Staff preyed on children with disabilities

By Eilish O'Regan

May 21, 2009 /

SUFFER the little children, particularly it seems the most vulnerable.

The Ryan report found children with bad hearing, eyesight or learning difficulties were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

The confidential committee heard 59 reports of abuse from 58 witnesses, 39 male and 19 female, relating to 14 special needs schools and residential services managed by religious congregations.

They frequently had to travel far from home and live in residential care to get the treatment they needed.

Witnesses reported that while attending special needs services they were physically abused and assaulted using leather straps, canes, spade and broom handles, kitchen implements and rulers.


People in three different facilities reported being taken from their beds at night by male religious staff and sexually abused by a staff member.

In some cases, physical violence accompanied sexual abuse and victims recalled having their heads held under water, being bound and gagged and otherwise restrained.

Two were assaulted by "gangs" of fellow residents.

One was brought to a pub instead of an expected trip to the cinema by a Brother, who would go on to abuse him over three to four years. Another abuser was a man who had access to the grounds of an intellectual disability service.

The victims recalled an absence of recreational facilities and said that no effort was made to occupy or provide age appropriate activities to children who were bed-bound.

"The most consistently reported form of emotional abuse by the witnesses with special needs was of being denigrated, humiliated and disparaged about their appearance, mannerisms and intelligence," the report stated.

Many deaf witnesses described how distressing it was to be denied the use of sign language, which was their only means of communication.

Those forced to communicate verbally reported being socially isolated.

Children who were blind or deaf described the terror of being locked in a room as punishment.

- Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent


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