The culture of St. Anne's Institution was based on punishment, just like the Roman Catholic institutions in Eire. We had a Punishment Book, that (gleefully) listed the physical and deprivation punishments, it didn't list the impromptu beatings, punches, kicks, pinches, pushing down the stairs, Chinese burns, etc, that the nuns dished out when their insanity took over completely and they wanted to pound a few more sins out of us.
The Authorities and the Catholic Church were complicit, the authorities didn't want to dig too deep, because they knew the can of worms they would be opening. Bizarrely, the position remains exactly the same today.
The nuns and staff, saw the children in their care as the spawn of the permissive society (it was the 60's) - we were the result of the promiscuity and immorality of the godless heathens outside the convent walls. It was their 'duty' to reform and punish us, they were doing it on behalf of 'God' and saving us from growing up to be whores like our mothers. Their motives were 'good' and their methods tried and trusted. You can't get a better laundress and cleaner than an ex convent girl.
Wayward girls and children from dysfunctional homes could be placed in the care of nuns safe in the knowledge that these potential whores, crooks and vagabonds would be firmly placed on the straight and narrow through a strict regime of hard work, prayer and suffering. Though it should be said even at that time, prisoners had some rights, we had none because no-one questions the religious.
The nuns taught us that pride and self esteem were tools of the devil, humility was the way forward, and they were more than happy to give us daily lessons in that. When people think of nuns, they think of the Sound of Music and kind, honourable women who have never committed a 'sin' in their lives. They forget entirely, that these women are religious extremists! All of them. No sane person spends half their lives on their knees praying to an unseen entity.
It was the nuns' duty to break our spirits, to respect authority and accept our lowly place in the universe and they took to it with gusto. Girls were prepared for a lifetime of domestic drudgery (I and the other girls were not allowed to do our school homework until the nun could see her ugly, fat face in the floor she made us polish over and over) and the boys were taught how to say 'yes sir, no sir' and doff their caps. The nuns, and indeed society, saw us as the prison inhabitants of the future, therefore it was imperative for them to teach us humility, obedience and conformity. This culture wasn't confined to the 'Sisters of Mercy' in Orpington, look at the atrocities carried out by the Sisters of Nazareth in Northern Ireland. Look at the similarities between all the children's homes run by fanatical religious orders, even the punishments are the same. This was a culture that ran through ALL the religious institutions in the UK and why there is such a backlash now.
Everything however is stacked against the survivors. Our murky 'pre convent' pasts will be seen as the root cause of any problems we may have had in life, not the abuse we received whilst in the care of 'responsible' people employed by the Council. We are bad eggs. Its in our gene pool. Its why I and probably thousands of others, kept our pasts hidden, many still do.
Sadly, its probably why we are still treated with so much suspicion, our motives seen as lowlife and money grabbing and our claims, a way in which to get money we are not entitled to. And there are reasons for this, the majority of care leavers end up in Prison, have mental health issues and problems with alcohol and drugs. The very good reasons why they have all these problems are completely overlooked, bad = bad, end of. The solution, counselling, guidance and rehabilitation costs money, 'bad' is cheaper to deal with and it satisfies the public's need to see non conformists punished and it keeps the riff raff off our streets.
The survivors are not just fighting mountains of bureaucracy, they are also fighting public prejudice. No one dare mention money, because that will confirm everyone's suspicions. 'Ah, so, its all about the compo - gotcha!'. Yet, acknowledging that the abuses occurred, apologising for them and helping the survivors to rebuild their broken lives is the only humane way in which to bring this historic abuse circus to an end. Spending years proving each individual claimant is a liar will cost far, far more.