It has recently been reported that Beechwood Children’s Home, Mapperley, Nottinghamshire, a former council run children’s home is in the spotlight. A former resident, James Cleverley, has been reported as saying “in my first week there I was raped” he was made to do sex acts with a male member of staff. At the time, he was a boy, aged 10, it was in the early 1970’s. He was then taken to Bracken House, Bulwell where again he had to endure further sexual abuse. He was raped. He was then taken to Risley Hall, Derbyshire and the same pattern of behaviour followed.
James is now 52 years of age and has said that:
“I want people to know that that’s what happened in these sorts of places. I want these people to be caught and sent away. I can’t get my life back – they ruined it”.
For the last fourteen or so years I have specialised in child abuse litigation. This is not the first time that I have heard this comment being made from a client. Cases involving historical abuse in children’s homes are notoriously difficult to pursue due to the passage of time and the closure of such homes. Often there is difficulty obtaining copies of the relevant social services records which are sometimes lost by social services or have been destroyed in a flood or another incident outside the local authority’s control.
Another woman who wishes not to be named, has come forward and said that she arrived at Beechwood in the late 1970’s and used to think it was strange at Beechwood as children and staff would sit on each other’s laps. It is believed that the 56 people who have come forward are just the tip of the iceberg. They now seek justice and want the abusers employed at the home, to answer to them for their actions.
Beechwood Children’s Home in Mapperley closed in 2006. The other homes in the spotlight are all in Nottinghamshire and are Bracken House in Thames Street, Bulwell; Ranskill Gardens in Bestwood and Wood Nook in Beechdale Road, Beechdale. Another home is Risley Hall in Derbyshire.
Mr Cleverley has explained to the press that he was abused from the age of 10. When he did tell Nottinghamshire Police at the time of the abuse (when he was caught running away from the home) he would always plead with the Police officers not to take him back there. However, he was always returned to the children’s home. Unfortunately, I have had this story told to me on too many occasions in the past. Clients who were abused in such homes as children, they are abused, they report the abuse to the Police at the time it is happening yet they are not believed. They are labeled troubled children. They are returned to the children’s home and the abuse continues. This pattern of behaviour leads to significant mental health difficulties for that child as he or she grows into an adult and tries to lead a “normal life”. It is impossible for them to try and lead a normal life. Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have difficulty trusting people throughout their life. It all boils down to the fact that they were put into a children’s home in the first place to be looked after and cared for because for reasons outside their control, their parents were unable to care for them and protect them from harm.
However, if their childhood in care consists of regular abuse and mistrust, then it is learned behaviour. It is incredibly difficult for adult survivors of childhood abuse to shake off the guilt, embarrassment and dark cloud that has hampered them almost all of their life.
It is important that victims of abuse speak out even if it is many years after the abuse. It helps to put things right in their own mind and any acknowledgment of guilt from the perpetrator or local authorities for failing to protect that vulnerable child in their early formative years is seen as an adult survivor, as recognition. This recognition often allows them to move forward and try and make sense of it all.