Care home resident ‘was raped 500 times by group of older boys’, inquiry hears

A former resident at a notorious Croydon care home has told an inquiry she was raped “500 times” by a group of older boys and no one ever came to her rescue.

The woman said a sack was placed over her head during some of the attacks in the grounds of the Shirley Oaks children’s home, and she was also sexually abused by one of the teachers.

An inquiry into abuse in Lambeth care system heard yesterday from a group of victims, who say they were sexually and violently attacked, neglected and starved, and racially abused, with one calling Shirley Oaks a “frightening place”.

The woman who was put into care at the Croydon home in the 1950s said children were beaten as punishments, their heads were flushed down the toilet, and they were forced to eat in silence.

“She remembers being constantly afraid”, said Amelia Nice, counsel to the inquiry who read her statement.

“As to the sexual abuse she suffered, she describes a young boy who forced sexual activity onto her. Her house mother’s son also attempted to assault her.

“(She) was then raped by a group of older boys in the grounds of Shirley Oaks. They took her to the boiler room and then to the piggery. One boy would put a sack over her head when he raped her.

“(She) estimates that this happened 500 times. She says: ‘I don’t know how we weren’t seen or why no-one knew this was going on’.”

The woman said she complained about abuse to a superintendent at Shirley Oaks but got no response, adding: “There was no-one to speak up for me at the time or for me to go to.”

Shirley Oaks was the largest care home in the country until its closure in 1983, but is now associated with scandal after scores of former residents came forward to report abuse dating back to the 1930s.

One victim told the inquiry how she was taken into care in Lambeth after suffering sexual abuse at home, but found herself being repeatedly attacked at the children’s home by male staff and eventually falling pregnant.

Describing one attack, she said: “He told the other children to be quiet and not to say anything. He did this to me at every opportunity he had.”

She added: “The men that raped us were all the staff who were in charge of the house. They were supposed to be in charge, but they did not actually do anything to run the home.

“They always came into my room together, they moved around together. During my time at the home, I felt like I was a sex slave. It was about survival.”

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has heard that children as young as three were abused at homes run by Lambeth council, and it is examining whether there were child protection failures by public authorities including the council and the Met Police.

Today’s sessions are due to hear from Dame Heather Rabbatts, the chief executive of Lambeth Council from 1995 to 2000, and Lady Janet Boateng who used to chair the authority’s social services committee.

Source: Evening Standard