Youngest Ruinerwold kids say they don't regret secluded life
The five youngest children of Gerrit Jan van D. issued a statement about the years they spent isolated on a Ruinerwold farm. "I am not a victim," the youngest son wrote, also on behalf of his four youngest sisters, RTL Nieuws reports. "We have been in Dutch society for almost a year and a half and I have never regretted my upbringing."
On Thursday, the court decided to drop the case against Van D. after experts concluded that a stroke he had in 2016 left him with severe brain damage, resulting in him not being able to understand the process and leaving him barely able to communicate. The man was charged with holding six of his nine kids, now between the ages of 19 to 32 years, against their will on the Ruinerwold farm for years and sexually abusing his two oldest children. Van D. will be released from custody.
The decision led to mixed reactions from his children. His four oldest are disappointed. The five youngest pleased.
The youngest six children were never registered in school, but according to his youngest son, Van D. gave them an "all-round upbringing" on the farm. "An education in all aspects of life: scientific, practical, creative and yes, also religious. In my father's opinion the educational system in the Netherlands was too one-sided. To a large extent meant to prepare a child for a career in Dutch society and with little freedom for a child to learn at his own pace."
The youngest son said that "without discussing it first" this older brother brought the Netherlands' attention on them in October 2019 just before their father planned to reveal their way of life to the world. "We were going to come out with our story when everything changed on 14 October 2019," he wrote, calling it a traumatic experience. In the year since, he and his sisters moved 15 times, he said.
"Imagine: your house is raided just like that one morning by a dozen policemen. Your father is arrested and there where you had contact all your life, suddenly there's nothing for months," the son wrote. "I don't hold anyone responsible, everyone did the best to their knowledge. But it would be wise to listen to the opinion of 'the victims' a little more if something like this ever happens again."
Van D. will be moving back in with his five youngest children now that he is free, in a secret place, the son said. "We want to be able to continue our lives."
The four oldest children feel differently about the matter and are struggling with the court's decision not to prosecute their father, their lawyer Corinne Jeekel said to RTL Nieuws. "It is good that there is clarity: clarity gives peace of mind. But it remains a great pity for them that these atrocities will not receive a criminal judgement."
The fact that Van D. is released from custody does not mean he is innocent, the lawyer said. "My clients understand the court's consideration in this. It did not happen overnight. On the other hand, the question remains whether their father really cannot be prosecuted. He still exercises power over the five youngest children. He is still able to exert influence."