Tuesday, November 26, 2013





The discussion on St. Nicolas and slavery.
By Marinus H. Kruissen, author

Table of Contents

2 Table of Contents

3 Opening Remarks

4 The Study
Acute and long-term consequences of violence against children
Other longer-term health consequences
Financial consequences
Indirect costs:

5 One child per class
Taskforce child abuse and sexual abuse
Taskforce child abuse and sexual abuse
Definition of violence – an atempt to limit the terminology

7 The situation in the Netherlands
8 The selection process
9 Intrusion
The European Convention on Human Rights.

10 Facts and figures about child abuse in the Netherlands

11 Advice and Reporting Child Abuse
12 Conclusion

13 Sources

Opening remarks

There is a recurrent annual discussion about the celebration of the birthday of St. Nicolas, the patron saint of sailors, in The Netherlands.

This saint was well known for the way he treated three children, saving them, supposedly, from the cooking pot of a butcher. This story accorded him the friendship of Dutch children because they too longed for justice. In return for that friendship he gives them sweets, (pepernoten), and presents every year.

Recently a new voice sounded in the discussion, the voice of Ms. Verene Shepherd of the
United Nations.
Verene A. Shepherd wrote her dissertation at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on the Jamaican economic history in the period of slavery as well as on women's history in the Caribbean. Shepherd is professor of social history at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.
The UN emphasize that Shepard does her job voluntarily andindependently, and is not a UN employee. So she speaks in her own name.

She is of the opinion that the celebration of the birthday of our Good and Holy man, St. Nicolas, should be stopped because he makes use of black servants to climb into chimneys and deliver presents to children. And that is illegal so children should shut up and be nice without St. Nicolas.

Of course it is illegal to have slaves, and of course st. Nicolas does not have slaves. In fact he died some 400 years ago!

I want to try and get over this discussion once and for all. It has nothing to do with slavery or good and evil, it is about children wanting justice and security.

That should also be the main concern for the United Nations and for Unicef, its Children’s Fund.

If Ms Shepard wants to get involved in the discussion about children in The Netherlands, I would like to invite her to read the text below first, and then go into discussions about child abuse! For her convenience I have presented it in a form she should be familiar with.

The Study

The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children conservatively
estimates that 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home.
Happiness begins at home, that is how the saying goes. But reality shows us that violence in the homes is easier to find than happiness. Two hundred and seventy-five million children experience violence at home!
Now, we should not start by blaming the parents, because that would give a skewed picture of reality and we would end up with many children in some kind of care situation. And the parents of those children often are not to blame. We have Dutch situations. It is very difficult to find a younger Dutch person who has not been in contact with the official child care authorities of the Netherlands.
Acute and long-term consequences of violence against children

Poor relationships
Poor school performance
Poor self-esteem
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Psychosomatic disorders
Suicidal behavior and self-harm

Other longer-term health consequences
Chronic lung disease
Irritable bowel syndrome
Ischaemic heart disease
Liver disease
Reproductive health problems such as infertility

Financial consequences
Direct costs:
Treatment, visits to the hospital doctor and other health services

Indirect costs:

Lost productivity, disability, decreased quality of life and premature death
Costs borne by criminal justice system and other institutions: Expenditures related to apprehending and prosecuting offenders.
Costs to social welfare organizations, costs associated with foster care, to the educational system and costs to the employment sector arising from absenteeism and low productivity.

The effects do have consequences for the economy of the country. It costs a lot of money to take care of children, and a lot more to take care of children who have been affected by violence.
One child per class

Preventing and tackling child abuse is badly needed, because in the Netherlands as many as 119,000 children are abused annually. On average one child in every classroom in the Netherlands gets involved into some form of child abuse. While all children in the Netherlands are entitled to a safe and healthy childhood, as a stable start in life, this rule is not very succesful for the large numbers of children who are victims of child abuse. This is not just about physical abuse. Also emotional and physical neglect, sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence and the consequences of fighting divorces are forms of child abuse.
Taskforce child abuse and sexual abuse

The Task Force was established by the Ministries of Security and Justice and of Health, Welfare and Sport to entice directors, managers and professionals into more and more targeted action. This is to prevent abuse and sexual abuse of children and to address the problem effectively. The Task Force started in September 2012 and will continue until 2016.
Definition of violence – an attempt to limit the terminology

The term violence means to enforce something, especially with mental or physical power. There are two parties. First, the perpetrator exerts the force on the victim. In this case of violence is defined as physical force acting through the deployment of force or by other physical action that is appropriate to their intensity to interfere with the free will of another person and to manifest the will of the first party.
The definition shows that violence is not only physical type, but also can be exercised mentally. Speaking of violence one thinks in the first place of physical violence. When we think of violence we think about beatings, homicide, physical injury, sexual assault, and the like.The physical violence is seen most easily in public. The victims can not always hide their injuries.
Physical violence is a form of violence. This is injury and damage, caused by external influences. A worse form of violence can be psychological violence. Physical wounds heal after some time.Psychological violence can lead to lifelong depression and impairments. Psychological violence can take the form of exclusion, neglect, derogatory comments, harassment or stalking. It is increasingly common in school or at the workplace in the form of bullying.
Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child accords the child the right to be
protected from domestic violence:
“Article 1: States parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and
educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence,
injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including
sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has
the care of the child.”
This article adds protection against neglect or negligent treatment to the rights of children, so that the lack of care may be punished by law in the countries that have ratified the convention.
But there is more, the special Rapporteur to the United Nations on the abuse of children adds a few more rules to be adopted: The Special Rapporteur would suggest that through this article the Convention on the Rights of the Child extends the following protection to children:

● Against physical violence - physical abuse is the actual or attempted use of any
physical force with the intent to injure, control, hurt or make the victim afraid of
the abuser. This would include slapping, punching, kicking, etc.

● Against mental violence - which would include psychological, emotional and
verbal abuse intended to undermine the victim's self-esteem and self-confidence.
This is usually expressed through words and actions aimed at instilling fear and

● Against neglect - which would refer to acts of omission rather than acts of
commission. Failure to see to the basic needs of the child, like the needs for food,
clothing and medicine, would be violative of this provision of the Convention.

● Against maltreatment - which would refer to acts which may not be characterized
by physical contact between abuser and victim, but is nevertheless just as
harmful, like making a child do something which is extremely difficult or painful,
such as work too heavy for the age and/or physical condition of the child.

● Against exploitation, including sexual abuse - which includes all kinds of sex,
even just touching in a sexual way, and even if there is no violence. Watching
pornography together with children, watching children do something sexual with
each other, taking photos of their bodies or just looking at their bodies in a sexual
way are also forms of sexual abuse or exploitation.

The situation in the Netherlands
In my opinion the convention and the conclusions by the Special Rapporteur are still not strong enough. Also member states are free to adopt or not adopt parts of the Convention, by ratifying and signing, but not in fact implementing the rules.
This includes putting children in care situations where there may be a danger of abuse or exploitation, or both. More than 15.500 children have been placed in foster care in the Netherlands. The Youth Care Agency (Bureau Jeugdzorg) indicates that the figures would probably be higher if they had more foster families. Therefore the selection of the foster families is one of the bottle necks of the system.
Many of the cases of children placed in foster care, supposedly concern short term care, because the parents are not at that moment able to take good care of the child. A judge decides the child should be places outside the home. Foster care can take place in various legal forms:

● voluntarily
● by a supervision order ( family guardian )
● guardianship

When a child is placed in foster care, a guardian, usually a guardianship institution bears the ultimate responsibility for the child and maintains (if possible) contacts with the biological parent(s).
The Youth Care Agency (Bureau Jeugdzorg) is responsible for the placement of the child in a foster home.
After placement, the foster home is supervised by a foster care institution. Foster care institutions are legally separated (family) custody organizations, but may resort under one umbrella-organization.
The interests of foster families are represented by the Dutch Association for Foster families (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Pleeggezinnen) (NVP).

Foster parents can apply for the foster parent guardian scheme. If this regulation applies, the custody is wholly or partly in the hands of one of the foster parents. This depends on the form, single-headed or two-headed custody.

Foster parents receive a monthly fee, calculated per foster child per day . However they are not entitled to the Dutch government child benefits.

There is debate about whether the wishes of the biological parents , even if deprived of parental authority, should be taken into consideration, in terms of religion, or for example, attitudes towards gay foster parents.
The selection process
When is someone fit to be foster parent?
A foster care institution uses the following six criteria:

● Openness and clarity in the contact.
● Working together as a team and sharing the parenting.
● Help children to develop a positive view of themselves.
● Help children to change without hurting their behavior.
● Estimating the effect that foster parenthood will have on the situation of the prospective foster parents themselves
● Safety: foster parents provide a foster a safe environment.
● You must hold a certificate of no objection from the Council of Child Protection

Networking is important too, because more than one third of the fostered children in the Netherlands live with family, friends, a teacher’s family, neighbours or with the parents of a schoolfriend. This networkfostering is a growing trend in the Netherlands.

The only safeguard against malice in the Netherlands seems to be the certificate of no objection from the Council of Child Protection. But the foster agency will apply for the prospective foster parent, and they have an advisory role towards the Council. In other words, there are no guarantees that a child will be placed in a violence-free foster situation.

It may be clear that there is no protection against violence in the foster system as it is used in the Netherlands at this time. The selection process fails to address a possible violent past of one or two of the applicant foster parents.

The European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 8:
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The Council of Child Protection may have the right and the duty to protect the welfare and wellbeing of children, and has the duty to protect children against violence in the family and the home. But investigations show that more often than not, the child protection agencies in the Netherlands, including the Council, fail to do so.
In the Netherlands, the Youth Care Act (art. 1 sub m) gives the following definition of child abuse:

Child abuse is any form of threatening or violent interaction of physical, psychological or sexual nature towards a minor, that the parents or other persons with respect to which the minor is in a dependency relationship or unfreedom state, active or passive, using force and causing serious harm, or threaten to cause serious harm to the minor in the form of physical injury or mental abuse.This also includes neglect and retain essential aid, medical care and education.
Facts and figures about child abuse in the Netherlands
- More than 107,000 children annually are victims of abuse in the Netherlands.

- In every classroom of 30 children on average at least one child is the victim of abuse.

- Nearly half of the Dutch population (45 percent) was once a victim of domestic violence. Witnessing domestic violence is a form of child abuse.

- Especially children under nine years of age are over-represented when it comes to child abuse. Once students reach the ages between 12 to 18 years, 37 percent has experienced some form of child abuse.

- In 81 percent of the reports to the Advice and Reporting Child Abuse, it appears that child abuse did accrue after the investigation was finished.

- People with children are more concerned with child abuse than those without. Of the people who have children, 73 percent feel involved in the child abuse issue, while of the people without children, only 32 percent feel involve.

- Child abuse is present in every environment. Therefore I am not placing extra attention on child abuse in Roman Catholic institutions.

- In 2008 there were 52.946 people who contacted the organization Advice and Reporting Child Abuse. That is an increase of 5 percent from 2007.

- In 2008, two children, who were known by the Advice and Reporting Child Abuse, died due to abuse.

Advice and Reporting Child Abuse (Advies- en Meldpunt Kindermishandeling).

Advice and Reporting Child Abuse (AMK) is a Dutch organization that records reports of suspected child abuse, gives advice and, if necessary, takes action.

The hotline is a phone number that anyone can call to report a case of suspected child abuse. The centre accepts messages from everybody and motivates this with the following reason:
"Usually, abused children or those who mistreat them do not of themselves talk about the situation. For them it is very important that people around them notice the abuse and do something about it."
There are reports of child abuse that are not reported to the hotlines. There are several reasons for this;

● Doubts about the correctness of the suspected abuse.
● Fear of the consequences of reporting for the detector.
● Organizational reasons.

