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Reisverslag My complaints recognized by Special Rapporteurs
16 maart 2014
My complaints recognized by Special Rapporteurs
My complaints against forced psychiatric treatments as being torture and ill-treatment got recognition by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Health.
The full letter of the Special Rapporteur on Health and the SR on Torture to the Government of the Netherlands, concerning alleged forced psychiatric interventions of Ms. Johanna Christina Santegoeds, really puts weight to my personal complaints of torture and ill-treatment by psychiatry, and puts pressure on the government to change, and even includes a broader scope for “all victims” and “preventing recurrence”. You can read the UN Letter here: https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/24th/public_-_AL_Netherlands_08.10.13_(2.2013).pdf
And you can also see a summary (slightly confusing) in the the Full report: Observations on communications transmitted to Governments and replies received* of the Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan. E Mendez to the Human Rights Council (file A/HRC/25/60add2 ) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Documents/A-HRC-25-60-Add2_EFS.doc
I realized that last week, I was looking at it as an activist. I was happy and also confused.
On my way home it hit me.
On my way home, I started feeling what it meant to me as a person, and it hit me. When I was reaching home, walking in my street, seeing the name of my organization “Mind Rights” on my window, I really broke down. Suddenly I understood that I had achieved a very important goal in my personal life. All these pain caused by forced psychiatric treatments; long-term solitary confinement, forced drugging, restraints (tying me up), forced body cavity searches and medical neglect, it all was now finally recognized as being wrong. And I had fought for it so long…. I really got very emotional. It is the greatest of the greatest I achieved.
I was solitary confined in psychiatry at age 16 and I was touched in my intimate parts while adults were holding me down on a daily basis (to “prevent” suicide attempts)… This lasted for almost 2 years. It was in 1994, the time when the horrible paedophiliac activities of Marc Dutroux were discovered: He was locking young children up and sexually abusing them, which shocked the world. And at the same time I was in solitary confinement, being touched and degraded (felt like rape), and I was left there. When I ran away, I was brought back by the police… In my case, it was said to be “in my best interest”, because I was called a danger to myself. They made my life a hell, and my suicide attempts only got worse. The solitary confinement and body cavity searches weren’t recognized as harmful or wrong. I never had peace with that, and so I tried to find justice and I became an activist (www.mindrights.nl )
I wanted these harmful practices of forced psychiatric treatments to be recognized as wrong, and I started my search. After a long search I found a lawyer, and I told him I wanted to get recognition that it was wrong, and that the law needed to be changed because I am not the only one suffering from this. The lawyer said he could only help me with the personal recognition, but changing the law was politics. So then I established an activist-group “Rage against isolation!” which evolved in foundation Mind Rights (www.mindrights.nl ).
Unfortunately my lawyer fell seriously ill, and was unable to assist me anymore, and I couldn’t find another lawyer who saw any chance in taking my case: I was sent away everywhere: I even contacted the Ministry, the Ombudsman, the media and so on. Nobody seemed able or willing to do something. Many of them didn’t even recognize that it was wrong. That was so painful.
Then in 2010, when all my options in the Netherlands appeared to have had no success, I turned myself to the Special Rapporteur on Torture, and sent in an allegation of torture and ill-treatment. It was about the only thing left for me to try. I hoped that the United Nations Special Rapporteur would recognize the violations. I felt so raped and violated, and marginalized. I just wanted some authority to say that it was wrong, and that they shouldn’t have done that, they can’t abuse me, that I am not crazy when I say they shouldn’t treat me like that, that I deserve better, that nobody should be treated like that.. For years and years it felt like the law said that raping me, traumatizing me was no violation… I seemed to be less than other people.
My unrecognized pain was the root of my activism, to which I dedicate my time for about 10 years already.
Yesterday when I walked home, I suddenly realized that I had gotten the justice that I had been longing for. It had taken almost 20 years, but now I was recognized. I cried so hard that I had to stop walking.. I saw my house, my organization, my life… and it hit me that all the pain, all the efforts, all the struggle was now recognized. It was no longer the same. I wasn’t feeling so dirty anymore.. I was restored from dirt into a human being. It was much to take in. I felt the pain and the happiness at the same time.
