© / Wikipedia
The Church of England published a damning report on the horrific abuse of youngsters at a former children’s home on the same day Theresa May became Prime Minister, prompting critics to accuse the church of trying to “bury bad news.”
Published on Wednesday, the review presented “harrowing” evidence of physical and sexual abuse at Kendall House in Gravesend, Kent, over a 20-year period. It found vulnerable girls were regularly over-medicated on antipsychotic drugs, locked in isolation rooms, physically abused and even raped, during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Girls who lived in Kendall House across the decades have described challenging conditions - with the home resembling a prison, with barbed wire and iron bars.
One survivor (just barely) She told the inquiry: "That was my youth, that's when I should have been into the Beatles or into a bit of fashion. It did change me.
"I did take two overdoses and one of them was so serious I was taken to hospital and had my stomach pumped. I was near enough dead.
"I'd left Kendall House but those suicidal thoughts stayed with me and the first chance I got I took the overdose and I remember the tubes going down and having my stomach pumped."
Another who was in the home in the late 1970s also recalled the impact of the regime: "It was a very, very hard road and there were consequences of it, because of what happened.
"I did end up in prison in the end because there was no proper back-up support. Nobody helped me. All they did was drug me up.
"Nobody actually tried to challenge the problems. It's made me a not very confident person. I suffer with terrible bad nerves all the time. I don't cope in crowds very easily.
"I still feel cheated. I was cheated out of my childhood because I don't think that was the right place for me. I don't think it was right for any of the girls that were there."
Years later, in the mid 1980s, the regime had not improved for one resident: "It was hell. It was just like being in prison. I'd gone to prison for a crime that I hadn't committed to be abused all over again for no particular reason, just because they could.
Another resident from the same time said: "What happened to me in Kendall House and everywhere else lives with me ever single day.
"As a result, I have ended up with illnesses and mental health issues and everything else."
One resident described the conditions as "a prison-like atmosphere", but she added: "I think even in prisons they probably have a bit more say."
Another said: "There was no explanation. There was no attempt to befriend you or to be supportive."
There were also restrictions on personal possessions, even photos.
Campaigner Teresa Cooper, 48, lived in the Pelham Road home from 1981 until 1984.
She did not give evidence to the inquiry, but fought for the investigation for three decades.
The mum-of-three, who says she was forcibly tranquillised and sexually abused at the home in Pelham Road, claims the panel “made it impossible” for her to be involved as giving evidence would have required frequent travel into London.
“I’ve lost everything because of this, my children, my grandchildren,” she said.
“I’m the only one who was fighting this, and pushing for this review for the past 30 years, but I feel like I’m being made invisible now.
“They made it impossible for me to be involved because I would have needed so much time off work, and they didn’t even offer to cover my transport costs. Now I’ve found that all the other women involved are being compensated. They didn’t want me to be part of this.
“Staff were doing what they wanted and drugging the girls themselves.
“It’s not just about what happened at Kendall House, it’s everything since then, the cover-ups and brushing it under the carpet, all those injustices to date. There needs to be a full police investigation.
Ms Cooper has also disputed several of the review’s terms of reference, including the absence of any mention of birth defects and medical problems suffered by the children and grandchildren of former residents.
One of the terms of reference states that the home’s drug regime was brought to an end when Dr Perinpanyagam retired in 1983, but Ms Cooper claims it continued until 1986.
Also stated is that complaints and civil claims against the Church of England started in 2006, much later than Ms Cooper says she began her fight for justice.
Ms Cooper won substantial out-of-court damages from the church in 2010 over her claims, but has accused it of failing in its duty to her and other alleged abuse victims.
She is currently pursuing another legal claim against the church in a bid to secure damages for up to 25 children who it is claimed suffered as a result of drug use at Kendall House.
Ms Cooper’s daughter Sarah, 23, was born with a cleft palate. Her two sons and grandchild also have serious health issues.
The Church of England issued a “wholehearted apology” following the investigation, which found the response of the dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury “woeful and inadequate.”
One wonder what is the standard here for 'woeful and inadequate? Is it woeful and inadequate treatment of the children, or of the church?
Critics argue the Church should have delayed the publication of such a serious report until after former home secretary Theresa May was officially made PM.
“Only the naive will believe this not an attempt to bury bad news, especially as the Church has form on this,” said Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society. “Church’s concern remains protecting its reputation and pocket, rather than the many victims whose lives have been ruined.”
The damning report on Kendall House, which was run by the authoritarian superintendent Doris Law, concluded it was “toxic and destructive to the girls placed there.”
Medicine was distributed by consultant psychiatrist Dr Marenthiran Perinpanayagam, known as Dr Peri, whose drug regime had an “experimental element,” according to the report. Both Law and Perinpanayagam are now dead.
The review described Kendall House as “a place where control, containment and sometimes cruelty was normalized.”
“Girls as young as 11 were routinely and often without any initial medical assessment, given antidepressants, sedatives and antipsychotic medication,” the report said. “Often these drugs were given in dosages which exceeded usual prescribed adult levels. This served to control their behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor, restricting their ability to communicate or to learn, or have any personal autonomy.”
“These drugs put them at risk of numerous side effects, many of which were distressing. The effects of the drugs also increased their vulnerability to emotional, physical and, in a smaller number of cases, sexual abuse.
“Those that resisted, challenged or overcame the effects of these routinely administered drugs faced sanctions. These included being locked in a room for long periods, and receiving emotionally abusive threats and actions.
“In a number of cases, even the slightest misdemeanours, the typical features of teenagers’ behaviour, were ‘dealt’ with by physical restraint, sometimes violent, and intramuscular injections of powerfully sedating medication.”
So the question is, was there any oversight of this facility? If not, why not? If there was, who was responsible for it and why did he do such an inadequate job? I wonder if the report addresses these questions?