Church Abuse, Drugs and E.C.T.


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Victim of Church and State
By Dr Rosaleen O’Brien

ISBN: 978-1-84747-506-0
Published: 2008
Pages: 73
Key Themes: child abuse, church care and neglect, hospitalisation, ECT, Ireland


This autobiography is simple and touching and generous and the reader is left in disbelief at what Rosaleen has suffered at the hands of those who should have looked after her; family, church, hospital, state. Rosaleen throws a light on the experiences of many young women, hospitalised, alongside herself in last century Ireland, simply for being poor or for otherwise being inconvenient to church and state.

About the Author

I have been in receipt of trauma counselling since 1999 on a daily basis,at times speaking till the early hours of the morning.Support from my trauma Counsellor helps me to come to terms with accepting that what has happened to me cannot now be changed. I cannot ever forgive those who had a vicarious liability to look after me and failed. As a result of being locked away for some years all because we were poor has brought certain limitations to my day to day life. Writing is a form of therapy and allows me to be free to be the person that I want to be, and should have been my birthright. Through writing I can reach out to others who may have had such an unfortunate experience as myself . Daily flashbacks can be upsetting and I fill my life with things to do so as to block them out. Day to day life can be exhausting and coping mechanisms that I learnt in order to survive have not helped me in the outside world. God help all fellow survivors and perhaps one day Ireland will accept the terrible price we paid. Shame on all you right thinking residents in Ireland to allow the government and Catholic Church to ignore harm done to me and many others who are either dead or too ill to tell their story. Thanks to Chipmunkapublishing I have been able to confront my demons and a Big Thank you to Reatha my trauma counsellor without her I would not be here today writing about my stolen life.

Book Extract


I was born in Southern Ireland in 1944, at a time when Ireland was facing severe hardship. Farmers had not done well financially, bearing in mind the collapse of the American economy, which was felt worldwide.
Cattle were declining in numbers in Ireland, though in the case of pigs and horses, numbers were improving. By 1921 poultry figures were increasing to nearly six million. The same applied to the pig market. Farm labourers were paid about fifteen shillings a week, these `wages` were said to be `Emergency Condition Wages`.
Bread rationing was introduced in 1942 and in 1946 Ireland saw the wettest summer ever, and most of the wheat crops failed. A severe winter followed and fuel supplies were scarce.

I was about to enter into the world and did I not pay a price? Back then if you were poorer than most, babies and the very young were put to sleep in wooden boxes, like drawers of a dressing table, and covered up with a rough blanket. Food was scarce and a slice of fried, hard, home baked bread with herrings on top was considered a treat. That is what I was eating when a rat approached and challenged me for my food, the rat won and he has the proof, I have the mark of his teeth on my forefinger. I had learnt my first lesson – never truck with a rat. I was under the age of five and there was blood everywhere, I screamed and scared not only our family but the neighbours also.
We lived in a council cottage and there were missing floorboards everywhere. Why the council charged rent I will never know, but the rent collector called regularly.


My early memories were that I was crying constantly, I was cold and hungry most of the time. The worst of all was being left alone most of the time without supervision or care. Mollie was left to look after me while mother stayed away for weeks at a time in a convent praying, and any money that we might have had was given to the nuns.
I developed Rickets and now as I look back it is apparent to me that this disease is usually caused by malnutrition and lack of sunlight. I was bent double and found my arms too heavy; it was so worrying as no one else suffered from this awful disease. Mother did beat me with a stick because I could not walk straight, and she tied a raincoat belt to form a support to get me to walk straight. She warned me about what the neighbours may think. I felt so aware of this contraption and felt that the neighbours would be more aware of this raincoat belt tied at my back than my stoop. What a worry when you are growing up in poverty facing stigmas in all directions. Soon however, I was given table spoons of cod liver oil and the stoop in my back seemed to sort itself out a lot.
High birth rate was common back then; I guess it was a result of the Catholic Church banning birth control, and the ignorance of the masses, where they were producing children with no means of supporting them. The Church was always assured of a ready market in `slave labour` but they had to commit the children to an institution first. Sometimes it was to a so called approved school, sometimes to a mental home as was in my case.
My mother was a woman without maternal feeling, and I used to have to hide under the oil cloth on the table. If I sat by the fire she would strike out as she could not stand daughters especially.
I remember the cold dark evenings where flickering oil lamps shone against the deadly silence that only the fox broke by stealing the hens and creating a scene where the rest of the hens went spare.



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