In the evening some of my friends came by. When I talked about it to my friends, I found out that I didn’t have to talk about the violations in a whispering tone anymore.. I could say it out loud. It was no longer a personal deviant opinion but it was a FACT that I was mistreated. I don’t have to fear rejection anymore. I have official recognition now. I have proof that my rights are not an illusion. I am really entitled to respect. It wasn’t just my dream. It is now real. They just can’t get away with touching my intimate parts and locking me up like that.
And not only my voice changed. My friends also say my eyes changed. They say that they see a new kind of peace coming over me. And I know what they mean. I am no longer less than other people. I don’t feel like there is a gap between me and them anymore.. I am entitled to the same rights. I am a person too!! And I feel stronger in dealing with the violations. Like I don’t need to defend myself all the time for saying that I have rights. I am right to say I have rights. And if they say I am wrong, the problem is with them, not me. I can show them the UN letter. I am NOT WRONG. I feel like I have a protective skin around me now, and the painful opinions can’t get through so deeply anymore, because I am officially recognized as a person. They are wrong, not me. The active defence mechanism can be lowered, and rejections are less painful now, because I am backed by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs, which officially recognizes the violations were wrong. People who think otherwise are just not right in their opinion. My opinion is empowered and backed by the United Nations. And it is not only valuable for me personally. This recognition is jurisprudence for all the other people too!!!!!
When I approached my home, I realized that my original question to my lawyer (to get personal recognition AND to change the law) had come together in this Observation of the Special Rapporteur. This Observation is both giving me my rights, and also a direct commentary on the Dutch law, giving an urgent need to change the laws. It is so beautiful to see this coming together. <3
Legally, the Dutch government now needs to do an investigation on my complaints, and give me a compensation (repair the damages of these human rights violations) and they also need to do so for “other victims of torture and ill-treatment”. AND they need to prevent reoccurrence, so they must make sure this cannot happen to anyone again (which would mean a thorough law-reform including on access to justice). So in fact, my initial wish has been granted: both personal recognition and a need for law-reform. It is an incredibly great moment in my life.
Last week when I was on my mission in Geneva and Zagreb, I read the UN letter as an activist. I didn’t have the time to really feel it. I had to run from activity to activity every day, and I was busy in the international human rights context. I was focussed on giving presentations. I was focussed on the world on the outside. I didn’t have time for myself.
The Observation of the UN Special Rapporteurs induced a lot of emotions, but I had to park them aside in my mind. That is why I felt so overloaded and confused. I couldn’t reach it or digest it, because I had to stay focussed on the very important work at the UN and the conference in Zagreb. I had to block my feelings, and I was only working rationally. I was serving my peers, trying to open the doors, and I didn’t want anything to disturb that effort, because the advocacy is so needed. Therefore I didn’t have time for my personal feelings all week. I had 6 flights in 7 days, and 3 different presentations. I was very busy, and in work-mode. Feelings were saved for later… I can only see that now. Last week I was blinded by the work, and I couldn’t allow my feelings, and therefore I felt confused and overloaded.. And Friday, after the last presentation of the week I felt this strange relaxation coming over me, and some strange emotions when I thought of going home to the Netherlands. It all makes sense now..
I now have time for seeing it the Dutch context and my own life. It feels like: YOU SEE!! I TOLD YOU SO! IT IS WRONG AND IT MUST STOP!! It is all I stand for. I didn’t have the time for anything else in my life. I was a 100% activist. I didn’t feel like I could relate to a world which has this gap, and makes me marginalized. I have always felt so different than other people. Many people don’t understand what it means to be so terribly violated in the very core aspects of existence. Especially the forced body cavity searches made me feel lonely, because it felt like “I could be abused without any consequence, but others have rights”, which gives a strong feeling of inequality, powerlessness and second-rang citizenship. It gave me fear and a defensive attitude, and a lack of trust. This is often a huge barrier between me and the rest of the world. That is why I feel so close to my peers, my brothers and sisters who are institutionalized and abused too, and who also feel so lonely and rejected. I am on that side. And I am trying to build a bridge for a long time. We all need peace. Maybe this is the time.
