Gisburne House was built in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1912 as an industrial school for girls. The photo above is from a World in Action (1977) programme – the one below taken by a residental care worker in 1985. In 2017, Islington Council officials have no knowledge of Gisburne House and no documentation of any kind about it. When we ask them to check names of staff alleged to be abusive, it seems these staff have vanished into thin air. It is as if all corporate memory of 30 years, and hundreds of childrens lives, has been erased.
Not of course in the minds of the survivors who are coming forward to Islington Survivors Network (ISN) to tell of their experiences during the 70s and 80s. They describe how they still cannot sleep because of the flashbacks and in the daytime they are traumatised by all kinds of smells, situations and events which trigger memories of sexual crimes, emotional devastation and extreme violence. They show us the physical signs of long-ago beatings, have intense concern about child victims of cruelty which they witnessed and question why seemingly nice social workers did not hear their repeated cries for help. After years of being on constant high alert, trying to protect themselves and others from abuse, I always ask – ‘Is there anywhere now where you feel safe?’ After a long pause, even from those who now have settled relationships and very supportive, loving families, the answer is generally ‘No’. They now seek justice and redress. Continue reading