I think the boy in this photograph takes the prize. His name from him? Henk Heithuis. And I warn you in advance that his story is absolutely macabre and terrifying. Heithuis was born in the Netherlands in 1935 and was placed in the foster system, to be cared for by Catholic priests. The priests had a tendency to abuse the children in his care, there have been many such cases… but Heithuis was not like most of the victims… he was going to make it public.
Abuses were often brushed aside, ignored, and swept under the rug. It has been that way for centuries. The victims did not speak out of shame and fear. But Henk Heithuis did not. He decided to take matters into his own hands. For himself and everyone else he had known who had been abused, sexually abused and raped. So he went to the police and officially accused the priests of sexual abuse. This was revolutionary and absolutely unheard of in the 1950s.
What Heithuis hadn’t anticipated was the sheer cruelty and sheer power of the institution he was about to take on. Since at the time of the abuse he was still legally a minor, and at the time he filed the accusation against him, Heithuis was still under the guardianship of the state, he was unable to make decisions on his behalf, as the court argued.
However, he insisted that he was raped. The priests then presented themselves and denied everything. Instead, they claimed that Heithuis was a homosexual boy who had “seduced the priests”, can you imagine such audacity? The young victim vehemently denied the accusations, maintaining his position that he had been raped and that, in fact, he was heterosexual; he even had a girlfriend whom he hoped to marry as soon as he reached maturity.
However, the church had a lot of influence in the courts. They were convinced that Heithuis was definitely homosexual. And in the 1950s, homosexuality was still illegal in the now very liberal Netherlands. The treatment consisted of years in an institution, chemical castration or physical castration… with Heithuis, no rebuttal was allowed, no second opinion was considered and no choice was given: he was to be castrated immediately. So it was.
The abused teen was drugged, taken to a southern clinic and tied to a table where he was surgically castrated. After the operation they threw him out on the street… Heithuis was devastated. Mentally. Physically. He abandoned his friends and his fiancée and became a sailor. He got as far as Japan when he broke down and, when he was on shore leave, found his way to the Dutch embassy. There he told his story to a diplomat who took pity on his fate. He even showed his scars, and explained how his hormones were out of whack, his body no longer felt like his own, and he was suicidal.
“Please tell my story…” Heithuis insisted, “make a note, remember it. They can come looking for me. They can kill me.”
Surely it’s not that bad, his friend Cornelius Rogge assured him. Surely they will do no such thing. How could they? But Heithuis was sure of it. Arrangements were made with the shipping company to take him back to his country.
When he returned, Heithuis, helped by his friends who knew his story, filed a complaint again. This time for forced castration, for lying about his sexuality and mental health problems and for defaming his good name. Still a fierce guy, who refuses to give up, he wanted justice, he wanted his good name back.
But in 1958, shortly after filing the complaint… Henk Heithuis was in a car accident and died instantly. The police confiscated all his personal belongings and the material that the deceased had provided to them. All the material was destroyed the day of his death.