Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong: Backslide to Injustice
INTRO: When Neil Bantleman's and Ferdi Tjiong’s acquittal by the high court in Indonesia was recently overturned by the Indonesian Supreme Court, I was baffled, and enraged. If you’ve followed any of my narrative on Facebook you understand that there is no part of this I haven’t looked at through the eyes of a child protection sleuth. As I’ve said many times, Neil and Ferdi are not only innocent of a crime, they’ve been convicted of a crime that was never committed. Understand that as chairperson of Spokane’s original child protection team, I am hard-wired when I hear of a sexual abuse disclosure, to believe it. Child sexual abuse is an act so egregious that those of us who work in that world, leap first and always to the protection of the child. There’s a lot to read here, and most won’t read it all, but understand this: the litmus test for any therapist in response to their belief in the innocence of an accused sex offender is this: Would you leave a child you love more than life itself, with this person? My answer is yes, and you would almost never hear me say that. [For background on this case, click HERE, HERE and HERE. Visit their website HERE.]
Dear Secretary Alghabra,
I am an American author who was coincidentally invited to do a week-long author’s appearance at the Jakarta Intercultural School during the time of Neil Bantleman’s and Ferdi Tjiong’s original trial. I had been made aware of some of the particulars of the charges and arrests prior to leaving for Jakarta, and while there, witnessed visitation by teachers and friends at the courthouse; was given a tour of the area on campus where the crimes allegedly took place. I was so disturbed by the absurdity of the behavior of the Indonesian legal system that I came home and wrote the Harper administration of my concerns, to no avail, and then volunteered to write some of the narrative in the early stages of bringing public attention to the case.
I spent thirty years in Spokane, Washington as chairperson of the original Spokane Child Protection Team; a group of volunteer professionals representing every agency in our county charged with safeguarding the welfare of abused children: public health, public education, law enforcement, chemical dependency treatment, social services, the Attorney General’s office, child therapy, parenting therapy and education, and guardians ad litem. Our job was to assist social workers in providing treatment plans for their most difficult cases. During twenty of those years I also worked as a therapist with a team of social workers and other therapists, providing treatment for broken families. I have testified as an expert witness in scores of juvenile court cases and a few superior court cases, sometimes wearing the hat of therapist, and sometimes that of the protection team leader.
Mr. Secretary, I know you are aware of irregularities in the form of blatant disregard of evidence, indeed of science itself, that infected the first trial, and of the irresponsible and hurried actions of the Indonesian Supreme Court in overturning the high court’s ruling. I’m writing to add my objective and urgent response to all that has transgressed. Many of the news reports coming out of Canada, the U.S. and Indonesia, particularly in the early going, have called the Indonesian justice system in this case, suspect; have talked about evidence pointing to Mr. Bantleman’s and Mr. Tjiong’s innocence in this crime. I’ve always considered their language maddeningly tentative. Not only are the two educators innocent of this crime, they were convicted of a crime that was never committed, and that is important because the ruination of five other lives - those of the cleaners – hang in the balance. There are no maybes, not one shred of real evidence pointing to the abuse of any children. When I staffed this case with former colleagues, they thought I was joking; and were subsequently horrified when they realized the consequences to Neil and Ferdi’s lives, and the lives of their loved ones. In your country or mine, this case would never have reached the courts, and the accusing parents might very well have been investigated by child protection services for forcing their children to publicly lie.
I have spent a good portion of my life keeping innocent kids away from bad guys, and vice-versa. I know this territory like the back of my hand. Because of my position as therapist and team leader, my first response to a report of abuse – particularly of sexual abuse - is always to believe something happened. Like it or not, these quickly become highly emotional, guilty-until-proven-innocent situations. But in the instances I’ve witnessed wherein a person is proven falsely accused, it is soul crushing.
Since this case has evolved, I know teachers – adventurous teachers – willing to teach in international schools all over the world, who refuse to apply in Indonesia. Writer friends of mine who travel all over the world to international schools have told me numerous times that because of this, Indonesia is out as a possible destination, even though those of us who have been there, recognize the Jakarta Intercultural School as a true beacon of education.
Before I was a writer; before I was a therapist, I was a teacher. I see good educators as the front line soldiers in our world war against ignorance and as I’m sure you know, that is a war with no end in sight, though one well worth fighting. Right now, Canada has a soldier wounded in the field, and it is my burning hope that you will find a way to bring Neil Bantleman home.
Thank you for your time and attention.
