Stolen Lives gives voice to abuse survivors but the pain endures

 Stolen Lives

Stolen Lives Front Cover

Today I had the tremendous pleasure to speak with Bette Brown, the author of Stolen Lives. - A book which examines the stories of Survivors and their continued struggle as they live in adulthood with the scars of the past.

As people know, our organisation has developed over the last number of years, from one of Collective Advocacy (fighting for Redress, Justice and Truth) to one of support and one that offers Services to Survivors as Adults. We made this change, in consultation and agreement with our clients as many now face an uncertain life, missed opportunities and deep sadness into their adult Years. 

We have begun a Process of promoting, of inspiring and of lobbying for Rights, a greater knowledge and appreciation of the difficulties survivors face as Adults. Reminding people that a deeply traumatic, institutionalized setting as a child, is not something that only affects you for a brief period but lives with you forever and our support is about empowering people not to forget, but to help them take their Rightful opportunities, that so many have missed out on all their lives.

So with this, Bette and I spoke, in great detail about this topic. We hope that you all can view her work, support her if you can and read the book. To Bette we say Congratulations and continued success in your endeavors.

Here's some information about the book and the author from the journal.ie;

Please see the link in the body of text to purchase the book. You have any questions for Bette, please feel free to send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Stolen Lives gives voice to abuse survivors but the pain endures

 

Ireland seems to be constantly traumatised by its mistreatment of unmarried mothers and their babies and those whom poverty or family abandonment consigned to the margins of society to suffer unimaginable pain in religious-run, State-funded institutions.

 

I felt it was important to show solidarity with survivors some years ago after the horrors revealed in the landmark Ryan report on institutional abuse and to record not only the abuse but its enduring effects on survivors’ lives as adults.

 

Thus, Stolen Lives grew out of the aftermath of the first national March of Solidarity with survivors of institutional abuse on June 10, 2009, which the late Christine Buckley and I organised with the support of Barnardos, One in Four and the Children’s Rights Alliance, after publication of the Ryan Report.

 

A day after the solidarity march, which brought 5,000 people onto the streets in Dublin in a silent protest under the banner “Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally”, a Dáil debate on the Ryan report opened.

 

The abuse was described by then Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, now An Taoiseach, as “torture, pure and simple.” Eamon Gilmore, now An Tánaiste, said it was “a stain on the conscience of our nation.” Michael D Higgins, now An tUachtarain, said: “There is evidence of an institutional collusion that was deep, continuous and sinister in terms of its relationship between church and State.”

 

The title of my book underlines that through such “collusion” not only were childhoods stolen but the horrors these children suffered blighted their entire lives. Some found their suffering unendurable and died by suicide and that is also narrated in Stolen Lives.

 

The book focuses on 10 survivors ranging in age from 54 to 87, who reveal the shocking details of the abuse and how it shattered their adulthood. With no chance of happiness, some lives descended into alcohol, drugs or crime and others ended up abandoned once again on the margins of society or on the streets of London or Liverpool and beyond.

 

After two decades as a journalist with Reuters in various parts of the world, no project I’ve handled has been quite as harrowing as this book. In the course of compiling it I have come to believe that the abuse of children in industrial schools was one of the darkest chapters in Ireland’s history. Childhoods were stolen, adult lives were rent asunder.

 

There have been other appalling cases of religious and secular abuse here, as in other countries, but what made the institutional abuse particularly horrific was that the crimes were committed against children largely isolated from the outside world.

 

In the Dáil debate on June 11, 2009, Enda Kenny also said: “We cannot re-write those stories, nor can we write a happy ending to them. But it is our clear and inescapable duty to reach out and rescue, to listen and to learn and to create something out of this catalogue of cruelty in which, as a nation, we can take some pride.”

 

But five years later we still have a long way to go to try to fashion something in which we can take pride. Within weeks of the publication of my book, the Tuam babies case and other like it around the country were revealing a fresh catalogue of horror, convulsing the nation again.

 

 

In writing Stolen Lives I also found little had changed either as regards transparency since the Ryan report. The Christian Brothers, through Province Leader Br Kevin Mullan, said they were “not in a position to furnish information” as to whether certain Brothers were still alive to respond to allegations in Stolen Lives nor did he proffer a reason or reasons for not providing such information.

 

Against such walls of silence and indifference, those who have told their stories in Stolen Lives are owed a huge debt of gratitude for their courage in reliving the horrors they suffered and the nightmares they still endure.

 

 

Proceeds from Stolen Lives, priced at €7.99 and available at www.bettebrowne.com, are going after covering publication costs to the Aislinn Education & Support Centre for Survivors of Institutional Abuse, co-founded by Christine and Carmel McDonnell-Byrne, where countless survivors have found solace and support. 

 

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