The abused - in their own words
The voices of the abused emerge raw and bleak from pages 113 to 119 of Volume V of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. They told their stories to an interviewing team. In an introductory note to the section, the team acknowledged their courage: “We were deeply moved, inspired and humbled by our contact with you. Although we spent only a few hours with you, meeting you and listening to your stories was a moving and enriching experience for all of us. We felt privileged and honoured that you trusted us with such intensely personal and private experiences. . .” Here are sample extracts – unedited – of what the team heard.
Statements of “worst thing” that happened to participants while living in an institution
– Severe physical and sexual abuse.
– Stripped naked by a nun and beaten with a stick and given no supper and humiliated.
– After running away having my hair cut off to a very short length and was made to stand naked to be beaten by nun in front of other people.
– At 6 I was raped by nun and at 10 I was hit with a poker on head by nun.
– When I told nuns about being molested by ambulance driver, I was stripped naked and whipped by four nuns to “get the devil out of you”.
– Sexual and physical abuse, no education, and not enough food.
– Forced oral sex and beatings.
– A brother tried to rape me but did not succeed, so I was beaten instead.
– Taken from bed and made to walk around naked with other boys whilst brothers used their canes and flicked at their penis.
– Tied to a cross and raped whilst others masturbated at the side.
Severe physical abuse
– I was polishing the floor and a nun placed her foot on my back so I was pushed to the floor. I was locked in a dark room.
– Having to empty the toilets and being lifted off the ground by my sideburns.
– Put in bath of Jeyes fluid with three others.
– They used to make my sisters beat me.
– Having my head submerged in dirty water in the laundry repeatedly by a nun.
Being beaten regularly
– Physical abuse and segregation from other children for no reason.
– A severe beating by two nuns for a trivial misdemeanour until I was bleeding.
– Being beaten for wetting the bed and allocated to do worst work like cleaning potties and minding children
– Tied to a bed and physically abused by three carers.
– I was beaten and hospitalised by the head brother and not allowed to go to my father’s funeral in case my bruises were seen; also the head brother threatened to kill me.
– Being accused of sexually interfering with other boys and being beaten until made to write down the names of boys I had touched. In the end I wrote down two names to stop the torture.
– They made me change my surname and beat me until I accepted it. They took my identity from me. The put me through mental torture which is still with me now. They separated me from my sister and sent her to another institution.
– Being physically beaten by nuns and referred to as a number. My head was pushed under water in the bath. The nuns threw food into a group of children and I would have to struggle to get some food.
– Being told at 6.30pm on way to bed that I would be beaten next morning at 6.30am. It was torture waiting for it.
– Being stripped and thrown into nettles and sleeping with pigs for a week.
– I was left hanging out of a window for hours with finger stuck in it, and was guaranteed to be beaten every day.
– Having my hair cut off in spite and being beaten on the floor.
– Being locked in a furnace room and left, bitten by rats, found by coal delivery man, removed, washed in cold water, bites cleaned and then put back there.
– Being punished when tired and no one listening to me about the abuse.
– Starving and beatings like a concentration camp. There were so many worst things. Every day was a nightmare.
– My hair was cut short as punishment and I was beaten very badly in front of everyone when I came home late.
– We were all lined up naked and slapped in the face a lot. We all had to drink water from toilets and were all washed in same dirty bath water.
– Receiving a severe beatings and witnessing my younger brother returning from a severe beating.
– Lashing; name calling (the name “good for nothing” is still with me today); starving while watching pets being fed.
– Being beaten until knocked out and my head split. Having my finger placed in boiling water until all feeling was lost; the finger swelled up, skin wore away, and the nail fell off.
– Being thrown and ducked in scalding hot baths; being taken to hospital and anaesthetised with ether when getting my tonsils out. I have awful memories of feeling like being smothered with ether, similar to being ducked in the bath; I came as near death as you can imagine.
– Being whipped and humiliated in front of the other children.
– Being abused; once my tongue was almost cut out.
– Constant beatings; I was forced to sit on potty until my rectal muscle popped out.
– Beaten by nuns with cat-o-nine-tails that left deep cuts.
– Beaten and scarred with hurley.
– Kicked down the stairs.
– Being hit on my back by a brother and sustaining a lifelong injury.
– I was beaten in the shower naked, and not allowed to say goodbye when leaving.
– Beaten until I had bones broken.
– Being stripped and flogged and locked in room for 2-3 weeks.
Severe sexual abuse
– Sexual abuse – molested at night.
– Oral and anal sexual abuse on one occasion.
– Molested and masturbation.
– Sexual abuse and made to feel so insecure.
– Sexual abuse, starvation and secrecy in an institution that wasn’t fit for habitation.
– Gang rape.
– Sexually molested by a priest visiting the institution on 6-8 occasions.
– Sexual abuse perpetrated by gardeners, a social worker and other male convent employees.
– Being left out in the cold one winter and staying out near the boiler where older boys who had been sent by the courts tried to molest him and I had to fight them off.
– A Brother sexually abused me.
– Child sexual abuse by older boys (not the brothers).
– Sexually abused in a toilet twice, and mental abuse, shown horror movies.
– Sexual abuse and witnessing violence. I had a rubber hose stuck up me and I had to watch my carers beating the youngest most vulnerable children.
– Being raped by the director of the school.
Severe emotional abuse
– When my mother first came to visit after six months, she cried lots at how much weight I and all the kids had lost. She cried lots saying “I didn’t put ye here.”
– Watching other boys who had just been beaten for wetting the bed coming out of the office in pain, hearing the crying and seeing other boys trying to help.
– Father prevented from seeing me.
– They told my brothers I had died. I was hit for crying in response and told to stop.
– Not being loved.
– Neglect. Craving love but getting none.
– After a disagreement with a nun, my long hair was cut off in my sleep as they knew I loved it.
– Living in fear.
– Being painted with a paint brush.
– The night I entered the institution, my clothes and teddy thrown away.
– Getting chilblains, frostbite, and sores so deep I could see my bones on my hand from working in the fields was worse than the beatings.
– The fear, starvation and hard labour.
– Deprived of chance to go to my grandmother’s funeral.
– The first day I was told my mother didn’t want me.
– Seeing a young boy die. He was 12 years old, beaten by brothers on landing and fell over bannister.
– Told to say I was the devil and had to wear a “devil’s tongue” hat.
– I had my identity taken away. I was known by a number only.
– Having pubic hair shaved off and a nun telling people about it at dinner. She said “I shaved the monkey”.
– I can take any abuse, but the worst thing was having no one. Seeing other kids going out with their families and not knowing why I had no one. I was lied to: told that my parents were dead. I only found out in my 50s that they were alive.
– I could stand the beating. The worst thing was the mental abuse: being put in there in the first place and not understanding why.
– At age nine I was sent to pluck turkeys in a coal shed in the cold and had freezing fingers.
– The worst thing was the emotional removal of self: it still has a huge effect on my life.
– Lack of education: not being taught how to read or write. That’s the most hurtful thing.
– It was threatened that my father would lock me in a mental institution if I didn’t stop causing trouble.
– Punishment was meted out repeatedly for the same misdemeanour. Constantly being threatened with punishment.
– Listening to them talking badly about my mother and being taunted about my physical appearance. I was called “four eyes”.
– Loneliness at Christmas time.
– Public humiliation about my mother being unmarried.
– Loss of finger through gangrene due to lack of medical attention. She loved to play the piano and this meant loss of hope to become a music teacher.
– We were children and we did so much hard work. We were up at six o’clock in the morning. We have no childhood memories. We knew no better.
– The worst thing was the overall effect of breaking my spirit; the violence; and the constant blanket of terror.
– The constant fear. I was called into the office and told my mother had died. I actually felt relief that it wasn’t a punishment.
– Feeling alone and unloved.
– Witnessed my sister being whipped until she bled, then made to kneel in refectory for three months.
– The worst thing was the sense of being an orphan and being incarcerated and criminalised: the monotony; the ball-aching mind-aching hopelessness.
– Feeling like a “nobody” and that everyone was better. Always feeling insecure.
– Constantly being told I was worthless and shouldn’t have been born.
– Seeing my brother being beaten.
– Being taken into the office and told my foster mother had died and then immediately sent away again.
– I overheard someone say that my mother had died the night before. When I asked about it I was ignored and dismissed. My friend was beaten so badly for wetting the bed that I watched her die. I was constantly starving. I had to bribe my carers with bread so I wasn’t beaten.
– I was put naked into a coffin as punishment.
– Fear of everything. Fear of God. Fear of the Christian Brothers. Fear that I would go to hell.
– It was all bad.