Review: Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West – The Girl in the Green Dress

The Girl in the Green Dress
Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West

“An unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live shows how MPD or DID saved her life. It is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. ‘I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.‘”

Normally I think of myself as being quite iron-stomached. This book though proved that there’s some things that I simply can’t read. I appreciated the authors’ foresight and use of stars to tell me where I could skip a section if I wasn’t feeling strong enough. I also needed to put the book down at times and reassure myself that I wasn’t in that situation and that Jeni has made it largely to the other side.

What the true horror of this situation explores is a system that doesn’t teach children how to verbalise abuse, and a system where victim blaming is common. It makes me so angry against the Church and other organisations that just cover up sexual abuse (as partially exposed in Do as I Say). We need to do better. I don’t know how, but one way I’m going to do my part is to telling people to read this book.

We fostercare and sometimes host children who display ‘sexualised behaviours’. We’re told how to provide trauma based care, but I’ve never really understood what that practically meant. Having reading this book, I feel even more strongly that it’s so important to not be surprised or judgemental. These kids don’t necessarily have the words to express how they have been abused, but it’s so important for them to talk to someone who cares. I particulately liked that Dr George gave a list of resources for people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder / Multiple Personality Disorder. These come about as a result of horrific childhood abuse – and you need specialist training to help them.

It’s not just about surviving – Jeni’s mind made it possible to do that. The problem is actually thriving after abuse, and that’s where the treatment by a professional comes in. I had heard of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) before this, but didn’t really have an understanding of how useful it could be. Dr Blair-West teachs us in the medical interludes how this can be used to process traumatic memories.

This book is not easy reading, but I think that it’s essential reading. It gives insight into sexual, domestic and emotional abuse in children and the deficits in the justice system in Australia. We still have a long way to go before the system is better – very recently the Grace Tame #metoo movement happened. The laws are still protecting predators and putting the emphasis on victims being the problem – they have to prove that they are telling the truth. It’s disgusting, and it needs to change.

Hachette | 31 August 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

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