An Australian survivor of horrific childhood sexual, physical, and mental abuse might be the first person in the world to testify in court through the personalties she invented in order to survive the trauma.
For seven years, starting in very early childhood, Jeni Haynes says she endured daily sexual, physical, and mental abuse at the hands of her father, Richard Haynes. In order to cope, Hayne developed more than 2,500 different personalities to compartmentalize her experiences and survive the abuse. The abuse ended after her parents divorced when she was 11, but Hayne, who was isolated from her peers and denied medical care, has suffered lifelong health complications in addition to her diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). While Jeni reported the abuse in 2009, it took nearly 10 years before her father was charged with 367 counts of sexual and physical abuse. In March, Jeni was allowed to confront her abuser in court in five of the different personalities she developed as a child, including 4-year-old Symphony, who Jeni created to endure the sexual abuse while she retreated:
“Symphony “was hoping to use the testifying to grow up too”, says Jeni. “But we only got through 1974 before he rolled over and showed his belly. He couldn’t deal with it.”
About two and half hours into Symphony’s testimony on the second day of the trial, her father changed his plea to guilty on 25 charges - “the worst ones”- says Jeni. Dozens more were counted towards his sentencing.”
Haynes, who has a PhD in legal studies, heartbreakingly detailed the day-to-day realities of surviving abuse, living with and attempting to manage the effects of someone else’s brutality, in her victim’s statement:
“In Jeni’s victim impact statement, she said she and her personalities ‘spend our lives being wary, constantly on guard. We have to hide our multiplicity and strive for a consistency in behaviour, attitude, conversation and beliefs which is often impossible. Having 2,500 different voices, opinions and attitudes is extremely hard to manage.
I should not have to live like this. Make no mistake, my dad caused my Multiple Personality Disorder.’”
Experts say that they hope Haynes’s testimony will help make DID more widely recognized in the court system:
“‘It’s a landmark case because, as far as we’re aware, it’s the first time in which the testimony of different parts of person with DID has been taken at face value into the court system and has led to a conviction,’ says Dr Cathy Kezelman, the president of Blue Knot Foundation, an Australian organisation helping survivors of childhood trauma.”
Richard Haynes, now 74, was sentenced to 45 years in prison by a Sydney, Austrailia court on September 6.