‘Silence is broken’ as 38 cases of child abuse passed to police

Police Scotland has revealed it has at least 5,000 files detailing child abuse
Police Scotland has revealed it has at least 5,000 files detailing child abuse
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A forum which is gathering accounts from children who have been in care has reported 38 incidents of abuse to police.

The National Confidential Forum heard testimonies describing abuse, neglect, degradation and humiliation in its conversations with adults who spoke about their experience of 117 institutions in Scotland.

A total of 59 of the 78 people who came forward described experiences of abuse and 38 incidents have been passed to Police Scotland.

A summary of the accounts is recorded in the What We Have Heard So Far report published yesterday.

The majority of the former care residents described a range of dehumanising and cruel physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Examples include being forced to parade around naked with soiled linen in response to bedwetting, having their hair cut off, visits being cancelled at the last minute, beatings, force-feeding and withholding food or sleep.

The anonymous testimonies suggest abuse and neglect went unchallenged in some institutions due to a culture of bullying and silence fuelled by fear. When individuals as children did report abuse, they remember very little being done, being punished, moved to another institution or the abuser being believed over their account. One person remembered: “It was a systematic torture chamber...a systematic abuse...a way of life all the time, morning and night.”

Another said: “The first thing I remember about care was fear” while a third said: “I thought I was going to go mad, in a way I think I did...I remember feeling utterly broken.”

One person remembered: “She’d fill a bath with cold water and throw you in it, with the towel wrapped around your head, which I think is called water-boarding ... and then pour buckets of water over your head.”

A small number of people talked about positive care experiences.

Dr Rachel Happer, a clinical psychologist and head of the forum, said: “What we have heard so far indicates that a number of children were subjected to severe forms of abuse, neglect and degradation in care institutions that were meant to provide safety and protection. We heard repeatedly about children being too scared to speak up. With all abuse, we must be alert to the response to disclosure. Silence can be our worst enemy.

“For some people, talking to the forum is the first time they have been heard and sharing their experience broke a long-held silence.”