Billy Milligan’s Case: Lessons To Be Learnt From

Billy Milligan
Image Credits: Medium

COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented compulsions to stay indoors due to its inherent contagiousness and pervasive nature. During this arduous suffocating period, social media accounts were flooded with posts and statuses like, “If you can’t go outside, go inside”, glorifying the significance of introspection and mental well-being in life. It was also meant to turn global pandemic disaster into psyche enrichment opportunity. 

In an age of modernity and globalization, mental health issues have been thrown into the backseat as they are byproducts of unrestrained disastrous competition in every aspect of life. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, more than 10% of the world population is suffering from mental disorders comprising 792 million people globally. When people having unstable mental conditions are being entangled in a conflict with the law then it leads to complicated conflicting opinions.

Criminal laws from ancient times to the present day have been exempting criminals from punishment for a crime committed by him or her during episodic or persistent psychiatric disease. It has been mentioned in the code of Hammurabi dated back to 1754 BC. It also has been incorporated and followed through criminal statutes of almost all nations in general. Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) grants an exemption to a person from criminal liability who has committed such crime during an unsound state of mind.

Billy Milligan
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Billy Milligan’s case was an epitomic fusion of psychiatric disorder, crime, and the lifelong impact of conditions in which children are brought up. It was debated and discussed widely, popularised because of its uniqueness since Billy’s mind was fractured into 24 different personalities of various sexualities, nationalities, interests, and roles. Billy was accused of committing rape, kidnapping, and felony by different personalities which had taken over control of his mind at the time of commitment of such acts for which he was not responsible in the opinion of the court.

William Stanley Milligan (alias Billy Milligan), notoriously known as ‘university rapist’ in the locality of his living, was born on February 14th, 1955 in Florida as a second child. After the suicide of his father, Billy’s mother married Chalmer Milligan in 1963. As per the reports, Billy’s stepfather sodomized, brutalized, and tortured him by burying him alive and hanging him by his toes and fingers, accusations which were denied by Chalmer. 

This traumatic early childhood abuse had a lifelong impact on Billy’s mind that caused to splinter his personality because of which he was suspended from junior high school. Each personality spawned in his mind was the guardian of a particular state of mind; for example, 8-year-old David was the keeper of pain and a man with a Yugoslavian accent was the keeper of hate! He was in fact artistically talented and his IQ was 150 which has been classified under the genius category.

After admission to the mental hospital, Billy was so disruptive that he was compelled to be thrown out of it by hospital authorities. After that, he joined the navy but discharged from there too on the account of his failure to adapt to the naval life.

Billy Milligan
Image Credits: Twitter

Billy was accused to have raped three women during the period of 13 days from October 14th, 1977 to 27th October in Ohio State University campus area. One woman among them reported that the rapist had a German accent while others reported that he was such a nice guy that in different circumstances, she might have considered dating him.

At the time of his arrest, Billy was unaware of what he had done. When proceeding started against him, even the prosecution didn’t contest the plea of insanity and the defense didn’t deny that Milligan committed three of the four rapes he was charged with! According to psychiatrists’ testimony in court, Milligan had been in a state of slumber for most of the last seven years, and the crimes actually had been committed by two other personalities who sometimes used to “take over and use his body.”

Doctors who interrogated Billy during his trial described that they encountered totally different persons. With the awakening of different personalities, he used to change his accent, intonation, and pose. Doctors also concluded that lesbian personality Adalana used to have committed rape because she wanted to be close to someone. In contrast to this, none other personality in him was aware of what she had done.

This was the first time under which dissociative identity disorder was being used as a general defense under the insanity clause to get amnesty from the court of law even after the commitment of a heinous crime by the accused. After trial, Billy was sent to a series of state-run mental hospitals and treated for almost 11 years. Doctors successfully claimed to have fused all personalities in him into his last personality called “The teacher”.

After his release in 1988, his location remained unknown for a long time before his death due to cancer on 12th December 2014 at the age of 59. Billy’s life story is aptly depicted by Daniel Keyes’s non-fiction bestselling and award-winning novel ‘The Minds of Billy Milligan.’ The royalties received from this book were spent on his treatment. His case inspired many filmmakers to picturise his story into motion pictures. 

Billy Milligan’s case was unique in many aspects as it invoked opinions from experts belonging to wide spectra of competence. Some criticized his acquittal and some justified it but it brought mental health issues at the forefront along with its widespread impact on society at large. It also emboldened the fact that brutal, violent, and abusive parenting coupled with turbulent childhood can ruin the future of a child and the whole society is compelled to bear the repercussions of it. So, it is equally important to nourish mental health along with physical health, particularly in early childhood.


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