Conflicting or complementing narratives? Interviewees’ stories compared to their documentary records in the Swedish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and Neglect in Institutions and Foster Homes
The Swedish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and Neglect in Institutions and Foster Homes has interviewed 866 people who claim that they were subjected to neglect and abuse during their time in municipal or state care in Sweden. The inquiry has also examined many of the interviewees’ documentary records. This article is based on the interviews and documentary records for 140 individuals and raises questions about the possibilities of corroborating stories of abuse and neglect through documentary records. In this study we found that the interviewees and the records told similar stories about where the interviewee resided during care and the duration of placements. However, in details the sources represented different perspectives on the same individual’s history. Important aspects to take into consideration are that case files seldom reveal anything about abuse and neglect, and the tendency of authorities to make only cautious descriptions of suspected abuse. The study also highlights the differences between practices of recordkeeping which mean that some individuals can read extensive case files about themselves while other peoples’ care histories have left barely any trace in the archives. In this article, these findings are used to question expectations about the possibility of establishing one ‘truth’ of abuse in an individual case by collecting ‘evidence’ from several sources.