Former St. Joseph's Catholic orphanage resident speaks out about alleged abuse

By Renee Wunderlich
September 10, 2018

[with video]

Katelin Hoffman said she and other former residents are cautiously hopeful about new task force investigating what happened to them in long-closed orphanage.

The Vermont attorney general's office is asking for folks to come forward to help investigators piece together what happened in a local building back when it was an orphanage.

For some former residents, this isn't the first time they've shared their stories -- it's just the first time so many have believed them.

"It's actually so wonderful to be believed," said Katelin Hoffman, who said she was 13 years old when she was sent to stay at St. Joseph's Catholic Orphanage in Burlington, a place the state of Vermont is now investigating after allegations resurfaced that nuns there abused and even killed children.

"I don't know ... It was, like, any cruel thing they could do, they did," she said.

A ward of the state, Hoffman said the nuns would sometimes hit her and that she was sexually abused.

"I had been sexually abused there once by the caseworker and by a priest soon after I got there," she said.

Desperate to get out, she tried running away. When that didn't work, she started cutting herself.

"I had taken a razor blade from my grandfather when he died, and I kept it with me, and would secretly harm myself," she said.

She said after nuns started threatening other children she was playing with for possibly trying to run away with her, she slit her wrists.

"I just thought I was gonna kill myself," she said. "I took it out and slit my wrists."

She was taken to a hospital, and when she was discharged, she found out the orphanage would be closing. It was 1972. The orphanage shut its doors two years later.

Now in her 60s, the Burlington resident said she keeps her therapy dog, Samantha, close and sometimes still has trouble sleeping.

She's cautiously hopeful about a new state task force charged with investigating what happened inside those orphanage walls.

"I really struggled all my life and without being able to talk about it ... I mean, who's gonna believe it? Nobody believed it when kids did tell, and kids did tell, and they got beaten for it. Because it always got back to the nuns," she said.



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