My story (Airing my Dirty Laundry)

Good Shepherd Laundry, Waikowhai, Auckland. It's now hidden beneath a Retirement Village.

I am a Mum, Grandmother, Author, Trainer, Speaker, and Advocate. I like to sketch and paint, play the Irish bodhran and learn the Irish language. 

I have learned to embrace life instead of hiding from it, in fear, depression, and isolation.

I am a survivor of child abuse, sibling abuse, spousal abuse, religious abuse, and a survivor of the Good Shepherd Laundries.

However, I refuse to be defined by what happened to me in my childhood, because that shame belongs to others that were supposed to take care of me.  Consequently, I had to do a lot of work on my own restoration and healing. My biggest jumps in the healing process were when I chose: and indeed, continue to forgive those who messed up the little girl Kate.

 

This is my story...

My passion for protecting children was ignited when I was forced, kicking and screaming (without a voice) as a thirteen-year-old, into the back of a police van, locked in a police cell and sent to a girl’s home, where I spent weeks in a cell below the girl's home; indeed, a place where I was humiliated and abused. All because I ran away from home.

I was being violently abused at home and a close relative raped me.

My grandmother had just died (the rock of my life) and I wasn't allowed to say goodbye. One minute my Nan was in my life and the next minute she was gone, without an explanation.

I knew my father was not coming home, so I decided to run away and find him (I got my inspiration from Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday”).

Consequently, I spent my fourteenth birthday in the cell, below the Allendale Girl's Home. I went to court and was sentenced, as a runaway and made a "State Ward." No one ever asked me ‘why’ I ran away.

(I read my court notes recently, and my crime was, I was angry, rebellious, feisty and that my mother had no parental control over her children. It also said that she loved her children).

I was sent to the Good Shepherd Laundry, in Auckland (rehabilitation convent for wayward girls) and I worked from breakfast to dinner washing Auckland’s filthy laundry. I was abused, belittled and violated by the nuns. I was forced out of my education and into slave labour.

After trying to run away from the laundry 33 times, only to be brought back 33 times, I was pulled out of my “life of penance,”  given bus money, told I was a “bad apple” and pushed out the front door, again without being allowed to say goodbye.

I left there feeling institutionalised, worthless, not knowing where to go. No duty of care in the 60's. My shame kept me silent for a very long time. The convent robbed me of my ability to work in controlled work environments, took away my ability to bond with others and to keep "dirty laundry" hidden.

I understand that victims have no voice, no rights, no protection. I know how survival works in an unjust world. 

In contrast, I know that the power of kindness, education, support and empathy can turn the tide of abuse around to unleash a voice that can and will be heard.

I have not been silent for thirty years, about protecting children.

There is hope, there is life beyond abuse, as I learn to forgive and release those who have hurt me. It's a journey that has been thrust on me, one I had no control over. I get to control the outcome.

Without God stepping into my life, I was destined to self-destruct. He literally saved my life and I am grateful.

 

There are others that suffer when bad things happen to us.

The day "they" took me from my life, I lost any family bonding with my family of origin but worst of all, I lost my best friend.

It happened on the day I was due to march in a competition (I was a marching girl). I was with my friend Aileen, we had just got back from a beach party and I had time to change into my marching uniform and catch the bus. Aileen always came to watch and support me in competitions.

I lost all contact with her for over fifty years; that is, until recently, we found each other on Facebook.

 

This is my friend's story: 

"My dear friend, I remembered that day vividly and shall never forget it. I was broken hearted. We were such good friends, joined at the hips and then you were gone. I cried and lashed out. I wasn't allowed to try to make contact and there was no way they would let me see you. It was like that in those days, if they thought you were rebellious or not conforming to societies rules and regulations, or your parents couldn't cope they would take you away.

We all knew the horrific stories of life at the 'Good Shepherd Laundry,' or just simply being a "Ward of the State" child. I was scared for you, lost without you because we understood each other, and you had no one to come and rescue you, or support you. I thought of you over all these years, wondering how you survived the life at the 'Good Shepherd.' I was so 'over the moon' to make contact again after so many years and to see how well you have made your life."

 💜

k8reid@iinet.net.au