Nuns and other administrators at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont, have been accused of subjecting dozens of children to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse in the mid-1900s, according to a Monday report from BuzzFeed News. People who lived at the Catholic orphanage as children claim horrific abuse, saying they were forced to eat their own vomit and were routinely beaten and sexually abused. Some have also claimed the nuns were responsible for the deaths of children, including a little boy who was allegedly thrown from a window and others who drowned or were smothered. And citing documents previously unavailable, BuzzFeed reports that some of the men working at the St. Joseph’s Orphanage had been accused of sexually assaulting minors.
The report tracks the hurdles plaintiffs face when attempting to litigate decades later, when memories have faded or been hampered by trauma. In many of the cases, the statute of limitations had already expired, and in others, the church mounted a formidable, aggressive defense. Ultimately, many survivors settled, and received paltry reparations. Others were not able to bring their case at all, and were left only with memories of their alleged trauma. “Sometimes I would pray that either we would get killed or they would but it never happened,” one woman wrote. “I really believed that nobody even God did not love any of us and that we would have to stay there forever.”