Behind the story: A city’s shame
The story is almost too horrifying to imagine. And it’s never been heard publicly.
It takes place in Saint John’s downtrodden South End, where poverty held families hostage.
The families were large, some with 7, 8 children. There was rampant alcoholism and physical abuse.
“We used to go to bed at night in these tenements. There was two sayings: One was ‘don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ And they bit us. And the other was ‘don’t let the boogeyman get you.’ And he got us.”
He’s speaking on the condition of anonymity, so we’ll call him Ryan. Ryan has spent nearly the last half-century battling his demons, and trying to emerge from a haze of confusion, shame and depression after being repeatedly sexually abused in the late 1960’s. His abuser was a Saint John Police Sargeant named Kenneth Estabrooks.
When Ryan was out of the house, he ran with a pack of kids from the neighbourhood, most in the same situation. There wasn’t much to do but hang out on the corner, listen to the radio and watch for the police.
“We didn’t think fondly of the police. Maybe we should have, but we didn’t. And we gave them a run for their money. So it was just a ‘here they come again!’ And let’s see who’s going to tell them where to go.”
And it wasn’t long before the word started getting around about a particular police officer named Ken Estabrooks.
“Well as a kid, as a little kid he was in a uniform and he was intimidating. He was a big man. And he wore, you know he wore a uniform and that was power. The word was pervert. That was the common word. We knew it was a bad thing…’well watch out for him, he tries to get you in the car.’ Well we screamed…we would yell at each other too and say ‘here he comes let’s go.’”
The City of Saint John has set up a toll-free number; victims can call to speak to Dave Perry and his partner Laura Bradbury to receive counselling paid for by the city. The number is 1-866-790-4764.
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