Child Abuse in Religious Institutions Is the Fault of Governments As Much As Anyone Else

The irony of taking children born to unwed mothers and placing them in orphanages where they were ultimately abused is now coming to the fore. A tribunal in Australia is examining cases whereby many are now in a position where they can tell their stories and show the scars they bear from such treatment as that dealt out to them while in such an environment. The number being heard is large and the stories are horrific.

A few years ago an elderly friend told me of her experience in a Catholic orphanage. She was a child when her mother died and her age at that time escapes me but she was quite young. This is how many children became wards of the state and ended up in homes run by the religions. The trauma a young child would feel following her mum’s death is severe and today they would be treated for post-traumatic stress.

Instead of sympathy this poor woman received abuse. She was not allowed to cry or show pain and there was no one to cuddle her or read her a story at night before going to sleep. She cried only into her pillow so as not to be heard and she became a bed wetter. This brought the wrath of the nuns upon her. She could not change the bed and she was not given clean underpants. In fact the undergarments were only changed once a week on Fridays.

One can only imagine what this must have been like. When she reached 15 she was discharged from the orphanage with no skills for anything in the workforce except domestic duties. The nuns placed her in the local presbytery (priests home) to perform as a maid until she eventually met someone and married.

While caring for orphans in such a horrendous way is unforgivable the religions forced the governments to act against unmarried mothers in this way due to their beliefs that what they did is against God. The politicians upheld their view and acted accordingly. Now the victims are getting a chance to tell their stories and they are bringing tears to the eyes of those responsible who are still among the living.

Many victims of church related abuse, particularly of the sexual kind, have committed suicide. In that case it is their siblings who are relating their stories. Those who survived are often still traumatised fifty or more years afterwards.