Each province and metropolitan region has its own Advice and Reporting Child Abuse, all accessible via the same rural telephone number.
The hotlines are more or less the successors of the agency for confidential doctors that previously recorded reports of child abuse. The hotlines are now part of the child welfare agencies.

I felt very hurt by the discussion on Facebook, in the Dutch newspapers and on the rest of the internet. How can people thin this party has anything to do with racism or with slavery.
St. Nicolas has been part of my tradition for as long as I can remember. In the beginning Black Pete would have a handful of branches to sweep the chimney as he went through it, or so I thought. In reality it was a tool of force. He would use it to beat children.
He also had a big bag of sackcloth with him, to carry the gifts, or so I thought. I reality it was to carry bad children away to Spain with the angry bishop.
St. Nicolas was not a very nice man to me or to people of my generation or the generations before. But slowly that changed. St. Nicolas began to look loke Father Christmas more and more. He brought gifts and Black Peter was not allowed to beat us, by law! Soon the handful of branches dissapeared.
Then the internet came along. In the meantime I had grown up and as an adult had more problems with the strange bishop, not so much with his blackened servants. As a tradition the birthday of St. Nicolas became a childrens festivity, a nice day not so far away from Christmas.
But when Ms. Verene Shepherd of the United Nations tried to interfere I was hurt again. So many children are maltreaded, abused and misused yearly, how come this great organisation could not do anythig about that, but their wellpaid staff did try to break up a children’s party?

After some investigation I discovered that Ms. Shepherd did have the numbers from the innitial UN report. So why she chose to go for Black Peter in stead of against child abuse still remains a unanwered question.

I therefore advice and urge the United Nations;

To vet their staff and keep track of what they are saying and doing, also in their own time.
To take action against child abuse in all its forms, first and foremost in the Netherlands.

Source: Runyan D et al. (2002). Child Abuse and Neglect by Parents and Other Caregivers. In: Krug EG et al. (Eds).
World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva, World Health Organization, pp 59–86. Seen in http://www.unicef.org/lac/full_tex(3).pdf, October 23, 2013
http://www.weekvankinderenveilig.nl/. On the website October 23 2013
http://www.violencestudy.org/Definition.html, seen on October 23 2013
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G00/101/54/PDF/G0010154.pdf?OpenElement, seen on Oct. 24 2013
http://www.jeugdzorgnederland.nl/contents/documents/het-verhaal-van-pleegzorg-pdf.pdf, seen on Oct. 24 2013
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleegzorg, seen on Oct. 24 2013
Lammerts, R. (2012). Prevent and Combat Child Abuse and Neglect. National Report of Workstream 2: The Netherlands Experiences of Parents and Professionals: What Works? Utrecht: Verwey-Jonker Instituut.
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advies-_en_Meldpunt_Kindermishandeling, seen on Oct. 27 2013.
Translations by: Gone Native Translations

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

She was young and beautiful too,
A madonna for no man`s taking,
As bright as the sheen on the tranquil stream.
My heart was the nearer to breaking!

So carefree she was, as the faraway blue
A swan between sleeping and waking;
Who knows, but perhaps there was sadness too.
My heart was the nearer to breaking!

But as she sang softly of love that is true,
My soul was in sympathy,
But passion was the nearer to breaking!

Alexander Blok (1880-1921)

Ze was jong, prachtig en wonderschoon
Een madonna zo onbereikbaar
Zo helder als het schijnsel van een blanke stroom
Mijn hart was niet onbreekbaar.

Zorgeloos en levend zonder gevaar.
Een zwaan als een wolk op het water.
Mijn hart was niet onbreekbaar.

Maar ze zong zachtjes over een mogelijke liefde,
Eenstemmig met mijn ziel
Maar passie is niet onbreekbaar.

Vertaling: Gone Native Translations
Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons