Well, triumph to a certain degree. In case you don’t know who Truddi Chase is, she was a woman who claimed to have 92 personalities after suffering 14 years of heinous sexual and physical abuse by her stepfather and biological mother. Chase died in 2010 at the age of 75. Her story is documented in the autobiography When Rabbit Howls. Chase wasn’t this woman’s real name. She changed it after she ran away from home at the age of 16 so as to elude her parents, should they try to find her.
Chase was born and raised outside of Rochester, New York. She lived on two farms from the ages of 2 – 16. She had several siblings, all of whom were also sexually and physically abused. So twisted was “the” stepfather (as she referred to him) that he forced her into bestiality. After sexually abusing the farm animals, Chase stated on an Oprah Winfrey episode that he had to kill them so the neighbours wouldn’t notice their odd behavior.
Chase’s book is a difficult read. She recalled the abuse in vivid detail through the memories of several different selves. It is horrific stuff. The manner in which the book is written however, leaves room for doubt about some of its authenticity. For instance, she created a character named (if memory serves – pardon the pun), Marshall, a composite for the people and textbooks her therapist referenced while treating her. At the same time, she gave Marshall a living role, and wrote that he went to her home to check up on her. This made little sense to me.
She stated to Winfrey that one night she woke up in her bed to find ten of her “selves” sitting on her bed staring at her. That type of hallucinatory experience is off-putting. How does a person see aspects of her/himself as a separate entity? I don’t doubt the abuse or that Chase developed several personalities. I do have to wonder how it is that a person can delineate exactly 92, rather than saying 90, or several, for instance. Chase claimed she made a “chart of our births” and this verified that number for her.
By her report, Chase remembered that molestation and abuse occurred from the age of two onwards but that she could not focus on details before going into therapy. It was during sessions with hypnotherapist, Dr. Robert Phillips, that she concluded she had multiple personalities. This is another grey area for many therapists. The argument against Chase having MPD/DID would suggest that it was only after she began therapy with Phillips that Chase became aware of other “selves.” Psychiatrists might suggest that what happened to Chase was a phenomenon known as therapist-induced memory recall. In other words, Phillips himself might be responsible for Chase’s revelation that she was actually 92 personalities.
Winfrey’s people contacted Chase’s stepfather and of course, he denied the abuse allegations. Phillips tracked down Truddi’s mother and discovered that she had also sexually abused the child. At the time of Chase’s book’s publication, her mother died and she was never interviewed. Both of these people were clearly very damaged and had no right to raise children. It is unfortunate that during Chase’s childhood, child abuse laws were lax and seldom put into use.
The concept of multiple personality disorder (MPD), (now known as dissociative identity disorder) is one fraught with controversy. There are psychiatrists who share a stalwart belief in its existence. There are psychiatrists who claim that no one has several personalities; a human being has one brain so any “selves” are actually just aspects of one person. Myself I don’t believe I have ever met someone with MPD or DID, whichever you prefer.
I had a professor who once stated to me she believed it was possible for a person to be so traumatized that a single ego failed to form. I thought that was an interesting perspective. Interesting, but impossible to prove. That’s another issue about DID/MPD. There are no longitudinal studies, and no identifiable causes for the condition. Most people who express it state, like Chase, that they suffered extreme and ritualistic sexual abuse as children. However, since there are people who supposedly have MPD/DID but haven’t ever been sexually abused, this cannot be confirmed as a definitive cause for the disorder.
Where is the triumph in Chase’s life? She married, had a child, divorced (that happens to everyone nowadays), held down several successful careers, then finally became a counselor, working with convicted child sex offenders to teach them the severe, long-term damages caused by sexual abuse. She eventually lived with a boyfriend and he remained with her until her death at the age of 75.
In spite of the horror that was her childhood and her teen years, Chase managed to become self-sufficient, strong and independent. She became an example of a person who lived with MPD/DID and who had survived an abusive childhood. Many incest victims were inspired by her example. She helped hundreds, if not thousands, of sex abuse victims to stop hiding their secret and seek help. That’s probably the greatest triumph of Chase’s life.