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St. Joseph’s Orphanage abuse survivors want diocese to pay for therapy

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 10:31 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:45 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Survivors from the long-closed St. Joseph’s Orphanage want the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to pay for their therapy as they continue to heal from years of abuse.

The former residents have formed a group called ‘The Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage’ and held a meeting on Thursday in an effort to find new ways to recover from the abuse that many say they suffered at the hands of the staff.

Top Vermont law enforcement officials last year said that the children were abused and that law enforcement officials failed to protect them.

They are continuing to fight in the Vermont State Legislature to extend the statute of limitations for physical abuse. They’re also working to add extra language to ‘sex abuse’ to add emotional and psychological abuse.

The survivors wrote a book, have a museum of their memories documenting abuse, and even a healing garden in the works. For now, Voices of St. Joseph’s spokesperson Brenda Hannon says she wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again. “The community did not want to hear that the Catholic church was condoning this behavior, they did not want to believe, and so that’s why we want to keep the history of what was done so it cannot be repeated,” she said.

Part of some of the survivors’ healing includes wanting the Diocese of Burlington to provide restitution and pay for counseling. Some say they could not have the life they were capable of because of the abuse at the orphanage.

The diocese responded to these issues on Thursday with a statement which says, in part: “Representatives of the Diocese of Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities, including Bishop Coyne, have been meeting with former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage one-on-one as they have requested and will continue to do so... Each meeting is unique, each person’s story is unique, and the help we offer each former resident is specific to them. If the person feels they would be helped through counseling, we would work with them as needed.”

The survivors said they are asking to do these meetings as a group so they are transparent.

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