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Dr Marietta Higgs
Kerry tells us about being taken away when she was 6 during the Cleveland Child Abuse Crisis.
My first memory is this.
I was in school, painting a vase of red flowers. Mum came in with a social worker and a policeman. I was told I had to leave my picture and go with them to hospital. No-one told me why, I wasn’t sick, why did I need to go, why was Mum upset?
When we got to the hospital Dr Higgs took me in to a room. Mum had to wait outside. I was told to take my clothes off, she looked at my bottom and my front, I got dressed and went into the playroom while the doctor talked to my mum.
Some social workers gave me 2 dolls to play with; the dolls had no clothes on. They asked me if I knew what private places where and could I show them the dolls private places, they asked me if I knew what a secret was and did I have any secrets.
I said yes to both questions, they wanted to know my secret, I looked at Mum, I told them how my Dad was in prison, and had been since I was a baby, that was my secret.
I was taken away along with my little brother who was 10 months old.
One night I was in bed my brother was asleep, I don’t know how long we had been in for, It was night time, though I could hear cheering. I got out of bed and looked out of the window, there were some men playing football, I watched for a while then got back into bed.
I had a dream, mum had gone to bed but left the TV on, she was in bed asleep when the fire started, the TV burst into flames. She had an orange and brown striped sofa, this was on fire too, the flames went upstairs, I could hear mum screaming.
I woke with a jump, it was dark in the room, I could just see the pale glow of the emergency exit signs, the screaming was getting louder, it was my brother, he was crying and screaming. I gave him a hug, he didn’t want me.
I went to try and find a nurse, I found one, she shouted at me for being out of bed, I tried to tell her he was crying, she wouldn’t listen, she pushed me back in to my room and closed the door. He was really bad now, he couldn’t stop crying and was coughing a lot, I sat next to his cot and sang to him what else could I do?
I was only six, he wanted Mum, I don’t know who fell to sleep first but when I woke up it was morning. I’d slept on the floor, my brother was sleeping peacefully.
One day Mum said we were going home, I couldn’t believe it. Granddad was waiting outside in the car, and Nana was in the car. She was crying. “Come on,” she said “Let’s get out of this place”. We got in the car and drove off, the nightmare was over.
We all had to grow up quick in that year of 1987. We all learned to cope, we didn’t talk about it, we just pretended it never happened.
I can’t remember anything before this happened, so I don’t know if it changed me, I’ve always been mature for my age and was shy at school, and it’s always been in the back of my mind.
20 years on and I don’t think anything has changed.
There are so many examples of miscarriages of justice when a parent has been blamed for sudden infant death syndrome, or abuse, and just because a ‘professional’ gives their opinion, everyone thinks they must be right.
Dr Higgs made a mistake, a huge mistake, but I don’t hold it against her. I do however think that it was wrong for her to continue working with children and I hope that she has learned from her mistake.
I still have the nightmares I had when I was on the ward, a place where I was ‘safe’ but I was safe at home.
It’s something that I just deal with, life goes on, my only hope is that by having the Cleveland crisis bought back into peoples memories that it will spur our Government on in to making the changes that need making.
last updated: 21/06/07