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Jose Booij was born in November 1963, two days after the assassination of President Kennedy. In Britain and America it was a time of fresh ideas and changing lifestyles. But centuries-old prejudices and social mores still prevailed in The Hague, Holland, where Jose lived with her mother and sister. When Jose was two years old she was taken away from her mother, the family falling victim to gossip and prejudice against single motherhood. Despite her mother being well able to take care of her, and despite her mother still keeping Jose's sister, Jose was placed with foster parents.
Her foster parents were a separated couple who hated each other but lived together making a business out of fostering about six children at a time. Jose tells of a decade of verbal, emotional and physical abuse:
“I was beaten severely in the home and so were the other children. Once, when I was four or five years old, I saw my foster parents smash my foster brother John's head against the wall. I saw his eyes turn away and saw him slide down the wall leaving a streak of blood behind him. He was a nice kind boy, and of all the other children in the home I liked him the best. They ordered him to beat me up, but he tried to hit me as gently as he could while still convincing them that he had hurt me. I think they knew that we liked each other, and that's why they ordered him to beat me up. They made me take my glasses off before being hit in case they got damaged.
“He was severely damaged by his experiences. He used to dissociate, like I did, escaping inside his mind, and then they would beat him up because he wasn't paying attention. As he got older, he started drinking, smoking, and using drugs. He was locked up in a mental institution for 20 years, and he tried to kill himself several times. He was stupid enough to jump from a fourth floor window, and ended up with his back broken. But later on he did it right, and threw himself in front of the train. I admired him for that. He had been tortured his whole life but now he was free”.
Throughout Jose’s decade in the home, her real mother had been trying to win her back and to visit her, but the foster parents had prevented this. Finally, she engaged a lawyer and managed to have the home checked out by a competent inspector from the Bureau of Youth Care. As a result, the home was shut down, but by now her mother was a broken woman. Fifteen years after Jose had been taken from her mother, she received an apology from the Dutch government.
Jose spent the remainder of her high school years living in a total of twenty other foster homes, a few weeks at a time in each. In school she worked hard and read assiduously. In each new home, she observed the interactions between adults and children. “I watched how the parents acted, how the children responded, and how it all made everyone feel. So I learned how people behave, but I kept my distance because I felt so different from them. I felt like somebody from a different planet”.
Jose overcame her disadvantaged upbringing to win a place to study medicine at the University of Groningen, starting in 1985. She was a successful student but by the time she was twenty five she was finding that her individuality was causing problems with her medical trainee colleagues. "They started to pressure me to conform in the way I dressed. My clothes were too chic for them. I had to stop varnishing my toenails, using make up, wearing rings and earrings. They said I should cut my hair. I felt that I needed help to deal with the prejudice I was being subjected to, and that is when I came to consult Dr. Bakker”. Also at some point in her medical studies Jose started having dissociative spells, drifting mentally into her own world and snapping back with no memory of the preceding moments. Dissociation is a common response to childhood trauma.
Dr. Beata Bakker was a well-known psychologist who had developed a technique called “Constructional Behavioural Therapy” focussing on future behaviour rather than past history. Dr. Bakker convinced Jose that, although she was suffering depression linked to her childhood traumas, she was not permanently damaged by them and they need not affect her future.
In the years that followed, it seemed as if Dr. Bakker’s assessment was correct. Jose qualified as a doctor, built a successful career and travelled the world. She spent a year practising medicine in the Agogo Hospital in Ghana, where her work included research into malnutrition in babies.
But sixteen years after Jose first consulted Dr. Bakker, her childhood traumas revisited her in a very literal sense. In September 2004 Jose gave birth to a daughter, Julia Lynn, resulting from a brief relationship with musical instrument maker Peter de Koningh. Just six weeks later, on December 2, 2004, agents of the Bureau of Youth Care removed the new baby from Jose’s home in Elim, North Holland, and took her to Bethesda Hospital in nearby Hoogeveen. Almost three decades after Jose had been taken from her mother, her newborn baby had now been taken from her.
Final Page Newspaper articles on the case