With Great Regard,
Chris Crutcher Certified Child Mental Health Specialist Teacher Writer
More on the Neil Bantleman-Ferdi Tjiong-JIS Cleaners Saga
Much of the commentary on this case has been focused on the absurdity of the evidence presented against Ferdi and Neil, and WOULD have been presented against the cleaners had they not been tortured into confession; but we might do well to shed a light on another aspect. When THE FIFTH ESTATE (God, I wish Facebook would provide us with italics) interviewed one of the accusing mothers holed up somewhere in Europe, she continued to proclaim that her son had been sodomized, in the face of four – count ‘em FOUR – medical tests proving that the boy did not have herpes, a condition fairly common among Indonesian men and present in some of the cleaners. Even though it would have been virtually impossible for her son not to have contracted the disease, given the mother’s description of serial rapes, she steadfastly held to her conviction.
In discussions I’ve read here on Facebook about this case, the naysayers (trollers, most likely) continue to ask some version of, “What kind of mother would put her child through this if it weren’t true?” I have always answered that question with, “Greedy mothers. Shitty mothers. Ignorant mothers.” because the question itself exposes such bewildering naivety. But in my more rational moments – which occur with far less frequency the more I read about this case – I say, “Personality disordered mothers.”
It’s hard, when you look at the 125-million-dollar lawsuit and hear the rumors of powerful factions in Indonesia wanting the JIS real estate for other purposes, to rule out some easily imaginable and sinister motivations; but for the purposes of addressing those naysaying trollers, let’s do that. When I watched the FIFTH ESTATE interview I recognized personality characteristics in that mother with which I’m VERY familiar from my days working with abusive and neglectful parents. Now I know enough not to diagnose someone over television, but I’m not in court, so stay with me. There was a definite histrionic sense to that mother. When faced with incontrovertible facts that disputed her belief, she simply repeated the belief. “Nothing you can say will change my mind; I know what I know.” Her responses all the way through this case have been similar to that.
What I know about someone sporting a personality disorder, particularly one with “borderline features” is that the more chaotic a situation is, the calmer they feel. They are missing an inner sense of self, which creates a source of great anxiety, and so they measure that sense of self by bouncing it off others, because they need constant reassurance of their existence. When they don’t get the response they want, they go elsewhere to find it, engage more responders. When they DO get the response they want, they’re likely to change what they want. Because it’s easier to get response from conflict than from agreement, conflict wins out. Add to that, these people often project their own experiences onto their children. It’s not intentional; it’s a disorder.
It’s also dangerous. If you’re a child growing up in the care of such a person, your life is entirely unpredictable. Behavior that gets you a favorable response one day, may very well get scathing rebuke the next. If you’re that person’s mate, my money says you’ll never celebrate your fifth wedding anniversary.
This is the long way of saying if the news media, or simply interested parties asking “What kind of mother…”, want to find the truth of WHAT HAPPENED through interviews with this mom, they should be willing to educate themselves sufficiently to expose her personal motivations.
Because there really IS an answer to that question. And the answer is, even absent motivations of greed and skullduggery, it ain’t about Neil or Ferdi or the cleaners; and it ain’t even about the kid – though down the road it will be. It’s about Momma.
Just to be clear:
The post I put up yesterday about the boy’s mother’s likely personality makeup was an “added to” not an “instead of.” There is NO doubt that the engine driving this lunacy is fueled by greed and corruption. The personality structure I described simply adds gasoline to an already raging fire.
Another issue I’d like to address, simply because I heard it was used in the original trial, and it’s come up a time or two in internet discussions is the idea that “children don’t lie.” Any parent, teacher, coach or other kid, knows that’s like, the biggest crock in the history of crocks. Show me the five-year-old who won’t say anything I want him to say to get the prize, and I’ll go find the space ship he came here in. It WAS an often-employed line of thinking when I got into the child protection business back in the eighties. The CONTEXT however, as it applied to sex abuse victims, was that only young kids who had been exposed to sexual mal-treatment would have the experience, along with the age-appropriate perception and language, to disclose it. It was not something they could make up because without the experience, it wasn’t accessible in their imaginations.
But “age-appropriate perception and language” is the critical term here. One reason it’s so hard to “coach” a child to be convincing to a COMPETENT child therapist is that the coach doesn’t see the world through the eyes of a child. Not to be too graphic, (he says, getting ready to be graphic) but a SIGNIFICANT number of under-six-year-olds disclose sodomy as “him sticks a knife in my butt,” or “him’s poking my butt hard with a stick,” because they can’t see what’s happening and they have to report it from within their own fund of information. Similarly, kids forced into oral abuse with offenders often describe it as “him pees in my mouth.” There is also, as I’m sure you can imagine, extreme emotional reaction when kids make these disclosures, particularly if they’re near the place where the abuse happened. In THAT regard, children don’t lie. AND none of that was present in the original child’s utterances or behavior. I say all that because the counter-argument to the facts we’ve been presenting for the past two years is often a talking point. “Children don’t lie,” in that regard is a talking point. Crush it.