They were trapped.
Beaten by day and raped by night, hundreds of boys at the Bindoon, Tardun and Castledare institutions had no escape.
Orphaned or distanced from parents unaware of their plight, nobody could hear the screams.
And those who did hear them refused to save them.
Witnesses told the second day of the royal commission yesterday of their heroic yet futile attempts to escape the violence and depravity doled out by a sadistic club of Christian Brothers responsible for their care.
One child told a priest visiting to hear confession he was being sexually abused - and was chastised for making up lies.
One went to the nuns, "who cooked for the boys but were really there to look after the Brothers", and got flogged. Another was called a sissy.
Young Raphael Ellul, who was at Tardun, made it all the way to Mullewa police station, only to be clipped over the ear by the local officer, who told him, "Don't tell lies about good Christian men".
Another Maltese boy wrote a long letter detailing the abuse and secretly slipped it to a visiting dignitary from his home country.
He waited to be saved but it never happened.
That same boy, after being beaten unconscious trying to flee his first rape in the "lion's den" of Brother Simon at Tardun, must have thought he had escaped when he woke up in a hospital bed.
With a drip in his arm, head injuries and bloody underpants, surely he would find someone to protect him?
"As I opened my eyes, I saw the face of a woman with a nurse's hat on," he told the inquiry yesterday. "She said, 'Don't worry, you are at the Mullewa hospital'. I have no idea of how long I was knocked out for but it was afternoon.
"I felt a bandage around my head. The nurses told me I'd had a fall. While I was in the hospital, my pyjama pants had to be changed often because I was bleeding.
"I told the nurses what happened to me and that something had been put in my backside.
"The matron came to me and asked to repeat what I'd told the nurses. She walked away afterwards and said nothing. I learnt later that her name was Matron Barden and that she was the sister of Monsignor Barden, who often visited Tardun."
The boy was sent back and endured more years of abuse, for ever scarring him. He remains trapped. He and the other witnesses have not escaped, each telling in heartbreaking detail the psychological impact of being sucked into a depraved world where the powerful tormented the innocents.
They and their families have lived with the nightmares for decades yet all but one Brother, who was jailed for three years in the 1990s, went to their graves without paying for their crimes.
Outside the commission, Clifford Walsh told how he could not hug his son because even innocent physical contact reminded him of the abuse.
Wearing a T-shirt stating "I need psychiatric help" because "I should have got it when I needed it, but it's too late", he spoke of his hatred for the Catholic Church.
"I see the Church on TV: they just canonised two popes, what a load of crap," he said. "I think the Catholic Church should pay everybody who was abused some compensation but the Catholic Church, who have more money than is measurable, they won't do anything. They just want us to shut up and go away."
He said the Church should "start at $100,000 and go from there".
Mr Ellul said it was too late for him. "I am damaged goods," he said.
"Justice has not been done."