Victim Impact Statements are relatively new and have made a difference to victims of crime. I can see a way they could apply to Survivors of the De La Salles.
I must have over a hundred testimonies of terrible physical and sexual abuse against children by the De La Salles, and I’m aware of so many more from their schools and children’s homes in Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.
Currently, the DLS have not confirmed their promised apology for the behaviour of their head Brother Laurence Hughes, now demoted because of his physical cruelty to children, as highlighted on this site. Neither have they carried out their promised enquiry into the ‘unheard of’ complaints on this site. That was over a year ago and clearly isn’t going to happen.
And the new RLSS seem like a busted flush where the DLS are concerned, they are actually worse than their predecessor the SCOE. They are tethered by their paymasters, the DLS, and are endlessly in meetings with them, promising me conclusions which are never reached.
So I want to put forward the idea that a Victim of child sex abuse or violence at the hands of the De La Salles, has the opportunity to make a Victim Impact Statement in a thirty minute Zoom call with a member of the De La Salle Order.
A brother wearing the De La Salle robes we all remember as children.
So that DLS brother listens to the harm that his order did to that person in the past.
It’s impact only. It doesn’t have to be added to a complaint file that makes it legally binding or bureaucratically impossible. That would cause endless delays.
It’s pure catharsis.
No promise to investigate – tempting as that is – because the DLS would be overwhelmed with hundreds of cases and use it as a reason to decline.
At this early stage, at least, just the impact statement, to get it off the ground.
All it really needs is the RLSS to send the DLS a list of interested survivors and agreed times. Then the DLS or RLSS sends the survivor a Zoom link.
It could have a mediator like the RLSS if the DLS are worried. No swearing or verbal abuse would be allowed. It may or may not be recorded. Perhaps it’s optional. No NDAs that restrict Survivors because that still makes the DLS an authority figure.
And for me personally, I would insist the DLS do not conclude with ‘I will pray for you’ or similar patronising statements. Because that is giving them an authority over me that they have forfeited by their predecessors’ crimes.
They are here to listen to us.
But all the above are details that can easily be refined and agreed upon later.
Legally, it’s not impossible, even though a lawyer will try to claim it can’t happen, because lawyers don’t care about reconciliation, only making money.
But if Truth and Reconciliation can work for countries, is it too much to suggest the same for the De Salles and the Children they have harmed?
It can be ‘without prejudice’ – without admission of guilt – and there are any number of responses the DLS can make which would not be prejudicial. Ranging from ‘I hear what you’re saying’ to ‘I’m so sorry to hear how much pain this has caused you.’ Or ‘I’m so sorry that is your recollection of your school days.’
No guilt is admitted.
Immediately, I can see the DLS, or its lawyers, or the RLS saying ‘But but but but but but but but but but, can’t, can’t can’t can’t.’ Or, even worse, ‘That’s a really great idea, Pat. We’ll talk about it and get back to you in three years time.’
The time to do it is NOW.
Keep it simple. No need to get bogged down with endless but but buts.
Test it out on a Survivor NOW.
See if it works. There must be some Survivor the DLS feel safe talking to. If they don’t know anyone – most unlikely – test it out on me.
At least they will have tried.
And they would be starting a GENUINE engagement with survivors, rather than the current farcical and meaningless hand-wringing the RLSS does on behalf of its paymasters, where we never get to see the men from the order who committed unspeakable crimes.
What are the benefits?
From the DLS point of view, they are considerable. Apart from being their Christian duty to deal with evil and help victims of evil, it would give them great public support.
For the first time, a Catholic religious order has the courage to face up to the crimes of past members without admitting liability and without paying out huge sums of money.
That would earn them a considerable number of brownie points with zero cost.
And I, for one, would respect their courage in finally facing Survivors.
From the Survivor’s point of view, it’s a great catharsis. I get to speak to a man wearing DLS robes who listens to what his order did to me in the past.
