There is now that much controversy surrounding the events at the two childrenâ€™s homes on Jersey, an independently governed island off the British Isles, which probably wonâ€™t result in any answers, that the best thing to do is read the views of the children that went through them in absence of any proper legal proceedings.
Robbie Garnerâ€™s book, assembled with the help of female survivor Toni Maguire, manages this view from the horseâ€™s mouth very effectively, and describes the entire lives of his brothers and baby sister as they are taken from their violent and rowing parents , sent to live at Sacred Heart and the more infamous Haut De La Garenne childrenâ€™s homes on the island. The brothers are split up according to age and their baby sister disappears quickly. For the younger kids at the Sacred Heart/SacrÃ© Coeur, the regime is more one of intimidation, physical abuse and violence that borderlines into organized torture from the nuns and their male puppets, with one paedophile on site and the other connected to one of the schools.
The book has a slightly different structure to other abuse memoirs in that its chronological structure puts the authorâ€™s worst sexual abuse incident nearer to the end, and the release of children from social care aged 15 on the island, rather than 18 on the mainland UK, essentially kick-starts their adulthood straight away. Life improves but not by much. Much of the fighting back is indirect and the orphanage boys have to pull together to survive, but Garner manages to increase his confidence through sport and the occasional scrap in school. There is one more incident of revenge by proxy which I wonâ€™t spoil and the fact that the abuse was island-based, wasnâ€™t something the offenders took into account, and which the victims could exploit later on.
There is further family-related heartache for the boys when grown up, though that is dealt with quite efficiently in a fait-accompli manner as their mother and father essentially ceased to be parents after their placement in care.
The final sentence in the product description on Amazon UK is slightly misleading. There are 2-3 children described in the book that effectively disappear, but the vast majority of the authorâ€™s friends are accounted for at the end with their various fortunes in life, which takes Garner a few years to ascertain. The sentence about wondering about the missing refers to the worst victims of Haut De La Garenne, all of whom decide to get off the island and never return.
The book is brave not only for the authorâ€™s suffering throughout his childhood and his survival of it, but also for the fact that he didnâ€™t derive any satisfaction from the media revelations regarding the story or any catharsis. So many memoirs attempt to give a happy ending and the reality is that it just doesnâ€™t happen for many sexual abuse survivors, as shown by the suicide of some of the victims as Garner grows up, and Garner continues the role of carer to his younger brother into adult life due to the physical abuse that caused his sibling permanent damage.
Itâ€™s a powerful and instructive read and one to add to my collection in future, having borrowed it from the library.
The Amazon Product Page is here:
and a general news trail regarding the Jersey Care Home stories from the Daily Mail UK Website is here: