Anyone who has regard for
the future can only view the destruction of a child’s innocence as one
of the most heinous crimes in the human lexicon of brutality. When this
occurs in the family home and is perpetrated by a parent with an obvious
duty of care, the betrayal and it’s consequences are immeasurable.
Daniel and Jeannette D’Haene
emigrated to Canada from Belgium in 1957 where they settled in a rural
area and had four children. Ronny the eldest was followed by Donald, the
author of this book, then Marina and Erik followed. On arrival in Canada
both Daniel and Jeannette were Roman Catholics, she more devout than he.
Daniel felt constrained by a diktat by the church in Belgium the faithful
should not read the ‘Bible’ which would confuse them. This must be peculiar
to the clergy at that time and place, since the same was not true then
in UK. Daniel was attracted by the Jehovah Witnesses who actively encouraged
religious study and became a pillar of the local community group. Eventually
he persuaded his wife with a mixture of rhetoric and beatings she should
change her faith too.
Whatever the expectations
and demands of the Witnesses, Daniel believed in his own home he was the
master, and his wife and children, his property. They were expected to
be obedient to every whim and caprice. At the age of four Donald was introduced
to ‘The Game’. This involved masturbating his father and was merely the
beginning of ten years of prolonged abuse, during which more serious assaults
occurred. In time the children would pool their knowledge and learn each
of them were initiates in ‘The Game’. Daniel informed his elder sons he
would expect them when they were older to perform incestuously with their
sister, after he finished with her. Each child was intimidated into silence
and their innocence of moral certitudes exploited. When they learned what
was happening to them was wrong, their father foisted the illusion of mutual
culpability upon them. It was only when Erik, aged five, told his mother
what his father had insisted on doing she became aware of the abuse. Daniel
promised to get help, but continued molesting his children.
In 1973 Jeanette and her children
approached the Elders of the Witnesses to gain protection for themselves.
Their reaction was to ‘excommunicate’ Daniel without telling his family
he had also confessed to bestiality. When the situation at home deteriorated
still further, Ronny and Donald persuaded their mother to leave with all
the children. Daniel, meanwhile, joined the Baptists and after a divorce,
remarried and once again became a pillar of his community.
Without exception all four
children suffered immense psychological damage. Ronny, temporarily became
a ‘control freak’ like his father and left home before worse effects would
be felt. Donald, by chance, reading a newspaper article discovered his
father had actually committed a crime for which he could be charged. By
then, at least thirty people in authority, knew the family’s story and
none had advised them of their legal position or alternatively to seek
legal advice. Finally getting this from a policeman from Ontario, Donald
instigated criminal proceedings against Daniel and obtained therapy for
himself, Marina and Erik.
When Daniel came to trial,
it was a complete travesty informed by incompetence, ignorance and plea-bargaining.
He was sent down for two years in a reformatory, having sentenced his family
to years of miserable flashbacks and psychological trauma. The severity
of damage is evidenced in that it took twenty years before Donald could
face his memories and write this detailed account of his childhood. To
many fellow victims it will appear to be classical in the methods used
by Daniel to control his family and the secrecy and shame they endured.
It also highlights the confusion of sexual identity which often results
exacerbated by the normal raging hormones of adolescence.
There is very little literature
on the subject of father/son sexual abuse which is still for some a taboo
subject. This well written and fluent book should be required reading for
all engaged in the protection of children and the victims of today. These
may care to know Donald more than survived his past and is today a successful
art journalist, actor and TV presenter. Lawyers should also view the last
chapters of the book as a textbook summary of how not to prosecute a case
and judges can gain a refresher course on what poor administrative services
can do to ‘justice’. In this instance, Donald and his family were the victims
of secondary rape by the very system which allegedly should have redressed
their wrongs and protected them. Although this matter came to trial in
the early 1980’s in Canada, whilst there is a better understanding of the
evils of sexual abuse today, there are still errors of judgement by social
workers and laxity in prosecution on both sides of the Atlantic.