Even if a Survivor wins a court case against the DLS, all he is currently going to get is a payment and a curt accompanying note from the DLS’s solicitors. He’s not interacting with the cause of his complaint: a human being.
At the moment, the RLSS – the DLS’s Safeguarder – is acting as a punch bag for their paymasters the De La Salles.
They have to listen to all the anger and the pain of survivors and they respond well and with sympathy, but so what? It doesn’t get us anywhere – as I’ve previously described – because they are not the DLS.
Meanwhile, the DLS are not even in the boxing ring.
The perception amongst Survivors is that the RLSS are being paid to take the heat for the crimes of the De La Salles.
That is surely wrong and Survivors see this as cowardly or arrogant behaviour by the DLS.
The RLSS must know it’s wrong, but they’re in financial thrall to the DLS so they keep their mouths shut. Thus, for all their good intentions, they are perpetuating an unjust system.
And repeating a previous injustice we suffered as children where we also had to keep our mouths shut.
Here’s the view of two DLS survivors
*Seriously, good idea though. If #delasalle turn down an opportunity to deal with their past and help ALL of us put it to bed, it will forever be a stain on their reputation. They can’t see in front of their noses that survivors are trying to bring closure. Don’t they want that???
*I’m up for it, Pat, they have to listen to survivors at one point. I can’t see them doing it, though.
*When I put a complaint in about the horrifying crime’s at St GILBERT’S their reply was we were only employees and denied any allegations and it was the Home Office problem. The De La SALLE abused us not the Home Office.
To respond to this last point:
As this is about the cruel impact a man wearing the robes of a DLS brother had on a child, it doesn’t matter here whether it’s the legal responsibility of the Home Office or the DLS.
It would be ridiculous to get bogged down in such bureaucracy, which the RLSS are currently attempting.
Whatever the legal status, the Survivor still gets it off his chest and is heard.
Pros and cons
This is just a discussion document and everyone’s views are welcome. Maybe there’s something better or different. I figured 30 minutes, but up to 45 minutes might be better?
One shrewd observer commented that:
*They pay media advisors and drama coaches to train them, if they need to keep up their facade…
We need to see a genuine human being, a De La Salle brother on the screen, not a crisis actor or a professionally trained puppet. I would hope they would not be foolish enough to abuse our trust.
My feeling is that by making the DLS feel safe they may just face up to the crimes of their predecessors.
We didn’t feel safe when we were in their hands, and it’s ironic – but also empowering for us as survivors – that we have the power now.
Seeing how a DLS brother actually feels today may actually help us Survivors.
There’s an important shift of power dynamics here which will help us with the healing process.
I suspect for many survivors it will be healing just to talk to a DLS brother for 30 minutes. And bring them closure.
For others, it may open a can of worms. But the Truth must run where it will.
We can’t be afraid of the Truth.
It’s cost Survivors like myself thousands of pounds in therapy dealing with DLS crimes against me, so I really don’t want to hear them say it’s uneconomic. Or they haven’t got the time. That they have better things to do.
Make the time.
Someone has to be proactive and find a way out of the current deadlock. As no initiative has come from the DLS and their Safeguarders, it’s up to us to take the initiative.
An olive branch is being offered them: a way of getting at least some of the poison out for some Survivors, and I would recommend they take it.
If they don’t want to, IMHO it will be because they are just too afraid of what might happen, what might come out. So they will carry on as before but – with increasing media and social media pressure – sooner or later their full history will be revealed to the public.
Bear in mind there are survivors in their 50s whose memories of abuse at De La Salle schools (I have their testimonies) are only emerging now. So this problem is not going to go away for decades to come.
I’ve sent a copy of this post to the RLSS because I do not have contact details for the DLS. Which tells us a great deal.
I’m also sending a copy of this post to a journalist who writes for the Tablet in the hope that they will see the benefits for the De La Salles and the Catholic Church, and cover it in their newspaper.