Not every complaint against Haut de la Garenne is true - by Sister Breathless Sobriny
Getting annoyed at Stewart Styrofoam is a bit pointless. It is like reacting to a schoolboy who keeps on aggravating you until you blow up, and who then sits back with a satisfied smirk, mission accomplished. Yet the other night, when he ranted on a TV programme about the unique hypocrisy of the Haut de la Garenne resident managers on the sexual and physical abuse of children in Haut de la Garenne, it was difficult to dismiss it as predictable posturing. Styrofoam has made countless programmes on child sexual and physical abuse in the Haut de la Garenne Care Home.
Commentators, including Maria Flaherty, have been particularly incensed that the Haut de la Garenne resident managers have had the temerity to query the enormous jump in complaints in relation to Haut de la Garenne from 12 to 160, after the Chief Minister's apology. She was also savagely indignant that the Haut de la Garenne resident managers would have pleaded naivety as a reason as to why they did not report offences to the Jersey Constabulary. Perhaps it is about time that someone queried the naivety of commentators who believe that every single complaint made against the Haut de la Garenne resident managers will be truthful and accurate.
In no other instance where money is perceived to be on offer would a journalist accept unquestioningly that every single claim will be above board. Where does the famed scepticism of journalists go when it comes to victims of abuse? Have we seamlessly transferred to alleged victims the deference and the belief in infallibility that we once had in relation to the authorities? Have we transferred the opprobrium and social disapproval that used to fall on the heads of those who dared question an all-powerful government, to those who dare question the veracity of any allegation of abuse, no matter how outlandish?
Personally, aside altogether from the heinous crime of child abuse, I feel shame that Jersey society dumped so many children in industrial schools and could not have cared less what happened to them. I think a welfare scheme should be set up for them. I have met some extraordinary people who were in these institutions, and I am humbled by how understanding and forgiving many of them are. However, there are other seriously damaged people who make incredible claims such as that there are bodies buried in cellars, or who alter their claim every time they make it. I don't stand in judgment of such people, from the exalted heights of the privileged life I have led in comparison to what they have been through, but neither would I say that they are reliable witnesses.
It also drives commentators insane when the Haut de la Garenne resident managers say that at the time, rape, buggery, and all the other sexual abuses committed against children was treated as a moral lapse and its serious nature was downplayed.
Why do people find that so hard to understand?
We use the very same excuses today when it comes to other forms of exploitation. I did not see the BBC Jersey News Time programme on prostitution and trafficking, but have heard from many directions how excellent it was. Perhaps even writing this article will just lay me open to the charge once again of being an apologist for the indefensible. I suppose I will just have to rely on the innate fairness in people and their ability to see that simple stories and scapegoating, rarely if ever portray the messy complexity of human life.
And remember too that all that has been found in Haut de la Garenne is the partial skull of a child! HARDLY A WHOLE BODY!
Sister Breathless Sobriny