Carrying on from my previous blog and the taboo subject of paedophilia, some have got the impression that I have NEVER encountered people with an unhealthy interest in children. I have of course, especially during the 5 formative years I spent in a Catholic Care Institution.
Apart from the malcontents trapped in Holy Orders, the stark, authoritarian convent environment attracted lay staff who make up the kind of characters who would not be out of place in the plot of a standard child in peril horror film. Most were religious fanatics, authoritarians and sadists. It was believed at that time (1960s) that children in care (the undeserving poor)could be rehabilitated into model citizens through discipline and religious fervour. Behavioural modification and indoctrination in the Gulag style.
The convent I was in, St. Anne's was run the Sisters of Mercy, an Order who bizarrely believed that girls were filthy, dirty whores who should be taught to accept a life of servitude. Scrubbing floors constantly, would apparently, remove any trace of pride we were struggling to cling onto. We were also cared for by a deranged ex Jesuit monk who believed in the ideology of Opus Dei. Mortification of the body, he told us, was good for the soul. Not only should we welcome our punishments, we should thank him for them. And he would regale us with his own suffering, with tears in his eyes and gazing up to the heavens he would recall how he prostrated himself naked in front of the altar, while his fellow monks lashed him with cat-o-9s. He also told us about the string he had in his pocket that was attached to his genitals, which may explain the tears in his eyes.
Though it may have been sexual for those men and women getting their jollies from the sadism, happily any, err, relief they sought, was never in our presence.
With Peter Rand, the psychopathic loon who had charge of us, he targeted the boys. Not just the boys in the convent, as a scout leader and pillar of the community, he became the catholic mentor to turn to for your troubled (male) teen. I saw the art of grooming first hand, though I wasn't aware of it at the time. Whilst we girls suffered for the sins of Eve, the selected boys went on outings (to Westminster), holidays (the Vatican) and wore smart, up to date clothes. When his personnel file was revealed at my ill chosen legal battle with the Church, that not only was he sexually abusing the boys - he was caught with a 15 year old boy in his bed, there was also financial fraud especially with a Burtons credit card.
Rand was pure evil. He was exactly the kind of paedophile that the authorities are protecting. They are legally liable for employing psychopaths like Rand, but the truth is, he is but the tip of the iceberg because he represents the dominant ideology of that time. The government were happy to turn a blind eye to hundreds, if not thousands, of children being handed over to religious institutions, with little follow up as to their well being. That we were being raised to 'go into service' or menial labour was preventative, they didn't want us growing up feckless, like our parents.
I feel great sorrow for the helpless boys that Rand and his kind preyed upon, and I know the experience blighted many young lives. But I would say to the survivors, 'let it go'. Not because I want to protect people like Rand or the evil so called carers who abused their power, but for the sake of their own mental health. And I speak as someone who allowed my own past to screw my head up for 40+years. Five years of which were spent in an endless exchange of legal letters (guaranteed to bring any high moods back down to rock bottom) with the click of the letterbox. It was pure hell, followed by 1 and a half days on a burning pyre (the witness box) and the haunting memories of the Defence telling me what shit parents I had.
For those pressing for a full inquiry, what exactly do they hope to achieve? Some might say, it's OK for me, I had my day in Court, finally, as an adult, I got the opportunity to expose, with passion, the evils that went on in that dark satanic place. But, given the opportunity, I would go back and say to that 14 year old self who vowed revenge, 'what the fuck are you thinking! There's a big, wide world out there, forget those weirdos, they no have no place in your life anymore'.
Though I hate to say it, the whole 'legal system' is designed so that the Survivors will fail, or die of old age, whichever comes sooner. Admission of liability could open floodgates. The recent re-showing of Cathy Come Home, showed how easy it was for the authorities to seize children and the State knows best mentality that existed at that time. There are hundreds if not thousands of deserving cases out there, but if they settle just one, then thousands more will come forward.
Out of these genuine claims, there has grown a culture of witch hunting, that I find distasteful and unnecessarily cruel. Dragging dirty old men out of their homes and putting them up for public ridicule is almost barbaric. What, if any, lessons are to be learned? The truth is, most of us, if we are honest, we have been groped, or spoken to inappropriately by (mostly) drunken, adult men. Even as children! As a young girl about town, the winks and the wolfwhistles were the highlights of my day. One of the first loves of my life began with the words 'ever seen a builder's tool?'.
I also have (hilarious) memories of a caravan holiday in Great Yarmouth with a group of female pals, average age 16. We were all smitten by the ageing crooner who performed at the clubhouse each evening, and by the end of the holiday it transpired he had slept with at least 3 of us. Were we upset? Not a bit of it, we had a side splittin evening comparing notes and laughing at his set routines.
But I digress. I spent most of my adult life despising Peter Rand and the nuns, I longed for the day when I could confront him especially, as an adult and an equal. I wanted to scream at him for the cruelty he unleashed, I wanted to call him every dirty, filthy name I could think of, I wanted to tell him how his hatred of females had made me feel. I never got that opportunity. At the time of the trial he was dying, cancer of the anus ironically, but he had enough breath to swear on a statement denying everything.
The reality was, revenge wasn't sweet. The only person I had been destroying all those years was myself. My, much wiser, family and friends had long ago made the decision to move on. There is a good reason for letting sleeping dogs lie, every time I think about the miserable things that happened in my past, I feel like shit. And I have to ask, why would I do that to myself?
I would urge those survivors who are still demanding inquiries and prosecutions, what it is they expect? From personal experience I can say there is no satisfaction whatsoever in revenge. Whilst I am glad that Rand went to meet his maker knowing that I knew, is enough. The moment had long since passed. He wasn't an active threat to the community or anyone, I honestly don't know what punishment would have been fitting.
All those resources that are being wasted on historic crimes would be better transferred to agencies that are tackling the risks faced by children now, in the present day. The refugee children in Calais, those kids here who are threatened with homelessness and hunger, their parents at breaking point by harsh sanctions. There isn't any way to right wrongs from the past, other than to use them as lessons for the future. The truth was, all those kids seized and taken into care, were in far more danger of encountering paedophiles, sadists and sociopaths than they ever would have in the 'outside' world.
The greatest thing the survivors could do is walk away, accept that they have given those vile, odious ghosts from their past, enough of their time, and look towards a more positive future. Most of those claiming to be on their side really aren't. They are professionals who are purportedly experts, in what, I can't imagine, but in any event, they are programmed to promote the victim's cause, or the Defendants, depending on who is employing them. It is in no-one's interest to bring this long running saga to an end. Not the victims who feel success in a court will somehow heal them, and especially not all the support agencies that have been created to support them. Throw in all the legal fees and that's quite an industry, but sadly, not one that puts the good mental health and wellbeing of the survivors at the forefront.