They said justice for state abuse victims wasn’t possible under the law. Sonja Cooper proved them wrong.
A judge who wrote a report on abuse in state care after listening to stories for seven years says it appears to have been forgotten.
The judge who chaired a panel which heard from children abused in state care says there is no guarantee of the future safety of children unless an an independent body is set up to investigate.
John Key has refused to say whether he would rule out an independent inquiry into the abuse of children in state care but said it would not achieve a lot.
Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy has told the UN to urge New Zealand to hold an independent inquiry, saying it is the “right thing to do”.
A new report on abuse in state care contains heart wrenching stories.
I was sexually abused by my teacher when I was 10 and that contributed to me ending up in Lake Alice in 1975 and abused again mentally and physically, and then in 2001 in Auckland hospital, it was all happening again It was like, the consultants and the psychiatrists have such a powerful influence over you. In one sense your life is in their hands and it’s wanting to please them, I suppose because…part of depression is losing your sense of self really, and you’re so easily influenced and so easily willing to accept authority’.
`They asked me if I would agree to it, but they did say if I refused they’d go ahead with it anyway…being forced to stay there is bad enough but being forced to have something that you don’t want is ten times worse, so I did agree, yes
`Now what so often happens in psychiatric hospitals is, it’s not the psychiatrist that forces you to have it. Long before that happens you get confronted by staff nurses who are very anxious to stop hassle… so what they do, they see that you’re weak and vulnerable and they say, `You’d better sign’, just like that’.
‘I said immediately that I didn’t want it, and I pointed out that the previous consultant… had said to me that she didn’t think I was an appropriate case for ECT. Due to my Heart Attack and stent. and he (the consultant) got into a real huff basically and got up and walked out of the room…I felt absolutely devastated. I just burst out crying and didn’t know what was going to happen to me, or whether they were going to section me, or what.and then I thought to hell with it I hope they kill me this time whats the point nobody cares.
In summary, ‘I wasn’t physically taken to the suite or anything, I walked there on my own, but I felt it was forced on me’.
`What I was most concerned about wasn’t the fact that it was unpleasant at the time, it was how it was going to affect me for the rest of my life…I remember feeling very disoriented and feeling that I’d been damaged for life ‘.
`It seemed to reflect how ill I was, the fact that he was saying I had to have ECT this time…this was the last desperate thing that they do’.
`It was because this was the last resort.. so what is there left, annihilation or what?’
‘I knew I wasn’t crazy. I knew what had happened. (After ECT) I was beginning to think maybe I am mad..I must be mad to have ECT’.
Q: What other emotional or psychological effects have ECT had on you?
Fear is the only psychological reaction to ECT. However, a complex range of emotional responses including feelings of humiliation, increased compliance, failure, worthlessness, betrayal, lack of confidence and degradation, and a sense of having been abused and assaulted:
`It made me feel like a cabbage like I wasn’t worth anything at all. All I could do was sit around all day’.
`It was like I was a non-person and it didn’t matter what anybody did to me’.
‘I suppose I saw myself as worthless for a long time…almost being an empty person and having to start again, having to build up a personality, having to build yourself up’.
`It’s horrible to think that these people, doctors, and nursing staff, are going to see you having a fit. It’s degrading’.
‘I knew that the only way I could get out would be by being insignificant… by being a very good patient, and it worked. I wasn’t any better, I felt quite terrible’.
`It made me feel like a freak, and it’s only since I’ve talked about that with a therapist that I’ve got over that feeling ‘.
`This psychiatrist had built this relationship with me, so I trusted him and then he did that (prescribed ECT)… This chap had been clued up enough to realize he needed to build my trust, but didn’t appear to be clued up enough to know that giving somebody electric shocks to their head might actually damage that trust…ECT I feel is just such a betrayal,
`It’s a really horrible feeling…a sense of failure, and what’s wrong with me that I’m not getting better’.
`It felt like I had been got at, yes, bashed, abused, as if my brain had been abused. It did feel like an assault’.
Most people said that they did not mind others knowing that they had had ECT. For some, though, the perception of them and others that ECT is an intervention reserved for the extremes of madness, produced a strong sense of shame and stigma:
‘I was deeply, deeply ashamed of having ECT…this was real serious stuff, this was a mad person’.to afraid to make friends in case they find out I’ve had ECT and are mad
`People can’t imagine what on earth situation you need to be in, that you need to be electrically shocked. So they imagine that you must have been some kind of absolute raging animal or something to need that. ‘ ‘I have told a couple of people in the past and they think for you to have ECT you must really be off your rocker’.
ECT was not just as a sign of madness, but also as a punishment for and confirmation of badness.
`At that time I was completely convinced I was being punished for something… thought, well, I must have done something wrong to be treated like this’.
`Maybe if I had been good or if I hadn’t done this or that, I wouldn’t be punished. Yes, I thought it’s a form of abuse, a punishment ‘. as a survivor of child sexual abuse. Of these, two drew explicit parallels between these early experiences and the experience of being given ECT, in terms of the emotions experienced at the time, confusingly mixed feelings towards both psychiatrists and original abusers, and inability to deal with their own powerful feelings of helplessness and rage afterward:
`It certainly felt, “Do what you like “, and that’s something I felt as a child, that I had no power, there was no way I could stop anyone doing whatever they wanted to me, so rather than get hurt I’ll let them do it and maybe they’ll like me…especially because it was men doing it, the men actually operating the machinery or whatever, and I can remember it was men putting the needle in. Yes, again there would have been no way I would have said I don’t want this.And then just sort of lying there, feeling really frightened and yet completely passive. So it was like all trapped, all my emotions were trapped anyway and my feelings were trapped, so it was all trapped inside. And on the other hand not caring what happened to me’.
`I’ve had physical abuse as a child and I’ve had sexual abuse as a child and mental abuse as a child. I suppose I did think about it a couple of times going through the ECT, that this was some form of abuse, being put on you when you don’t want it, or is more or less said that you’ve got to have it… l sometimes feel very angry to the people involved, that I can’t get back at them or take revenge at them.
(LJ)`Who do you want to get back at?’ `Sometimes it’s the doctors, the professionals, sometimes it’s the abusers that have abused me… always tend to turn it in on myself I’ve been told many times by counselors, “You’ve got to stop turning it on yourself”, but I don’t…It’s like I feel I need to punish myself, maybe all the abuse is all my fault!!!!
Hollywood films have been unflattering, but Electroconvulsive Therapy continues to be widely used in New Zealand hospitals.
It was 1976 and 28-year-old Anna Natusch moved from Hastings to the Manawatu – and a place at Lake Alice Hospital where she had taken
The year was 1976, and young Hake Halo was but one of more than 350 children being held and regularly tortured by the head psychiatrist and staff inside the Child and Adolescent Unit of New Zealand’s Lake Alice Hospital. Young Hake’s letter followed in the wake of an investigation of abuses by the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights. That inquiry and Halo’s letter marked the first steps in a long journey to justice for the children of Lake Alice, a trek that would span decades and end at the doorstep of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.