“Gevoel is zó belangrijk. Als je het gevoel hebt dat er iets niet klopt, luister daar dan naar, het klopt écht niet. Zoek iemand die je kan vertrouwen. Praat met iemand.”I have good and bad memories of my childhood, as anyone can. As a child I was always outside on Curaçao, there I played with my friend, Elmer. He had a very different relationship with his parents than I did. People talked to Elmer while hitting was normal in my environment. I was beaten by an uncle, a teacher and my parents.
Seeing that things were different at Elmer's house made me wonder if it was normal for me to be beaten. I became insecure and wondered if my parents loved me. I felt helpless. When I look back on my childhood, I see that my parents didn't know any better. In my culture, the Antillean culture, there is a lot of shame and taboo. There was no discussion about raising and hitting, so I couldn't talk to anyone about it. Just because I was aware of my situation didn't mean I was able to change it yet. I have made attempts. For example, as a child I wanted to report my father, but the police were part of the same system as my father was in. He was a superintendent in the prison. I was immediately taken home by officers. The whole family was angry with my action and ashamed of it.
When I came to live in the Netherlands at the age of 21, I took the patterns of shame and not sharing how you feel with me. I pretended to be different from what I was. I suppressed my insecurity by acting very tough. I started training, bought expensive motorcycles for which I took out a loan. As a result, I had debts and I did not dare to share that with anyone. At one point I couldn't take it anymore and talked about it with a few people. That has done me so good. If you are open and honest in life and dare to move beyond the taboos, something very beautiful will arise in people, then you will feel connected to each other.
At home we did not talk about feelings. I've only seen my dad cry once in my life. I think it would have been very helpful if someone had asked me how I felt at a young age. That might have been the key to me. They call it emotional resilience. I only started to develop that around my 27th birthday. Learning to talk about feelings is very important. Not even about child abuse, not even about hitting, but about the emotions behind it. Because if you can talk about that, you feel understood. Feeling is so important. If you feel that something is not right, then listen to it, because most of the time it is indeed really not right. Find someone you can trust, someone who will listen to you. And if someone tells you they don't feel safe, really try to listen. Do not immediately give all kinds of solutions, because someone might just want to express themselves. They may want to know if their feelings are true, before taking action.
By expressing my feelings I have escaped from my mental prison of shame and taboo. The same mental prison my parents were in, only they weren't aware of their patterns.
I hope that soon our grandchildren will no longer suffer from shame and taboo and that lessons will be given at school on topics such as child abuse and domestic violence. Not just in the Week against Child Abuse, but all year round, so that children know that expressing feelings is just as important a lesson as math and language.