Tara Flood: Institutionalised Abuse

Tara was born in 1966 in Preston, Lancashire. She was sent to a residential special school in East Sussex at just sixteen months of age and remained there until she was sixteen. She then returned to Preston and attended a local mainstream college.

Here Tara talks about abusive care staff in her school.

  • Tara Flood
  • Tara Flood
  • Tara Flood


There seemed to be absolutely no control over the staff that came and went, so they were very, very abusive of the kids, very – physically and emotionally abusive of the kids. I don’t know if anything else went on. They were all quite young, I’d say mid – early, mid, late twenties at the most. They had no idea what they were doing, no idea what they were doing, well, in terms of supporting disabled children, let’s say.

But they were very aware of what they were doing in terms of the abuse that they metered out, dragging kids around by the hair up and down stairs, forcing children to go to bed straight from coming into school because they’d somehow not walked quick enough home from school, back from school. There were kids that went to bed for days at a time without any tea because they hadn’t got back to junior dorm quick enough for the care staff to consider them to be – they were – they were wicked, wicked people in every respect, really, very.

And I remember being – that was probably the time that I was most homesick. I used to cry for days before going back to school and just be counting the minutes for when my parents used to come and pick me up. But, you know, a week before coming back to school, absolutely sobbing about not wanting to go back, absolutely – not understanding why it was that my brother could stay at home and I couldn’t. And it didn’t matter what my mum said – you know, my dad, silent man, never said anything. My mum constantly having to justify, probably for her own beliefs rather than mine, but never understanding why it was I had to go back to this hell.

And then, you know, what made it worse was my mum then said to them, ‘Look, I don’t know what’s going on but Tara’s very upset coming back to school. Can you just sort of keep an eye on her?’ Which absolutely gave the green light for kind of, almost special treatment really. I remember one term having to go to bed early every night, and it was a summer term, because I’d somehow reported them, which I hadn’t, absolutely hadn’t, to my parents. Oh man, they were tough people.

I remember me and my friend being cornered in one of the bathrooms – I call them bathrooms but they were essentially rooms where there were three or four baths lined up against each other, no curtains or anything. Everyone was just like dunked in, dunked out and off we would go. But I remember being cornered, me and my friend, one day by a couple of these staff members and demanding to know what we knew about sex. I must have been, ooh, I’d say eight or – no, nine or ten maybe, and not allowed out until we’d said something. Oh, terrible. But on the face of it, you know, when parents came, it was like they were model care staff. It’s – I don’t think I’m saying anything that isn’t standard in any kind of institutionalised setting really. You know, whenever I hear it now as being, ah, everyone’s surprised by it, and I think, no, this has gone on forever. Any environment that – there is a closed door, locked or otherwise, allows for that kind of behaviour.

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