9 Feb 2022

Marylands School: Many who chose to cover up abuse complicit in 'evil', advocate says

9:22 pm on 9 February 2022

Warning: This story contains references to sexual and physical abuse and may be upsetting for some readers.

An advocate for sexual abuse survivors at Marylands School says the sexual and physical abuse was known about by many, but they all failed to act on it.

Survivor advocate Ken Clearwater at the Marylands School hearing as part of Royal Commission into Abuse in Care

Ken Clearwater is supporting some of the victims who were abused by members of the Catholic order, St John of God. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Ken Clearwater made an opening statement at the Abuse in Care inquiry on Monday which is focusing on abuse at the residential school for boys with intellectual disabilities.

The Catholic order, St John of God, ran the school in Christchurch between 1955 and 1984.

Clearwater said what went on at Marylands was sick and evil.

''Many people in positions of power knew and did nothing. The Vatican knew and did nothing, the hierarchy in the Catholic Church knew and did nothing, St John of God knew and did nothing.''

He also singled out many government departments, teachers, social workers, police and psychologists.

''The list unfortunately just goes on and on.''

Clearwater said he was at the Royal Commission as the voice of those unable to speak.

''Those for whatever reason can't come forward and relive their trauma. For those with an intellectual disability who would have been chewed up and spat out by our justice system. In the words of one of those survivors, 'They did horrible things to us.' I am here for those unable to live with the shame, the guilt, the fear of the trauma they suffered and have killed themselves.''

He asked how many times the word sorry has come from the church.

''From the Vatican down and I can tell you they are sorry. Sorry they have been caught out. Around the world and especially now, here in Aotearoa-New Zealand.''

Clearwater said St John of God, like many other Catholic orders, spent millions of dollars to shut the victims and their families up.

''Forcing victims to sign confidential legal papers. Not to protect the victims but to protect the church, to help the continuation of the cover-up in the hope that it would all go away and the institutions would keep their reputations without one thought for those affected by the heinous crimes.''

He said it was deceitful and evil and those who chose to cover it up were complicit in the evil.

Clearwater said the trauma faced by survivors has controlled their lives.

''They are captured by their trauma. Not only by those who committed the atrocities but by an organisation so powerful it has been supported by many government systems that they, the victim survivors, will feel they are not worthy.''

He said they are worthy.

''For each and every survivor, to carry the trauma, where you are not believed, to be imprisoned in your own mind and all this supported by a system that has not and would not listen to your voice, tell me how powerful and special each and every victim is to endure this and survive.''

''Many were denied their natural right to education, to learn healthy living skills, to be cared for and most importantly to be loved.''

Clearwater said one survivor was challenged by his mother.

''You shouldn't keep living in the past. He says I don't, the past lives in me.''

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