|Kendall House Abuse Centre|
The report of the review of Kendall House, an Anglican girls' home in Gravesend, Kent, ordered by Bishop of Rochester, is truly shocking! It reveals a regime of systematic physical, psychological and sexual abuse of young, troubled girls, some as young as 11 years old, to the extent that almost every child was subjected to this abuse routinely and as a matter of 'normal' practice.
Bear in mind as you read this that one of the supposed 'selling points' of religion is that unlike 'atheistic' or secular institutions, they provide these social support institutions out of a sense of moral duty and obligation to their fellows - and because Jesus told them to!
Kendall House was a private children’s home for girls based in Gravesend, Kent. Until 1986, it was run and funded by the Church of England, overseen by the Joint Council for Social Responsibility for the Dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury. Girls who were placed there were aged between 11 and 16 years and often had serious behavioural or emotional problems. Many had been to a succession of children’s homes and had very troubled and difficult backgrounds.
In December 2015, the current Bishop of Rochester commissioned an independent panel to review events at Kendall House from 1967 until its closure in 1986. In the years since its
closure, a number of allegations of abusive and inappropriate practice there had been made by former residents. Allegations included inappropriate and over-use of medication, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
The review report pulls no punches. Amongst the main findings were:
Summary of findingsThe findings are harrowing. They reveal an institution which had weak governance and oversight. A place where control, containment and sometimes, cruelty were normalised. A
place where vulnerable girls, many previously and repeatedly let down by their parents, social services and other agencies, were caught in a regime that in many ways, sought to
rob them of their individuality, of hope, and in some cases of their liberty.
Girls as young as 11 were routinely and often without any initial medical assessment, given antidepressants, sedatives and anti-psychotic medication. Often, these drugs were given in dosages which exceeded usual prescribed adult levels. This served to control their behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor, restricting their ability to communicate or to learn, or have any personal autonomy. The drugs put them at risk of numerous side effects, many of which were distressing. The effects of the drugs also increased their vulnerability to emotional, physical and a smaller number of cases, sexual abuse.
Those that resisted, challenged or overcame the effects of these routinely administered drugs faced sanction. This included being locked alone in a room for long periods, and
emotionally abusive threats and actions. In a number of cases, even the slightest misdemeanours, the typical features of teenagers’ behaviour, were ‘dealt’ with by physical
restraint, sometimes violent, and intra-muscular injections of powerfully sedating medication.
With only one exception, every former resident who spoke with us experienced being placed, sometimes forcibly in this locked room. Isolated from their peers, and often heavily sedated, they could be kept in the room for days on end. Every former resident witnessed others being placed in this room. On at least two occasions, girls were placed in straitjackets; others were threatened with transfer to a local mental health hospital. In some cases, threats were enacted, and girls were admitted to the adult ward of the hospital before returning to Kendall House, often traumatised.
The practice of overmedication was seen in the early 1960s, and was prevalent during the late 1960s until the 1980s. Examples of sustained practice of this nature, albeit less
frequent, were identified into the mid-1980s until the closure of the home in 1986.
Why were girls placed at Kendall House? A variety of reasons were identified. For some it was deemed a place of safety; others were on remand after committing offences such as
theft, violent acts or for antisocial behaviour. Some had very troubled, fractured or violent family backgrounds; others had psychological or behavioural problems and were felt to be in need of a secure and structured home placement. Placements ranged from a matter of weeks to over four years.
Whatever the reason for their admission, none anticipated or deserved the ‘treatment’ they received there. In a regimented, rigid culture, where docile conformity was demanded, girls were supervised by a largely unqualified workforce, who in turn were led by the dominant and authoritarian figure of the superintendent, until 1985 when she retired. Information was not shared, communication between the leadership and the staff was poor, and until the mid-1980s, virtually no training or supervision for staff was provided. For the girls, they too had little if any information about why they were there, and contact and correspondence with their families and social workers was restricted and controlled.
Twenty years ago, revelations of child abuse on this scale, even if not abuse by a Church of England institution, would have been a major news story the outcry occupying the media for several days and having a major political impact. Now, so used have we become to child abuse in religious institutions, it would actually be a surprise had an enquiry such as this not found any evidence of it.
The enquiry also found that there was a unacceptable delay in commissioning the review when concerns were raised when the home was still open. Nothing was done until the 1990s following complaints from a former resident. Two of the recommendations are that there should be an apology for this delay and an apology to all former residents for the abuses to which they were subjected.
The report concludes in part with:
ConclusionFor many former residents, their background and experience at Kendall House have had damaging life-long effects. These are both emotional and physical and include an inability to trust others, to form relationships, a lack of confidence and having to live with a range of anxieties and fears, many of which have a physical impact on their daily lives. A small number of former residents went on to attempt suicide after living there.
One really can't read this report without questioning the 'charitable' motives of those concerned. There seems to have been little or no regard for the welfare of those to whom the care was ostensibly provided. Instead, it seems to have been an opportunity to put on a public display of charitable humanitarianism; to give the Anglican Church an outward appearance of holier-than-thou goodness and a pretense of doing what Jesus would have done, whilst not actually doing any good and a great deal of harm to those for whom it actually cared little.
One has to wonder what god they imagined was watching over this, making note and intending one day to call them to account for their actions or lack of them. Did they think simply selling its church was enough or was there actually no god at all? Was it just an opportunity to pretend to be occupying the moral high-ground whilst exploiting the privileges this piety made available to them? Who would have believed such devout people would be presiding over abuse of children on this scale and not even bothering to investigate it when concerns were first expressed and the chances of getting away with it seemed good?
The term 'hypocrites' is unavoidable!
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