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New Kendall House dossier tells of the rule of Miss Law

16 December 2016

iSTOCK

FURTHER evidence of the daily abuse experienced by former residents of Kendall House, a Church of England children’s home, during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, has been published in an addendum to the original report, this week.

The report, published in July, concluded that former residents were drugged, straitjacketed, locked in isolation, and physically, emotionally, and sometimes sexually abused in an institution that “normalised” cruelty (News, 15 July).

Former staff and residents of the home who had not had contributed to the initial review were invited to come forward by the dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury, and the chair of the review, Dr Sue Proctor, in August, after its publication.

In the resulting 31-page addendum, one woman, who was nine when she joined Kendall House in the mid-’70s, recalls: “As soon as my childcare officer was out of sight, this lady said, ‘I am Miss Law. I run this place.’

“She pulled me by my hair and pulled me through the front door. . . Then her, and two other ladies took me and stripped me off. I was naked. . . I was just sobbing by this time because my childcare officer had said it was a lovely place.”

Another describes a living room with “no toys, no books” in which girls were “slumped over” and dribbling: “I was too scared to move, blink, do anything,” she says. “Then Miss Law came in with another lady and they started putting injections in her [another girl]. I thought it was her medicine . . . I think they gave her two injections.”

Others recalled the side-effects of these drugs, of being sexually assaulted while under the influence, of an isolation room used as punishment, self-harming among residents, and of being allowed to smoke and to travel to London alone, from the age of nine.

One woman said that the con­cerns she raised with her mother (during home visits) and police officers were dismissed at the time.

The four former residents and one staff member who gave evidence for the addendum all described the impact that Kendall House had had on their adult lives. One said: “It’s been a nuclear bomb in my life. It has wiped out every­thing, everything in my life — my family, my grandchildren, my employability, my reputation, my personal circumstances.”

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, said: “We are very grateful to all of the women who courageously came forward to tell their stories, and we recognise how challenging that was. The diocese would like to thank all of
the former residents who have participated, and we apologise unreservedly to them for the hurt and distress caused to them.”

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, echoed the apology. “The addendum to the Kendall House report makes for difficult but essential reading,” he said. “Bishop James and I are hugely grateful to the women who have come forward — both for the original report and the addendum — for their courage in sharing their stories. They have done this so that we may learn the lessons of the past, and we want to assure them that we have fully resolved to do so.”

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