4 May 2021

Child put into adult pyschatric hospital, Royal Commission hears

9:36 am on 4 May 2021

Warning: This story discusses details of sexual violence

Where are the Cherries? This was the constant thought going through the mind of a nine-year-old boy who was sent to the adult psychiatric hospital, Cherry Farm.

Royal Commission Abuse in Care inquiry.

Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

Now aged 59, Toni Jarvis has given evidence to the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care's inquiry into residential state care.

Adopted at birth, Jarvis was severely physically abused by his adopted father.

Between the ages of seven and eight, he ended up fostered in various family homes before, five days after turning nine, he ended up in Cherry Farm awaiting a placement at Hokio Beach School.

Jarvis said the doctors advised social welfare that they did not have the facilities for a nine-year-old boy and that he would be placed and locked with adult patients and that the patients would corrupt him.

"Social welfare sent me anyway. For as long as I remember Social Welfare had the attitude of doing what they wanted and not what was best throughout my childhood," Jarvis said.

''I didn't have any understanding of why I was taken to Cherry Farm. I was not told where I was going apart from the name of the institution. When we drove there I noticed it was a massive complex, but being the nine-year-old I was, I was looking for a plant with cherries.

''I was excited to go to Cherry Farm. All I could think of was tins of fruit salad, where there would be one cherry.''

He was taken to the main area and then locked in with the adult patients.

"It was like, welcome to the horror show for a nine-year old boy. All the adult patients stopped and gave me a sickening looks."

The patients were very disturbed and mentally ill, he said.

"They were making noises, wailing and making unusual movements with their bodies and faces. I remember thinking to myself what the hell is this and I was still wondering where the cherries were.

"I went into a foetal position and the patients starting coming at me in every direction."

He was constantly medicated at Cherry Farm to keep him quiet and then discharged six weeks later without there ever being a mental illness diagnosis

He first went to the Epuni Boys' Home and then Hokio Beach School.

At Hokio he was raped at least hundreds of times by older boys.

"I can't exactly say how many times I was raped while I was there but my guess is 200 times based on my experience of being raped every day and every night and the amount of boys who were doing it and, as I stand here today, how would anybody like to be raped 200 times in just one place."

Jarvis left school at 16 and ended up doing two stints in borstal and time in Paparua Prison.

He wants the Royal Commission to make recommendations before its term finishes in 2023.

"We have two more years of the inquiry to go through and to the average person that is not long, but to survivors that is another life time."

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