‘How Could I Stay Quiet When They Have Been So Brave?’

By Louise Eddy
Western Advocate

August 28, 2008

A FORMER resident of a Catholic orphanage has alleged the abuse of Bathurst children by some members of the clergy dates back to the 1960s.

Sandra Peckham, now 58, was taken to St Joseph’s Orphanage at the top of William Street when she was just six years old.

NIGHTMARE: Sandra Peckham says she was abused during her time at St Joseph’s Orphanage.

Her mother had left and her father, a drover, wasn’t around much.

Yesterday she contacted the Western Advocate after reading new claims of abuse at St Stanislaus’ College in the 1970s and 1980s to say she, too, had been a victim of abuse.

“[The orphanage] was supposed to be a better place, but it turned into a nightmare – a nightmare I haven’t woken up from,” she said.

“It’s like somebody’s taken a picture of all the bad things and every time I close my eyes I see them.

“There were some good times but I can’t remember them without thinking about being molested.”

Ms Peckham came forward yesterday after reading about allegations of abuse at St Stanislaus’ College in the 1970s and 1980s. She said she wanted people to know that children were molested long before that.

“These men that came forward. I pat them on the back,” she said.

“It would have taken such courage. How could I stay quiet when they have been so brave?”Ms Pechkam alleges she was abused by a senior member of the clergy (now deceased) from the time she was about nine until she was sent to a girls’ home at 14. She remained a state ward until she was 18.

“We weren’t drugged or nothing – who were we going to tell? We were orphan kids. We had nobody.”

Sandra said the worst abuse came when she was one of the girls chosen to take meals to the alleged abuser.

“We’d try and convince ourselves to squeal on him but we were scared,” she said.

“I started wetting the bed, so six months later I told them what was happening. I got a hiding and was locked in the broom closet under the stairs. They said I was a dirty girl for saying such things and washed my mouth out with soap. I learned not to talk about it.”

Ms Peckham said she continued to wet the bed until she was 14. She bit her nails until they bled, cried all the time and developed serious behavioural problems.

“I was very naughty because I wanted someone to notice,” she said.

“I understand why people kill themselves after something like this. You don’t know how many times I’ve thought about it.”

Ms Peckham said she had spoken with Task Force Heador yesterday.


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