Austrian commission reports rampant child abuse in former city-run home

By George Jahn

June 12, 2013 / Associated Press

VIENNA — Children at a former city-run home in Vienna were rampantly abused, with some of them raped and subjected to other forms of sexual exploitation both by caregivers and outsiders, an Austrian investigative commission said Wednesday.

The commission also documented cases of physical and psychological abuse in a 344-page report summarizing the results of its investigation of claims by former wards of what used to be a home managed by the city of Vienna from 1948 to 1977.

The probe was commissioned in late 2011 after two sisters said they and the other 18 girls in their dormitory were regularly raped by groups of men. The sisters said the abuse began when they were 6 and 8 and ended in their early teens, when the institution was shut.

Other alleged victims subsequently also came forward with testimonies of sexual, physical and psychological mistreatment in the late 1940s and early 1950s at the Schloss Wilhelminenberg home, which is now a hotel in a leafy outlying Vienna district.

Without assigning individual blame, the report concluded that municipal employees in the department overseeing the city's homes for children were aware of the widespread abuse but neglected to react. Municipal politicians who learned of them in the 1960s also shut their eyes to the problem.

Commission head Barbara Helige told reporters that the findings will be forwarded to the state prosecutors' office and other investigative agencies. Commission members said it was up to them to determine whether crimes committed in the home fell under statutes of limitations.

The report cites dozens of alleged victims of, or witnesses to, abuse.

"I saw how they dragged a girl onto a bench, with one person forcing her hands back and sitting on her, forcing her legs back and the other one raped her," one former resident was quoted as saying.

"She screamed and struggled," the unidentified witness said, describing the victim as aged 11 or 12.

Boys were also reportedly victimized. One former resident said he was regularly molested by a dormitory supervisor at age 14.

Once the home was turned from a coed to an all-girls institution in 1962, all male orderlies were replaced by women but the abuse continued, this time from outsiders, the report said.

Some former residents spoke of being raped and otherwise sexually mishandled by men climbing through windows. Others said their caregivers took them from their dormitory to rooms where men were waiting for them. Several said they were drugged or forced to drink alcohol.

The report also spoke of frequent beatings and other forms of physical abuse that went on for decades until the home was closed.

"Children were dragged by the hair, beaten with objects, were slapped in the face or had to kneel for long periods of time," if found guilty of misbehavior, it said. Children's faces were pushed into their food if they didn't eat properly.

Most of the children came from problem families, prompting disparaging comments about their backgrounds from those taking care of them that sometimes resulted in psychological damage, the report said.

"We should be thankful that we get something to eat and are not gassed like the Jews," one former resident was quoted as saying she was told. She said she was also told that "we are worthless ... little whores and children of alcoholics."

Since the first allegations surfaced in 2010 of abuse at Schloss Wilhelminenberg, hundreds of former residents there have turned to Weisser Ring, a victims' organization supported by the city of Vienna. Claims of past abuse in other state or Catholic church-run institutions have also surfaced.

Beyond psychological help, some of the former Schloss Wilhelminenberg children have received financial payouts as high as 35,000 euros — more than $45,000.

The report was based on 217 interviews with 140 former charges of the home, 28 orderlies and 94 other witnesses.

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The legacy that still lives

Most of the children came from problem families, prompting disparaging comments about their backgrounds from those taking care of them that sometimes resulted in psychological damage, the report said.

As an adoptee, when I myself was a child, I heard many disparaging comments -- most of them would come from neighbors, school-mates, even adult "relatives", (those made "family", through adoption), as they could be over-heard in not-so-quiet conversation.  Their conversations would be about certain people who had adopted from a certain place or "home".... and how they ended-up with a certain type of child.  [Can you hear the gossip?  Those poor poor, APs who chose poorly!... oh how they must be suffering!  How awful to give and do so much, all for what?  One Big Loser... One Big Nothing?]

One would think this type of behavior and stereo-typing has been limited to a previous era or century.

But I still hear people talk.  Only this time it's not about me.  I still hear things about "those types" -- the kids put in-care.  I still hear some APs talk about how horrible a certain group (those of another color, religion, or general belief-system) can be to their young, and how lucky those kids must be, once they are saved from such heartless... such un-caring and un-thinking... UNEDUCATED human beings.

And so the theme of grateful thanks MUST ensue, as it is taught from one group of intollerants to another, all in desperate hope for a better, DIFFERENT future:

"We should be thankful that we get something to eat and are not gassed like the Jews," one former resident was quoted as saying she was told. She said she was also told that "we are worthless ... little whores and children of alcoholics."

I suppose in this day and age, most everyone expects the children that are put in a care-system have been neglected and abused, if not by the parents, then definitely by the paid-care-takers, themselves.  As a result, I find this late-coming report about an old children's home is not that surprising. 

I also suppose, for many, adoption has been and continues to be the only great white hope and escape for these most unfortunate type of children -- the type that are put in-care. 

I fear the pro-adoption camp is going to promote the belief that only through adoption can a ward of the state receive both quality care and a sense of permanency, and positive identity.

The problem is, there is SO MUCH not being investigated.  As our abuse archives help illustrate, there is so much HARM being done, thanks to child trade and the child placement industry... and very little is being addressed by any one church or government.

To date, in a country like the USA, we ourselves have so many in-care, with so few reports about post placement monitoring or anything that resembles the long-term investigation of cared-for children and their mental health and general well-being, after the child has been "saved" by/through the adoption industry.   Why is this?  Conducting such oversight would cost and annoy too many?

[In the US, I know of three existing reports readers can try to read and review.  Two early studies -   each featuring the statistics related to abuse within adopted homes, can be found here: 7-Post-Zimmerman.pdf  and here: Fourth-National-Incidence-Study-of-Child-Abuse-and-Neglect-NIS-4-Report-to-Congress-2010.pdf - and both are cited in the most recent report titled Severe Abuse of Adopted Children.  This latest report was released in September, 2012, and made public in October. ]

50 states, and so little to report about the state of children put in-care, and the cost of damage that was done to each one, due to over-medication, abuse, and neglect.... and parental abandonment.

I am happy to say, since PPL has been made available to the public, I myself receive many inquiries from those who want to enter the field of social work and investigate the rate of abuse and disruption in adoptive homes.  To date there are no new formal findings to post.

And still, no matter where a child put-in-care is raised, razed, or lives, the end-result of poor-care often turns-out the same:

When one is abused and neglected in care, then sent to live in an environment that is just as damaging and hurtful, physically and psychologically, it's hard to think the whole world around you is wrong about the sort of person you are, or really used to be.... BEFORE you got screwed by those who got paid to care for and about you.  It's hard to survive such a life, and not have enormous health issues and medical bills to pay, thanks to the effects of anger and stress.

It's amazing how bad things can get for the person whose life relies on the ethics and morals of those working in child placement and social services.... especially if that person has "special needs".

I wonder if $45k in USD would be enough to pay for a life-time of mental health/medical bills, caused by neglect found in the child welfare/placement system.

Maybe in Austria the cost of long-term health care would be covered... but I wonder how much compensation would be needed here in the USA, for each child failed by the church and government?

Pound Pup Legacy