Thursday, March 6, 2008

Decades of Horror - Haut de la Garenne

In the wake of the investigation into the child abuse scandal, on the small island of Jersey, the chief minister is facing mounting pressure to resign.

Several groups on Facebook have launched a campaign for the removal of Senator Frank Walker. The sites have attracted over 2,000 members.

The Telegraph is reporting: Mr. Walker, who has been in office since 2005, was accused last week of being more concerned with the island's image than the child abuse allegations, after he was overheard accusing a fellow senator of "trying to shaft Jersey internationally" by drawing attention to the problem.

Detectives are also investigating claims of an establishment cover-up which had until now apparently allowed the allegations of abuse to remain secret.

Jersey has no political parties and its parliament has been characterized as an oligarchy, run by a ruling elite drawn from the world of finance and business.

The waters seem to be muddied more and more each day!

Updated: 4:45am
Folks are speaking out about their terrifying stay in Haut de la Garenne.

Children disappeared. The locals asked no questions. Sure they must have been runaways. Few asked where those missing children actually ran to — with no money in their pockets, no families to seek?

Peter Hannaford, 59, spent the first 12 years of his life at the home. “Boys and girls were abused while I was there,” Mr. Hannaford said. “The abuse was anything from rape and torture. It was men and women who abused us. It happened every night.”

June Gleyo, 56, who moved to the island in 1971, said she knows two victims of La Garenne. “There was cruelty, but mainly sexual abuse. The two people I know were women and it was pretty harrowing. La Garenne has always had this terrible shadow hanging over it.”

But Haut de la Garenne was like a prison, according to one former resident. Chris (not his real name) went to Haut de la Garenne for two years during the 1960s. He was aged eight and his parents had spilt up. He remembers it being common for staff to randomly hit children, caning was commonplace and elder children could be put into isolation for up to 24-hours. “It wasn’t a children’s home, it was a children’s prison.”

Chris said: “If you were walking down a corridor and a member of staff was coming the other way you got a slap round the head, just for being there. I still flinch now when someone slaps me on the head, even in a friendly way.”

The effect of the regime meant children looked after each other. “When I went there I was quite green, but one of the older children befriended me,” he said.

That boy was found some years later hanging from a tree after apparently committing suicide, he said.

One woman, known only as Pamela, branded the home a “pedophile’s paradise”, saying she was given heavy doses of valium and abused by male and female staff during her four years there in the 1970s.

She says she was one of many children who were stripped naked and locked inside a tiny cell for days.

She described how children would cower in their beds while staff searched for their next victims, offering cigarettes and alcohol in return for sexual favors.

“The things that happened there are indescribable — the most cruel sadistic and evil acts you could think of,” Pamela said. “What makes it worse is that these acts were practiced on very vulnerable and often troubled children who had nowhere to go and nobody to turn to for help.”

Jersey has, of course known trauma before. The Nazi flag flew over this British isle for five years during World War II. Many in Jersey still talk about the occupation, including Fred Carpenter who lived through it. He was a resident of the children’s home that later became known as Haut de la Garenne.

“It was like a horror camp, what happened during the war,” Mr. Carpenter said. “After the war, the state’s doctor examined all the boys, and I was so undernourished, they only gave me two months to be alive.”

The 76-year-old recalled terrible beatings in the home, of young boys disappearing without explanation.

Police have a list of 40 suspects, who have been described as respected figures of the establishment.


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