Abuse in Care: Man Who Suffered As a Child Gives Evidence

By Andrew McRae
Radio New Zealand
September 28, 2020

A man with an intellectual disability who went into care as a young child and was physically and sexually abused has described his childhood as a nightmare.

Kerry Johnson, which is a pseudonym, is now 48-years-old.

He first spent about one year, 1980, in the Catholic-run St John of God, Marylands School in Christchurch before moving into state-run institutions.

On Monday, he gave evidence to the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry sitting in Auckland.

Kerry Johnson was only 7 when he was taken into care because, he says, he was an out of control kid.

He was put into the care of the brothers at St John of God, where three of them sexually abused him and others a number of times.

''It's hard to talk about this but I just want the world to know I was taken away from my mother and stuck into an environment where they raped me and made me do things to him, you know.''

Johnson said there was also physical abuse at Marylands.

''They used to beat us up, give us hidings if we didn't do as we were told," he said.

''I am just angry, you know just sitting here my hands are sweating up, I'm feeling hurt''.

After Marylands he was then sent to the state-run Campbell Park residential school in North Otago, where he spent six years.

He said it was far worse than Marylands.

''They didn't just rape you and do things to you, they beat the daylights out of you.''

Johnson said the physical abuse at Campbell Park included being kicked, punched and beaten with planks of wood.

''You know they would beat you or sometimes strip you down naked, make you stand out in the cold for hours. And when you come out you are as cold as and they didn't care. They just made you go back to bed.''

Johnson said he still has nightmares about Campbell Park.

''When you are 9-years-old, wake up in the morning, go to breakfast and you see three of your mates [dead by suicide]. It's not a pretty sight. I still have nightmares over this, because I blame myself, I always have, because I wasn't here for them.

"You know I wasn't there for them, you know, I wasn't there to hold them, they didn't have no parents, they had no one, all they had was us.''

He said the boys were constantly faced with bullying, threats, violence and screaming.

''It's like when you hear them screaming you know what is going on, you know what is happening to that boy. And when you hear that scream it is like he will come back to his dormitory, to his little cubicle and us boys would go and sit in there with him because he's crying and we hold him and hug him.''

''We say to him we know what you are going through, mate. You are fresh meat, that's why they are doing it.''

Johnson spent time at a number of other institutions, and foster homes and eventually left care as a teenager, but before long he was in and out of prison, where he is today.

''I became a criminal because that is all I had known. I didn't know what wrong and right was, I just did what I had to do, called survival.''

Johnson is still waiting for compensation for the abuse he received at Campbell Park.

His claim has been in for 16 years and he describes it as a horror movie that will never end.

He wants the government to own up to what happened to him and many other kids in care.

''You took us away from our family. You thought it was helping us taking us away from my parents, but it didn't. It didn't help, me, it made me like a fricking nightmare," he said.

''They took my childhood away from me."

Johnson said he would have been better off staying with his mother.

''You know even if I was a troubled child, my mum had me, she was like my rock.''

Johnson hopes to work on a farm once he gets out of prison because in the city he says he just gets into trouble.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

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Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

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Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

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Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata Peer support for males who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse: 0800 94 22 94

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.








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