In countries ranging from Canada to Ireland to Australia, the 20th-century abuses that took place in orphanages, oftentimes Catholic ones, have been exposed. But "no such reckoning has taken place" in America, writes Christine Kenneally for BuzzFeed News
. "Even today the stories of the orphanages are rarely told and barely heard, let alone recognized in any formal way by the government, the public, or the courts." And so she set out to unearth those stories in what ended up being a four-year investigation that ultimately found its subject: the long-closed St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont, and the children who allegedly died at the hands of nuns there (though her piece touches on a number of other orphanages and similar atrocities).
Kenneally relied on "tens of thousands of pages of documents, some of them secret, as well as dozens of interviews," much of them related to a number of lawsuits 28 former residents filed in the 1990s. She digs deep into those suits in an incredibly long and detailed piece, among whose many figures is Sally Dale, who came to the orphanage as a 2-year-old and recalled seeing a boy being tossed out a window to his death. The other alleged abuses described by her and others were plentiful and extreme: other children who mysteriously disappeared, being made to eat vomit, fingertips burned with a match as punishment for stealing candy, being sexually abused, beatings. Some cases were dismissed; the others were settled. Dale never got her day in court. "But then, after years of accumulating [research], I gained access to a cache of documents that [Dale's laywer] never saw," writes Kenneally. And they confirmed many of Dale's stories. Read the full piece here. (Read more Longform stories.)