It has been such a confusing week, with such a beautiful twisted bottom line of recognition. I cried a lot, but now these are mainly happy tears. The impact is so huge. It’s still unbelievable. I will need time to reflect and digest this. Everything has changed. Even my voice and my eyes. And this is still only the beginning. I still feel like I can’t really grasp it yet. I just returned in the Netherlands yesterday. Now I can see my life. Last week I saw only the political meaning of the Observation.
I saw it as a hammer to smash the doors, but actually Hege Orefellen (human rights jurist) said it is more like a bazooka :) That made me so happy!! But now, when I start feeling the personal victory, it is even more beautiful.
It is a bit weird to find out that last week, I couldn’t “feel” the Observation’s impact on my personal life yet. All I could feel was confusion (partly because of the confusing sentence on the danger-criterion: danger to self or others, which has always haunted me and obstructed my rights, so I really got upset then, but it appeared to be a misunderstanding). Then I was “politically happy” because this Observation would surely impact the law-reform and actual practices in the Netherlands. But in my underbelly I still felt confused. But now I understand that I just couldn’t see the Dutch context yet. I was working, and not at home.
By now, I can hardly believe the initial absence of the warm feelings that I get now. How could I not see this incredibly positive message? I was so stuck in work-mode and secretly overwhelmed that I couldn’t see the fact that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs gave me recognition. It is the biggest thing that I longed for. It makes it possible to link myself to the world again, and to move on. I am no longer “outcast”, and neither are my peers. We deserve a place too. We deserve respect and humanity too.
Now I can start healing. It is so incredibly big what happened. I still cannot understand it fully.
Last week I was confused, and my previous messages may have been unclear and falsely negative or doubtful. But I just couldn’t see the shining. It was too much, in a positive sense.
Now I am back in my own life. I even feel that my breathe is different. The air tastes better. More free. It’s like the door just got opened and fresh air can come in. I have a future. I no longer have to carry my past. The weight of daily life is reducing. My friends say they noticed that a burden had fallen off of me. I can now focus on the future.
If all goes well, the government will fix this systematic problem in psychiatry. They cannot continue violating human rights. Figuratively, I just fired a bazooka at them, so they probably get the message. I am blasting the doors out of the isolation cells!! I feel as if my feelings are made of gold. No longer dirty, but shiny pure honest gold. I am filled with the wealth of having rights, like jewels inside. All the energy of the struggle is now paying off. From dirt to gold. RESTORATION I think it is called.
My vulnerability, my deepest feelings, my real feelings of being “legally raped by the system without any consequences” , these feelings can exist now. It is recognized as wrong. I don’t have to hide and protect these feelings from being trampled on anymore. I just got an official recognition saying it was wrong, and nobody can take that away. It is like a huge barrier, a huge burden is lifted. My real heart is allowed to exist now. My inner life is no longer rejected and attacked, but acknowledged and recognized. I feel gratitude, wholeness, freedom.. beyond words. This is the best moment of my life, and it again makes me cry. For the majority of my life I have been fighting, struggling (from age 16 to age 36). And about 2 weeks ago, when I had my 36th birthday, I had a really hard time, because another year was added to the struggle. I also felt huge pain when I turned 32, when the period of being marginalized outranged the period of being a citizen with rights (2x16). That was another very sore moment, but I never ceased fighting against these injustices, because that felt like accepting that I was less and like accepting that it was okay to be terribly abused without consequences” and that would feel like selling my soul out. I couldn’t devalue myself. I didn’t want to. I always clung on to the deep feeling that nobody deserves this. And now it turns out that I AM RIGHT!!!
It is wonderful.
Today, Sunday I have time to enjoy my feelings all day long :) And then the rest of my life too!! I feel restored. It is incredible. I hold my head up high when I look into the future. I will finish this job. Psychiatry will have to change and treat us with respect. Care can never be harmful. I am really unstoppable. I tasted success, and now I won’t stop before I have achieved it all. I am now at the starting point of the best time of my life. It feel so incredibly great!! My life will never be the same again.
16 maart 2014 15:45 | Door: Daniella van Rijbroek
Jolijn Santegoeds.. RESPECT!!!! <3
16 maart 2014 21:10 | Door: je moeder
Inderdaad, respect Jolijn.
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