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Too many times to count. Sally recoiled with each downstroke, but she tried her best to hold back the tears. The silence only enraged Sister James Mary, who kept hitting her. On and on, the blows kept coming. If you smile, the whole world smiles with you. Irene brought Sally across the long hallway, down the marble stairs, past the foyer, and into the office of the mother superior herself. The next time Sally was sent to Irene and Eva for a beating, Irene said she would deal with the child herself.

Irene hit her, but only on her bottom. Sally was so overwhelmed with gratitude that the next day, she told Irene that she loved her.

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As the Burlington survivors group gained momentum, Joseph Barquin emerged as an extraordinary force for change. A judge had allowed his sexual assault case to go forward, and he was proving himself to be a tenacious litigant, rallying others to the cause and even doing his own investigative work.

Having been the first to come forward, he believed that his ideas should carry extra weight. His relationship with White deteriorated over what Barquin perceived to be a lack of respect.


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Relations with the group frayed as well. Eventually a delegate said several members felt threatened by Barquin. White came to the painful conclusion that he could not continue to represent Barquin and encouraged him to find new counsel. White planned to focus on the claims of the other former residents. He had two children, one of them newborn, and it became clear that his firm was too small to provide all the resources needed to handle all the cases coming his way.

White realized that if he was going to represent the orphans with integrity and competence, he would have to sacrifice everything else. White hated to see the cases end like that, but he knew that the statute of limitations would have prevented some of the plaintiffs from ever getting their day in court.

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He told his clients that he could not advise them what path to choose, but if anyone wanted to settle, he would help. The Burlington Free Press reported that according to church officials, people accepted the payment, for abuse they said they suffered. If G dropped his arms before the requisite time was up, he would be beaten and forced to repeat the punishment all over again. The bishop published a letter around the same time.


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In a larger sense they were all victims, he said: children who had been abused, as well as the good priests and brothers and nuns. She said he told her that if modern-day laws had been in place when he was a child, his own father would have been charged with child abuse, and yet he had got over what had happened to him. Well, these nuns were just frustrated ladies , she said he replied. He gave himself a few weeks to try to get to the bottom of what had happened. The two men toured Vermont in early and Widman met with the survivors of St. The more people he spoke to, the starker the patterns that emerged.

People who had been at St. They remembered a ruler, a paddle, a strap, a small ax, a light bulb, clappers, and a set of large rosary beads. They spoke about lit matches being held against skin. They described a cavernous attic. When they were good, they had gone up there two-by-two to retrieve Sunday clothes, play clothes, and winter gear.

When they were bad, they were pushed, dragged, and blasted up the stairs to sit alone and scream into the void. The aftershocks of the orphanage reverberated through their entire lives. Many of the people Widman met had spent time in jail or struggled with addiction, facts that a defense lawyer could use to discredit them in front of a jury. Not until the day he made the four-hour drive to Middletown, Connecticut, to meet Sally Dale. Sally took him in through a mudroom with lots of tiny boots flung about, to a kitchen filled with the inviting smell of cooking.

They sat down at the table and ended up speaking for hours. Then, and in subsequent conversations, she told him about the little boy who was thrown out of a fourth-story window by a nun. She told him about a day when the nuns sent her into the fire pit to retrieve a ball and her snow pants caught on fire, and about how weeks later, as the nuns pulled blackened skin off her arms and her legs with tweezers and she cried out in pain, they told her it was happening because she was a real bad girl.

She told Widman about a boy who went under the surface of Lake Champlain and did not come up again, and a very sad and very frightening story of a little boy who was electrocuted, whom the nuns made her kiss in his coffin. When Widman walked out of her house that day, he stood in her driveway with tears in his eyes. Widman asked Sally to write down what she remembered. She liked the idea, and over many months, she sent him a series of powerful and detailed letters.


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  • I had a dream last night about the orphanage. But the funny part is my eyes were wide open.

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    I saw a sister come into the girls small dorm and she came over to my bed and told me to come with her. She took me by the hand and brought me to her room. She put me on her bed and started to touch me all over, I was so afraid but would not make a sound so she would get mad and [unclear] me. Then she took my hands and told me to rub her all over while she put her fingers were it really hurt and I did not like it. Then she told me to put her fingers were she had touch me on her and I said no.

    She got so mad that she gave me a strapping real hard and sent me back to my bed in the dorm and told me to never say anything about it, so I did what she sayed because I really was afraid she would hurt me again. I remember when I was real little and would get mad I would throw a temper tantrum. They would get so mad at me they would grab me wherever they could and bring me into the bathroom and put me on my back over the tub and pour cold water into my face until I would stop scream and kicking.

    The water would come down so hard on me. As I really got older they used to make me babysit the real little ones in the nursery. There were times when I would see things the nuns were doing to them but did not know where to go to tell someone. Sometimes I would ask them why they did those things and they would say because they were very bad boys or girls.

    In the winter we would have these funny looking things that heat and steam would come out off. They would put the little kids on them sometimes just to sit but others they would stand them on it and then push them and of course sometimes there little legs would get caught between the wall and radiator and the little kids would really scream and cry. They would pull them out and some kids would have real nasty burns and blisters from it. If they did not stop crying they would then lock them in the same closet they used to put me in.

    You could here them but you could do nothing for them because they would keep the keys on them till they were ready to let them out.

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    But what could I do I was still just a kid myself. Boy sometimes I would pray that either we would get killed or they would but it never happened.

    Winter of the Metal People The Untold Story of America's First Indian War

    I really believed that nobody even God did not love any of us and that we would have to stay there forever. Church lawyers would ask the most painful questions possible. If plaintiffs had ever visited a psychologist or psychiatrist, the lawyers could demand to see their files.