vorwort Foreword and introduction

Zart-Bitter (bitter-sweet)? What does it mean?

Zart-Bitter is the German word for dark chocolate. In addition of this word has been used since the 1980s in social work in order to designate social meeting points (such as cafés) for homeless teenagers and those running the riskof picking up prostitution. A name supposed not to shock them or keep them at a distance.

In this particular case 'Bitter Sweet' is a quote of a woman referring to sexual abuse in her childhood: 'Sweet was I, bitter it was.'

Today's exhibition is rather special, it 'gets under your skin'.

Why this?

Ines Janssen broke her silence about a year ago. After years of keeping silent she managed at last to tell her story.

She always knew that keeping silent meant protectiong her perpetrator.

Nevertheless she had tried to find help.

These are the records of a child, of a teenager not able to express herself, or forbidden to do so.

And we are deeply touched. For many years, for much too long, she walked the world with silence imposed upon her.

One day though she unearthed the texts knowing that she had to break her silence. Because she had survived.

The texts found their way to Michael Schildmann, photographer and artist, who succeeded in melting text and photography. Take a good look at the pictures: they are contorted, distorted, indistinct. You are invited to find out why. These artistic photographs joining the text have been chosen with empathy. The result is an impressive, concerted work of art.

Attendant there is: a catalog of this exhibition, including all photographs and texts. In between paragraphs there are blank pages... a time for reflection... and going on.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think nobody in this room can imagine how much courage it takes to break the silence after years of keeping still.

Ines had this courage.

Endowed with a strong character she wants to tell us something..., something about a subject that we all know but never dare talk about.

We run out of words when we hear about sexual child abuse, about rape of children.

We say: 'How awful'. And when we get to know affected persons we are helpless, not able to talk to them in a normal way. We cannot imagine that these people will, ever live a normal life.

Sexual crime, a subject emerging like an evil spirit... child abuse, a horror to everyone. We are confronted with it somehow but do not really know how to handle it. We feel helpless, powerless.

We all know: 'It' happens every day. Nevertheless we push 'it' aside, somehow because 'it' affects us. 'It' is forbidden by law but happens again and again.

Once Ines told me that she had always wanted to publish her texts, backing down each time, asking herself: 'Why do I want to do this???'

But one day she said: 'Because the fact that it happens every day and we push it aside time and again is preying on my mind.'

She only wants to hold up a mirror, does not require a center stage position; she just wants to give a sign, hint at it, and this I fully respect.

Ladies and Gentlemen, rape of children does not only happen in big cities. It happens here (in Ostfriesland), next door or even under our own roof.

The affected are often gagged because the perpetrator is part of the family or a friend of the family; they rape and silence the victim.

Families stay quiet because they feel ashamed ...because it happened in their house... or at a friend's place.

The facts are:

Children get raped more often by close persons than by strangers; Ines says: if you finally break the silence you encounter an enormous lack of understanding, even among 'survivors'; they believe silence to be a form of protection.

With these texts Ines breaks a taboo.

She opens up eyes, kept closed by shame, fury, helplessness or cowardice. Because what shoudn't happen can't happen: innocent children becoming victims of cruel violence, suffering pain and being forced to keep silent.

I have often asked myself: Why do we always talk about 'abuse' instead of 'rape'?

The law still speaks of 'child abuse'.

Is this designation correct?

We know abuse of alcohol and abuse of drugs...

When we talk about 'abuse' the perpetrator causes suffering to him/herself. When we talk about 'rape' a second person causes suffering to another person, in this case to a child.

In my opinion 'child abuse' is not correct. We have to speak up and call it 'rape'.

The law should be given a new wording.

With regard to this difficult subject we mustn't only think about it. We are in need of reflection and action. Let us keep our eyes and ears open and prevent future suffering of children!

How many times did Ines try to find help? How often did she go forth and back again because all ears proved to be deaf.

Even those whose job was to help her did not listen. She was a child when she was raped for the first time. Her suffering lasted for almost ten years. She tried to run away but did not find any help.

At the moment of publication she hit upon resistance, once again. Resistance she had not expected. Resistance by people she believed to be very close.

People afraid of the truth, afraid of themselves.

Time and again Ines says that she is a survivor and that she wants to live like everyone else. She wants a normal life. She wants to laugh and fool around like everybody else.

Being a survivor she does not want to hide, she wants to be accepted like all other young women.
She did survive! Survive... does anyone in this audience understand what this means?

We, the 'non-affected', seem to know how the affected should handle the subject. We feel pity, sorrow, and we have a picture in mind of what they should look like.

Every affected person experiences his/her own particular suffering. There are many counseling centers... do they all possess the necessary qualification? We are often so helpless, so powerless.

And most scaring of all: often no one believes the victim. Victims are rejected, nobody wants to listen...

Frequently children do not find any help if their father, uncle, cousin or grandfather has done something 'strange' to them...

The perpetrator is protected... Most of the time it is a question of family honor!

We think we are living in a civilized society, but how civilized are we really?

You are mistaken if you think this affliction only happens in 'lower social classes'. There are perpetrators and victims on every social level.

Keep silence? No!

Whether in your neighbor's house in Aurich, Leer or Emden, in a village or a big city like Frankfurt, whether in a war zone in Africa or Afghanistan: children, especially girls, are preyed upon, battered, raped again and again.

Why this?

Because grown up men and sometimes women are not able to control their instincts. There are many men who find their victims in the so-called 'third world'.

Children born in poverty are their victims, small girls. These men are on vacation, able to afford those journeys, up until today. Everyday.

Why do we keep silent? Why aren't there more scientific inquiries. Children all over the world are victims of sexual crinies and the adults keep silent.

These 'silent-keepers', aren't they accomplices? Of perpetrators in families, among friends, in foreign countries ard brothels, of soldiers on assignement abroad?

And if I talk as a woman to women, I'm shocked because so many of them have been 'touched' as a young girl and did never talk about it, or if they did no one believed them.

Being afraid of being questioned in court, of being killed by the perpetrators, being afraid of the reactions in their families, they finally see no other way but keeping silent.

How does a child feel in court being asked all those awkward questions?

Is a young woman able to support all those loathsome questions?

There are many children who do not survive... because the perpetrator was afraid of being discovered.

How cruel!

How can we keep silent, how can we let these crimes happen?

We have to be more watchful, have to listen to our children who give us signs.

We have to protect our children.

There are ways of detecting perpetrators of obsessive sexual crimes; sex-tourism has to be watched.

Watchfulness, and watchfulness again, is what we need.

May this exhibition be a step on the way to further sensibility.

The following words of Ines should stir us up:

Fear, panic
My screams are silent.
What have you done?
What are you doing to me?
Frozen with horror,
Pain everywhere.
Like fire,
Your knife splits me in two
Violated with brute force.
Fulfilling your desires
With the child in me.
Perverted, prohibited,
Like an animal
Descending on me
Again and again.
No escape in sight.

Engeline Kramer, Leer

(Übertragung ins Englische: Nicolaus Bornhorn)