boys were made to kneel by the bed and say their prayers. The nuns would then come around with a cane and hit the bottom of the bed. They would ask if the boys were asleep and if any of them were caught awake they were given a hiding.

The nuns would not allow the boys to go to the toilet other than at set times. If a boy needed to go again they would have to ask a nun and even if they were desperate to do a ‘number two’ they would have to wait. Edward says this could be quite traumatic. In later life he developed cancer and he blames this on the strictly allocated toilet times.

Edward wet the bed until he was in his mid teens, and recounts how dreadful the punishments were. On one occasion a nun put him in one of the industrial washing machines with his wet sheets and shut the door. She didn’t switch it on but left him there.

From the convent Edward was moved to an orphanage run by another religious order. If he wet the bed here he would be punished,. This was a regular event for him, and his dormitory was called the ‘wet boys’ dormitory. He says being paraded in front of the other boys was the worst.

Edward had a very good singing voice and was in the choir. One of the religious staff, Brother John, ‘took a shine’ to Edward. He would take him into his office where the sexual abuse took place. Edward was a pre-teen at the time and says that in that situation he could not refuse to do what the staff member told him to. The sexual abuse continued intermittently.

On another occasion Edward woke up in the bed of another brother. Edward believes that the brother took him from his bed into his own bed. Edward woke up in what he describes as a ‘sticky mess’. This happened to other boys.

Edward told us he was in the chapel one day and noticed that a brother was completely naked under his cassock. His thinks this explained why the brother liked to hold boys close to him.

Edward said that it was not ‘the norm’ to tell anyone about the sexual abuse. He says ‘You just grew up with it.’ There were occasional visits from welfare officers, but these were not to see if they were being treated well and there was no opportunity to complain.

He says that he never knew and was never shown love as a boy. Edward understands that you cannot put love into an institution, but said that there was not even empathy. He thinks that people mistakenly assumed that the religious staff would show empathy, but they did not. Edward feels that some of the staff were men who went into religious organisations to avoid the military service that was required at the time.

Edward was later placed with a foster family but it transpired later that they only fostered him so they could move from their cottage to a newly built house. He was returned after only three months with this family and was sent to a residential home run by non-religious staff. He spent the rest of his time in care in this home and says he was very happy there.

Edward still finds it hard to make friends, particularly with other males, as he doesn’t trust men.

He would like to see more frequent visits made to children in homes and that there should always be a family member or someone that the child trusts in welfare meetings with the child. He would also like to force authorities to ensure that they keep full records for children in care.

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