Former orphanage residents react to abuse allegations
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 6:46PM AST
Former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children say they are being re-victimized as they try to heal.
In court documents, the home alleges some of its formers residents who claim they were abused at the orphanage were among the abusers themselves.
Tracey Dorrington-Skinner says she isn’t trying to hide anything she did during her time at the orphanage. She admits she was a bully, but claims children were pitted against each other, and often forced to fight.
“One of our biggest causes of shame and guilt is what we did to each other,” she says. “We learned to be bullies. We had to beat each other up. It was part of our survival. Children do learn what they live.”
Dorrington-Skinner is among 59 former residents accused of abuse in an affidavit filed by the home’s current executive director.
“This here is just a way to get everybody in the community talking about ‘oh my God, those kids got the nerve to be filing cases and blah, blah, blah and here they are abusing each other.’ Because that’s the perception,” she says.
Former resident Robert Borden is also named in the affidavit.
“At least have some dignity and respect for the fact that what we went through, and you know, speak the truth, and stop looking for avenues to get out of what the home is in,” says Borden.
Ray Wagner, the lawyer representing several former residents in a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging years of abuse at the home, agrees the situation could have been handled in a more compassionate manner.
He says the case has never been about individuals, but about systemic abuse.
“The fact that it did happen, it was reported, it wasn’t acted upon, there was no oversight, there was no discipline, and the province had no oversight and didn’t care about what was taking place in the home, despite their knowledge that things were going on.”
The lawyer representing the home says the abuse allegations against former residents were filed by various plaintiffs as many as five or more years ago.
In the court document, executive director Veronica Marsman says she is only aware of one incident where a staff member was alleged to have sexual contact with a resident, and that is based on her review of documents.
“I was not aware of abuse - systemic or otherwise - at the home either as a resident, a staff member, board member, or as the executive director,” states Marsman in the court document.
Dorrington-Skinner says that while the recent developments will be a setback for some former residents, it won’t stop them in their fight for answers.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster