Scars That Won't Heal from a Boy's Living Nightmare
Yorkshire Post [United Kingdom]
August 3, 2006
Yesterday, the Yorkshire Post revealed a former Catholic children's care home is facing a huge sexual abuse compensation case. Today, one of its former residents talks to Rob Waugh.
Given up by his mother when he was a baby, classified as emotionally disturbed when he was only six, shunted from children's home to children's home, Graham Baverstock never stood much of a chance in life.
Never settling anywhere, his traumatic passage through the child care system eventually brought him to the St William's Community Home in 1973.
It was run by the Catholic De La Salle Brothers, and Graham should have been able to expect the kind of Christian love so badly needed by a damaged 15-year-old boy. Instead, like so many others who passed through the doors of the Market Weighton home, he was seen as little more than fodder for a regime under which brutality and sexual abuse became commonplace.
Now an embittered 48-year-old man, Graham has waived his right to anonymity to talk about his experiences at the home and the devastating effect they have had on his life.
He recalls first being hit by one of the Brothers, with a broom, only two weeks into his stay. He remembers later being punched by a Brother when he told him he had told a social worker, to no avail, what was going on at the home. He remembers a Brother who had a penchant for kicking boys without warning. He remembers the boys at the home being encouraged to take out their frustrations on each other by hitting each other with plastic batons.
And, most of all, he can't forget the horrendous sexual assaults carried out by the former principal of the home, Brother James Carragher.
The man described by the senior police officer who brought him to justice as "the most evil he had ever met" raped Graham twice.
"He always went for the vulnerable kids. The ones he knew didn't have any family or people who would come to see us. He knew who the weak and vulnerable ones were.
"The whole regime... they weren't Brothers, they weren't religious people, they were animals."
Carragher was given a 14-year jail term in 2004 for systematically abusing boys at the home over a 24-year-period. He had previously been sentenced to seven years in 1993 for similar offences.
"Some of those children, how they survived I don't know," says Graham. "The place was a living nightmare.
"I used to run away and I told social workers what was happening but they didn't believe you, they just took you back. And then you would get more punishment."
He remembers the claustrophobic atmosphere of fear which pervaded the home and the sense of futility the boys felt about their fate.
"Nobody said much. You couldn't speak about it, could you? You couldn't say anything in that school, it was a silent school. You lived under fear. Basically, no-one would believe us anyway. We were forgotten people, all the kids at the school were forgotten. The kids who had no family at all visiting them were even more vulnerable."
Only Carragher has been jailed for his abuse at the home and wider recognition of the awful trauma suffered by the boys may finally be on the horizon with 140 former residents suing the organisations responsible for running the home – the De La Salle Brothers and two organisations formerly under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough – for compensation which could run into millions of pounds.
In Graham's case, he has already received a measure of justice through an award of £16,500 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority earlier this year.
But there remains a heartfelt indignation that those responsible, particularly those organisations either running the home or the local authorities referring boys to its clutches, have failed to apologise for so tragically letting them down.
In terms of the Catholic Church, the legal case is cited as a reason for not publicly apologising lest it hints at liability. The councils, however, do not have the same – Graham believes weak – excuse for not simply saying sorry.
East Riding Council, which co-ordinates much of the care that Graham requires for a series of disabilities which have left him needing a wheelchair, is effectively the council responsible for his placement at St William's since it takes on the liabilities of the former Humberside County Council.
It is also the same council which admits it can't find Graham's care records and also claimed it couldn't find any record of Graham even being a resident at the home.
Efforts by one of its councillors, Bob Tress, to secure an apology have so far come to virtually nothing, adding to the sense of victimisation Graham clearly feels.
Mr Tress said: "The council just doesn't seem to recognise Graham was damaged by what happened and, of late, that he was even at St William's.
"I can't see why East Riding can't just say, 'You had a terrible time at St William's and we apologise on behalf of the previous council'. They should all have got an apology, whichever council referred them there.
"To have lost his records is careless and bad management. He hasn't even had an apology for that – he's just been told they've gone missing and 'tough'."
It's an attitude which has done nothing to help Graham overcome the trauma of a childhood which no child should ever have to endure.
"Going to St William's changed my life. Now, I hate the system, I hate the authorities, I'm still a victim as much today.
"I don't have girlfriends, I don't trust people, I've no trust in the system. I'm very sceptical about people and don't tend to give them a chance.
"It's still coming out now, 35 years later."
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