Jersey

Jersey Haut de la Garenne abuse 'survivor' speaks out

  • 29 March 2012
  • From the section Jersey

Sarah was sent to Haut de la Garenne in Jersey in the 1970s, at the age of 10, after her parents split up.

She said it was a real shock and the atmosphere at the home was like the novel Lord of the Flies.

She said that "you had to learn to be tough to survive".

Sarah, not her real name, remembered seeing children dragged off to the "detention room" - a bare cell without furniture - where they would be imprisoned for up to a week.

Punishment was sudden and sometimes for minor infractions. Sarah said: "If they didn't like the way you said something that could be enough". She said children were often hit.

Not cared for

As a young teenager she was sexually abused by a member of staff for several years. She did not tell anyone. It was only later, as an adult, that she realised how wrong this had been.

When the historic child abuse investigation came to national attention in 2008, Sarah contacted the police and later joined the civil action brought by several lawyers against the States of Jersey.

Image caption Sarah says she saw children dragged off to a bare cell without furniture and kept there for up to a week

It was those lawsuits, representing more than 100 abuse victims, which finally prompted the States to offer financial compensation.

Sarah said for her, the settlement was an acknowledgement of what happened. She said: "We were children in care but we weren't cared for."

She said she could now close that chapter of her life but doubted all the other victims would be able to do that.

Many in Jersey want a full public inquiry into the decades of abuse.

While that inquiry has been promised, no date has yet been set, nor terms of reference.

Sarah believes it has to be chaired by a British judge rather than someone from the island to have the confidence of the victims.

Although she sees herself as a survivor determined to overcome what happened, Sarah admitted it was tough.

"I just can't trust people, even now. When your childhood has been taken away you can never get it back," she said.

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