10 Feb 2022

Marylands School: Abuse survivor says calls for help were rubbished

11:15 am on 10 February 2022

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

A survivor of abuse at Marylands School in Christchurch in the 1970s has outlined deviant behaviour from some of the Catholic brothers who ran the place.

Royal Commission Abuse in Care inquiry. Photo:

The school for boys with intellectual disabilities was run by the Order of St John between 1955 and 1984.

It is the subject of an investigation by the Abuse in Care inquiry being held in Auckland.

There were 537 boys that went through Marylands and while it it known how many were abused, 144 individuals did report abuse to the Order in later life. In 2002, 44 men made complaints to the police.

Steven Long, who is now 56, was sent to Marylands at the age of seven.

He experienced sexual, physical and emotional abuse over the six-and-a-half years he was there.

Steven Long

Steven Long. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

He vividly remembers his first day there in the gym.

''Next thing you know I am being hauled back up to where the seatings were and accused of taking a dump on one of the seats. It wasn't me but I got my face rubbed in it.''

He describes Brother Bernard McGrath, who was later jailed for sexual crimes against boys in his care, as an evil man.

''You sort of think you are getting on with him and that, then in the evening you are somehow on his knee and he's touching himself underneath you. Then he wants you to come and pay him a visit that night after everybody has gone to sleep. If you didn't, you got a hell beating.''

Long complained to another brother, but got beaten and was accused of lying.

At one stage he told Social Welfare, but the notes of that can not be found.

''I was actually told this is a load of rubbish. You can't go around saying that sort of thing. They don't do that sort of thing. And this is like, I have just wasted my time trying to ask for help. Trying not to go back to danger.''

A woman, who remained anonymous and whose brother was sent to Marylands in 1965, on the recommendation of their local Catholic bishop.

She told the hearing in the nine years he was there, he was badly neglected and abused, both physically and sexually by some of the brothers.

''They were paedophiles, they were criminals. They committed terrible acts on really vulnerable people. They weren't just, I'm a man who chooses not to be in a relationship with a woman. This was really dysfunctional behaviour and I don't think the church has addressed that.''

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

Survivor advocate Ken Clearwater at the Marylands School hearing as part of Royal Commission into Abuse in Care. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

The Catholic Church said what happened at Marylands is deeply shameful for the church.

Its lawyer, Sally McKechnie described the abuse carried out by McGrath as particularly horrific.

She said he alone is responsible for five-percent of all abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in this country.

''However, Commissioners, the brothers and church leaders in New Zealand acknowledges that Bernard McGrath was not the only man who offended against children. The evidence will show that in total 26 men, brothers and employees of the order have allegations of abuse made against them while at Marylands.''

McGrath was convicted in New Zealand and did jail time. He's now in an Australian prison sentenced to 33-years for child sex crimes there.

An advocate for Marylands survivors, Ken Clearwater said while the Catholic Church apologises for what happened, he believes it is only sorry, because it was caught out.

''The hierarchy in the Catholic Church knew and did nothing. St John of God knew and did nothing. Instead of helping those affected, these people protected and continued to protect themselves and the institution. You failed in your duty of care and this is evil at its best.''

Clearwater said survivors of Marylands want to be listened to and believed.

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