‘I was raped but they told me to keep quiet’ - ex-pupil of horror school speaks out
PUBLISHED: 16:56 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:56 01 August 2019
Lisa* was 13 when she was sent to an abusive residential school and alleges she was told to keep quiet about being raped.
Police have now re-opened their investigation into the Small School at Red House near Buxton after several ex-pupils told this newspaper of abuse allegations.
Today, now aged 36, she describes her horrific years at the school until it was closed in 1998.
-'Mum, it's crazy here'
"I arrived at The Red House in 1996. I was told there were animals and it was in the country. It sounded like an amazing place.
The day I arrived no one was there other than a young member of staff. We were told everyone was on holiday in Legoland and she was taking me to join them all.
I could see straight away that everyone was out of control. I thought I was not well behaved, but seeing the behaviour here, I was terrified.
The older kids would pick on, and punish the younger kids. It seemed like you only saw staff when there was big trouble and then they would let other children sort out any bad behaviour.
"Within the first week, I was in the phone room which was a tiny toilet-sized room with a window on the door and a small window on the wall to the outside.
I was on the phone to my biological mum. I had witnessed fights, bullying, kids drinking cleaning fluid and was telling my mum it was crazy here, and begging to get moved.
Another child was listening to my phone call, which I didn't realise, and ran around telling everyone I said they were all crazy.
I then had over 20 kids of all ages trying to get into the phone room. Shouting abuse and threatening me. I had my back on the door to stop them coming in. They were banging on the window. My mum was listening and asking to speak to the staff, but there were no staff there.
I was crying on the phone begging my mum to help me, and I then saw some staff who had been watching.
After letting it go on, they locked me in the phone room to stop anyone getting in. They seemed not too fussed to quickly move the crowd and help me be safe. It felt like they were happy to show me a warning of what happens if I talk to anyone about the place.
Due to that, I became terrified to be there. And it was clear to see, so I became a target for bullying."
-'Told to keep quiet about rape'
"Even though there was a girls' side and a boys' side regarding rooms, people went wherever they wanted to. There was no safe space, and no safeguarding children from bullying and sexual activities.
One time, a new boy older than me arrived and we were chatting because he was new, and in the night he came into my room because he said he was nervous. He started touching me, and I kept laughing him off and pushing his hand away and then he forced himself on me and raped me. I said no a number of times and was crying because it hurt, but I was too scared to shout as I didn't know who might come.
The next day, he bragged to people that on his first night he got laid so I had loads of kids calling me names and the girls calling me a slag.
This was all said in front of staff and one of the Danish staff who lived in my block pulled me aside and asked why I was having sex with people when I am so young.
I said I didn't want to, but he would not get off.
She told me it was best to keep quiet and let them forget, so the name calling would stop, but if I told the truth, she said worse things would probably happen.
During my time there, I recall another four times I was sexually assaulted. Three times when out of the Red House.
Once was on an overnight ferry where loads of kids from different places were all on board and no one supervised the cabins we were staying in. A person I didn't know came into the room and pretended there was a group in his cabin and they were all having fun, so I went, but there was no one else there, and again I tried to leave but he was older and stronger and raped me.
I tried to tell a staff member that I found, who wanted me to go in the middle of a large group and point him out, and say it in front of everyone, so he knew I was not lying.
He was so aggressive that I just ran back to my cabin waiting for trouble to start, but nothing happened and nothing was said.
The two other times were in countries we had travelled to. One was an older male that I did not know. I went to the toilet in the night, and he was in the hall and asked what group I was with, and followed me into the toilet. He said he could make sure I never got back to England and would stay there if I was not quiet.
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Another time, at some kind of convention where all the groups met up, I went with a group of kids, some of which I knew, and some from other homes.
Everyone drifted off, and I was left with a Danish boy who I thought was nice so we spoke for ages in the dark on a hill, and he ended up just doing what everyone else does.
I didn't fight back and I didn't tell anyone. I started to feel this was all I was good for.
There was assault by groping and touching by people at Red House. It was so normal. Girls would fight if they knew a boy had done something to another girl because they felt that if it didn't happen to them, no one liked them.
I was attacked by boys and girls with staff watching, and not stopping fights even in the head's office, I was beaten up while they watched. I never had any education. I don't recall any time that I was learning in a class room."
"I ran away a number of times. We would travel for hours, walking through fields to get away. Most of the time, the staff would load the van with older kids to come and search for us. They didn't like to call the police if they didn't have to. No one would have run away as much as people did if there were no problems.
Every time I told my social worker how bad it was and I needed to move, she would ignore what I said. She never raised any of my concerns or even acted as if interested.
I was learning that my word meant nothing. No one cared. I stopped caring."
-How it affects me today
"The lasting effects that place had on me still affect me now, but my teenage years were the worst.
Anywhere I went, I felt I had to act tough and aggressive, to not be a target for bullying. I never went back to education. I didn't trust the system or anyone in it.
I felt that any male had a right to use my body. I felt upset if they didn't, as I thought it meant I had done something wrong.
I had a lot of sexual experiences after Red House, some with consent and some not. But I did not know the boundaries anymore. I was used by older males, as I was broken and I had no one to tell me that I did not need to let men treat me like that.
I can't maintain friendships as I don't trust anyone.
The staff used kids to punish and catch other kids. Everyone was lying and pretending to be friends, to go back to the staff to look good. People would turn on each other for no reason, so I have never been able to get rid of that paranoid feeling that I got there.
I didn't think anyone would ever believe me about anything, so I never spoke to people.
I was, and still am so scared around big groups. I hate talking on the phone in case people listen in and make trouble. I have spent many years in and out of mental hospitals.
The Red House alone was not what ruined my life, but Greenwich Social Services, who never safeguarded me before and after the Red House.
No support was given after the Red House shut down in 1998. People were aware bad things went on, but no one checked or offered help. It was all ignored."
-Why I'm speaking out now
"I spent a long time being angry at the Red House and how so many things happened and how it made me so afraid of people and places. I feel that if I never went there I could have been placed somewhere that could have encouraged my education and built up my trust in people and places. I was so messed up and angry at life.
I have looked into making a report a number of times, but my mental health has always got in the way.
Bringing up the memories I have locked away always brings bad thoughts, but now at a mature age when my mental health is stable, I feel the time is right for people to answer why we were put through that.
Someone must take responsibility for ruining so many children's childhoods and even their adult life. I was placed in care to be cared for. I was neglected. They remove children from families for the same kind of neglect.
To get closure we need what happened to be accepted that it did happen, and that it was unacceptable, and to get justice."
*Name has been changed for legal reasons
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