Trigger warning: child sexual abuse, assault.
Dissociative Identity Disorder, also widely known as Multiple Personality Disorder or Split Personality, can be defined as a coping mechanism created by the brain to protect the individual undergoing a severe trauma and also to create an inbuilt support system for them. The individuals prone to the development of the given disorder are largely children. In one such case, Jenni Haynes, a fifty-two years old Australian woman developed over 2,500 personalities/alters to cope with the psychological, physical, and sexual abuse inflicted upon her by her father.
Jenni was being abused and brutalised by her father Richard Haynes since she was a toddler. The abuse included sexual assault, psychological manipulation, and physical damage. To cope with the trauma, her brain developed Symphony, her first alter at the age of four. Symphony herself is a four-year-old toddler who loves Jenni and deeply cares for her. Her job was to endure all the abuse alone so it doesn’t reach Jenni. A few other main alters include Judas, an eleven-year-old boy, and Muscles, a strong teenager. Muscle’s job is to take action and protect Jenni from the inflicted abuse. All these personalities have been living in her brain, and have their own designated spaces. The few mentioned are the ones that stay with her throughout, and keep on taking the stage regularly. The alters or the host doesn’t quite have the exact memory of experiences of the other alters, but they do recognize the sounds, smells, and sights of them. Jenni’s autistic mother couldn’t detect the ongoing situation, as she was being heavily drugged by her vile husband. When Jenni grew up and started to tell her story and seek help, the police didn’t believe her. The system and the society were uncooperative and insensitive. Her struggle of seeking justice took several years off her life until she met detective sergeant Paul. He was one of the few who believed in her and helped her in getting the justice she longed for. Upon serious investigation, the shocking and horrendous details of the crime were brought to light which shook the judiciary. Symphony recently sued her father and won the case. The most crucial element of the judgement was the testimony of toddler Symphony who explained her agonies in great detail leaving the court numb. This was perhaps the first testimony of a dissociative personality to be recorded and validated by the judiciary. Richard Haynes, at the age of 77, pleaded guilty was sentenced to 45 years in prison, marking the toughest penalty for child abuse in Australian history. The case turned out to be a landmark for the acceptance of exceptional factors like split personalities in the judicial process in Australia.
Despite her diagnoses and trauma, Dr Jenni pursued a degree in psychology, a masters in criminology and a phd. With the help of her psychiatrist, she has written a book expressing her traumatic life and experiences called ‘THE GIRL WITH A GREEN DRESS’, which, as she states “has a happy ending“. Jennifer has forgiven her mother for her absence and they both share a close bond with each other. She states that she is in the process of overcoming her fears and healing from the trauma. She is a living example of courage and strength and is currently making efforts to reclaim her life from the hands of the monster.
Ashna Arif is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Ambrisha Zubeen