Campaigner against domestic abuse;
Born: November 1 1953; Died: June 28, 2012.
Janette de Haan who has died of cancer aged 58, devoted her working life to the problems of domestic violence and child abuse. Born and brought up in Bishopbriggs, she left a social work career to help run the Women's Support Project, which was based in Glasgow, but helped the victims of abuse all over Scotland.
She was a beautiful woman. Inside and out. Her untimely passing leaves a gap in the lives of her countless friends and admirers. Her husband Heico wrote in the Herald intimation that she was an inspiration to all who knew her and that was no more than the truth.
Many women who have never had the privilege of meeting Janette are in her debt. With the equally indefatigable Jan Macleod she led the dedicated small team at the Women's Support Project based in Glasgow who tirelessly strive to tackle and understand the causes of domestic violence and to offer succour and practical help to its victims. Most especially women whose children have been sexually abused.
But their writ runs widely over modern society's ills from female trafficking to commercial sexual exploitation, and in addition to their counselling services, they are a recognised first-class training and research resource for all the other agencies whose brief encompasses women who have experienced violence and sexual abuse.
Born Janette Gillespie, she was educated at St Matthews Primary in Bishopbriggs, and St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch. She subsequently qualified as a social worker at Moray House in Edinburgh and took a post-graduate degree in child protection at Dundee University.
When she joined the Women's Support Project in 1990 she proved the perfect front-woman and advocate; at once both attractively feminine and staunchly feminist. She loved people as much as she loathed injustice and took that loving and caring personality into all parts of her life.
A founder member of the Scottish Government's national group on violence against women, she was also instrumental in helping set up the first domestic abuse court.
Always alert to new sources of information and research, she lost no opportunity to raise the profile of the project's work, including the regular screening of films and documentaries featuring the topic of child sexual abuse at the GFT followed by debates. These occasions were notable for a number of reasons; the cast of top-flight representatives from other agencies – one of her mantras was the necessity to form an integrated force against violence – an audience liberally sprinkled with victims for whom the project had become quite literally a lifeline, and the frankness and honesty of the contributions because she somehow made safe an ostensibly public space.
Her fundraising for the project could be a bit alternative too, as witness the Zumbathon she took part in almost exactly a year ago. Her regular Zumba partner, Elaine C Smith, is one of the many friends she made and nourished across Scottish society.
And her work colleagues have made a rather beautiful collage summing up the quintessential Janette, celebrating her life enhancing qualities. Jan Macleod, her sister in arms, wrote: "Huge thanks on behalf of the women and children you have supported. Nothing was ever too much trouble and you would move heaven and earth to get the result you wanted and thought the women deserved. Of course, in the process you also educated and won over workers in many organisations, thereby spreading the benefit to other women coming forward to those agencies. We couldn't even begin to list the many wonderful things we all achieved together. Not sure if we were fearless or clueless sometimes, but we did make a difference, of that I am sure."
But the private Janette was also one whose constant smile and ready laughter enlivened any company. She was a founder member of a small group of "Scottish Women Anarchists" who meet for a pre-Christmas lunch at my home every December, and she was never in a rush to leave. Since these events began around noon and rarely finished before seven, it testifies to the not-inconsiderable stamina contained in an always slim body. Because of that slenderness, her friends were concerned but not at first alarmed when she called off last December because of a clashing hospital appointment. Suspected gallstone trouble, she reported. In fact an initial cancer diagnosis in one area proved already to have spread to secondaries.
A devastating verdict for both Janette and her beloved Heico, whom she had met some 12 years before on a ferry to Amsterdam. Their leisure time together was limited for the last eight years after her mother May, who required full- time care, joined the household. But, when they could, they had weekends in the Highlands, and a rare but treasured week in Portugal.
Heico has been supported throughout these difficult months by his Dutch family, two brothers and sisters, their partners and children who came to be Janette's family too. "They loved her to bits," said Heico this week. "And she loved them just as much".
All of us privileged to share a corner of Janette's rich life, loved her to bits as well. And wonder, not for the first time, why we keep losing the good guys.
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