Survivors share their stories of abuse at St. Joseph’s Orphanage

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 4:54 PM EST

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Survivor stories from the shuttered St. Joseph’s orphanage are now on display at the Vermont History Museum.

At the exhibit, people can expect to hear the voices of those who claim to have experienced abuse at the orphanage.

St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington was open for 140 years and had thousands of children come through its doors.

Years after the facility shut down and the children had grown to adulthood, many of them began to come forward with stories of abuse.

It was still many years later that an investigation run by the Vermont attorney general’s office validated the survivors’ experiences of abuse spanning decades.

Now, there is a public exhibit for all citizens to hear their experiences.

“It’s not something good but it’s for something good in the future and now, because it’s being used to help kids currently and hopefully in the future,” said Katelin Hoffman of the Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage.

Hoffman lived at the orphanage in the 1970s and says she experienced the abuse first-hand.

She says they’ve worked for months to get this exhibit up and running.

Hoffman says it’s healing for her to see this very public display of children’s experiences with the orphanage and that she hopes it will help prevent abuse now and in the future.

“For years and years and years we never were able to talk about the orphanage and now it’s like we are being recognized and actually doing something to help others, so it’s great,” Hoffman said.

Also featured in the exhibit are stories from Burlington Free Press Reporter Sam Hemingway whose reports of abuse going on at the orphanage helped shed light on what actually happened in the building on North Avenue.

He says he’s in awe of the survivors who are speaking their truths.

“I think people need to see that no matter what your circumstances are, if you stand up for yourself as these people have, you can make something happen. You can make the life better for yourself and make the world a little better,” Hemingway said.

The orphanage was run by the Catholic Diocese of Burlington which has acknowledged the abuse and apologized to the victims.

We reached out to the diocese for comment on this exhibit and did not receive a response before this story was published.

The exhibit is scheduled to run through June or July and they hope to take it to other cities around Vermont, as well. Click here for more details.

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