Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Phantom incest case sparks compensation claim

A twenty-year-old case of unproven incest has prompted one of its assumed victims to start a legal procedure against the Dutch state. The woman, Elise Watts, is demanding a formal apology and compensation for her suffering as a child, she told Rotterdam's local TV station, RTV Rijnmond.

The case centres around a day-care centre for toddlers in Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam. In 1989, 14 children at the Bolderkar creche, which gave the affair its name, were thought to be the victims of incest. The child protection agency placed them into foster care, and 14 fathers were accused of incest after psychological tests which were considered dubious.

The tests were meant to establish whether incest had actually occurred. The case was prompted by a therapist who was treating an aggressive three-year-old girl at the centre. The therapist concluded the girl must have been abused by her father and raised the alarm.

In the disputed tests, psychologists confronted children at the care centre with a role-play involving life-sized, anatomically correct dummies representing their undressed fathers. The children's responses were used as evidence against the fathers, but that was thrown out by the court in The Hague. The researchers were accused of ignoring that young children tend to give socially desirable answers to adults which may be beside the truth, and that three-year-olds are too young to realise the implications of such answers.

In the end, all fourteen cases were dismissed and no-one was convicted. Ever since, the "Bolderkar affair" has been mentioned as a prime example of group hysteria and overprotective government child care workers.

The woman who is pleading for compensation was three years old when she was forcibly separated from her father and placed into foster care. Watts says the experience has traumatised her and has cast a dark shadow over her childhood. Her legal representative, lawyer Dirk Vermaat, confirms she suffered considerable psychological damage from the affair.

A spokesperson for the Bolderkar told reporters the case is extraordinary, but declined to give any further comment. There has been no reaction from the state's legal representative.

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