My parents became Jehovah's Witnesses shortly after the Second World War. I was born in 1948, and like my brother, I was raised in this faith.
This belief meant, among other things, that my father refused military service. He did not want to be broadcast with the Politieele Actions to the then Dutch East Indies. As a conscientious objector, he had to roam the moor in Drenthe for three years, while my mother was at home in Amsterdam with my brother, and later with me as a baby. Not an easy start.
Furthermore, it meant that our lives at home, next to work and school, were fully in service of the faith. My parents went 'by the door' to 'proclaim the good news'. Sometimes my mother took me with that. At the evening meal my father prayed aloud at the table and read aloud from the Bible or from reading the 'society'.
In addition, there were 'meetings' three times a week, of which twice with the entire municipality in the 'Kingdom Hall' and the third time with a small group with a colleague at home. I remember when I was a little girl I was only allowed to go to the 'meeting' on Saturday evening, because the other evenings I had to go to bed on time. That's why my parents took turns there, so that one of them stayed home with my brother and me. When my brother was old enough, a year or fourteen, he could or should accompany all the evenings. My parents still took turns with me at home.
One evening, my father adjusted to me, while my mother and my brother went to the 'meeting'. I was ten years old. When my father put me to bed, he crawled into bed with me for 'sociability'. This is how sexual abuse began. I was a petite girl and not yet informed. I had no idea what was happening. When my father came, I said, "Daddy, you've been peeing in bed!" My father swore to me that I could not say anything to Mama. I did not dare to. Moreover, I did not know how and with what words I could have told this.
This has continued for a long time. Until one night, while my father was back in bed with me, the outer door opened and my brother stepped inside. He accompanied the hymns on the piano in the 'Kingdom Hall', but he had forgotten his music collection and he came to pick it up in between. When he opened the door to the bedroom, he discovered my father in bed with me.
The next morning my brother asked me: "Does dad do that more often, that he comes to bed with you?" I answered truthfully, "Yes." Of course my brother did not know what to do with this. But fortunately the abuse stopped. I did not understand it at the time, but afterwards I think my father was startled when his son caught him.
Only when I was fourteen did I begin to understand that what my father had done with me had something to do with 'sex'. One night when my mother put me to bed, I overcame my fear and said to her, "Daddy did that I had a baby." So childish I expressed myself then, because I knew no other words for what happened to me.
My mother was shocked and said she would talk to Papa about it. The next evening they brought me to bed together, but first we kneeled with the three of us in front of my bed. My father prayed out loud, on behalf of us all three. He prayed 'Our father' and asked for forgiveness for 'our debts'. Then I let everything come over me, but later I became very angry about it: why eleven debt? It was his fault!
There was no longer talk about it. My father did not reveal his missteps to the "congregation servants" (the term "elders" was not used yet) and my mother also kept her mouth shut. My father simply remained 'theocratic school server'. No help was sought for me. It was just as if nothing had happened.
When I was eighteen, I radically stopped this belief. What a liberation! I also sought help from a psychologist to process my incest history. Yet it has been working for a long time, especially in the form of relationship problems.
In 1978 I got married and we have two children: a daughter and a son. I still had contact with my parents. My father seemed much nicer as a grandfather and rather than he used to be as a father to my brother and me. I was happy with it and saw it as a form of making good on his part.
Until our daughter, also when she was fourteen, said that she also had a 'secret' with grandpa from a young age. My world collapsed. We have broken contact with my father and sought help for our daughter and again for me. We have not been able to have contact with my mother for a very long time, but after the death of my father at 80-age in 2000 we have restored contact with her.
Incidentally, my father told me, when I was a year or 20, so about 1968, so by his nose that he had stopped with JG, because he actually 'did not believe it anyway'. My mother, on the other hand, remained "in the truth" until her last sob (she died in 2012) at the age of 96).
What does the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses have to do with all of this? It is not the case that the abuse was reported and that they were in default. My father is therefore never 'excluded'. Even after he had stopped with this belief, he sometimes went to 'circle meetings' for fun with my mother and was therefore still considered a 'brother'. But that was his own hypocrisy, supported by my mother who always kept his hand above him, and I do not blame that on the organization.
I do think that this belief has contributed to a context in which sexual abuse could take place. I mean the hierarchical structure and patriarchal views ('the man is the head of the family', which my father liked to emphasize) and dogmatics (taking the Bible literally and not thinking for yourself, the interpretation of the 'brothers'). not calling into question in Brooklyn, but following and propagating indiscriminately).
Hanneke Lankhorst has written two books:
The story of Johanna is an autobiographical novel. Johanna grows up in a family with an authoritarian, loveless father, a sweet but fearful mother, and the oppressive faith of a Christian sect. As she gets older, she tries to wrestle herself to it, but the past continues to haunt her. This story takes place in post-war Amsterdam. With Johanna we experience the transition from the strict fifties to the sixties and seventies, the time of 'everything must be possible'.
(ISBN 978-90-8759-172-4, issued in 2011)
Sanne, Johanna's daughter is the sequel to Johanna's story. This gripping story is about the consequences of the abuse in Sanne's life as a child, teenager and young woman. A history that repeated itself, because the mother used to be a victim of the same perpetrator, her own father, the grandfather of Sanne.
(ISBN 978-90-8759-351-3, issued in 2013).
Both books can be ordered at any bookstore and at bol.com, as a paperback or e-book. They are also borrowed from many public libraries across the country. Because the only remedy against sexual abuse, anywhere, is openness!