SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s often a deep, dark secret in families that victims keep hidden due to their own shame. But this victim of incest is sharing her story and how coming face-to-face with her abuser, her father, still haunts her today.
22-year-old Justice Haggin says she’s lived with a horrible secret long enough.
“This all kind of started happening, I think when I was around 4. As I got older, it got worse and progressed,” Justice Haggin said.
Justice is a victim of sexual abuse by her own father, Justin Haggin.
The 41-year-old is a registered sex offender living in Sioux Falls. On the sex offender registry, his crime is described as “convicted of aggravated incest involving a 12-year-old girl.”
“Which is interesting to me because are you focusing on 12, because it was happening consistently from 10 to 15. A lot of the times it was him having me make the bed, but naked. I don’t know why that was something he focused on so much,” Justice said.
Justice says it got worse.
“There were fingers involved. There was him having me perform on him orally and things like that– so no, it wasn’t just making the bed naked,” Justice said.
As a child, Justice didn’t have a way out. She had been neglected by her biological mother and removed from the home by child protective services and placed with her father.
“You feel like you have to do everything you can to keep the family that you have. So I felt very, I can’t be the one to do anything to ruin this family. I can’t speak out or say anything,” Justice said.
In her early teen years, Justice was depressed and began to self harm.
Kennecke: Did you think it was your fault?
Justice: I don’t think I ever thought it was my fault. This man is extremely manipulative, narcissistic and sociopath and everybody saw him one way and I didn’t see him like that at all. At the same time, this was my dad and you don’t want to lose him. Yeah, there were so many bad times, but he’s the one who taught me how to play softball and was at all my games, all my practices and my choir concerts. He was always there.
Justice says her breaking point was when she found her father’s phone recording video in the bathroom.
“I had gotten into the shower and I was just bawling. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t know what to do, just an overflow of emotions and I know if this is going to keep going, I’m going to end up ending my life. This is too much for one person to bear,” Justice said.
She confronted her father about his phone.
“‘Justice, I’m so sorry. I pray to God every night I stop doing this to you.’ And that’s exactly what he said,” Justice recalls.
She ended up telling a school counselor, who is a mandatory reporter, what was happening and police detectives were called to the school, where she had to repeat the whole story.
“It was terrifying, absolutely terrifying. And then they said when I was done to clean up and go back to class. Looking back on it, that’s awful,” Justice said.
Justin Haggin was initially charged with six felonies, including two counts of rape, but in a plea deal, pleaded guilty to aggravated incest and child abuse. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, Haggin was released from prison within two years and is currently on “active parole,” according to the South Dakota Department of Corrections.
“This is the frustrating part and something I think really needs to change in South Dakota. He went in when I was a freshman and he was out before I graduated high school,” Justice said.
Justice feels as if her personal nightmare will never end. A couple of years later, she wasn’t prepared for accidentally bumping into her abuser in public.
I was walking and I kind of looked up and I did one of those friendly smiles to a stranger and I kept walking and my heart sank, realizing I had just done a friendly stranger smile to my dad. At the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, of all places in the city, I ran into him.Justice Haggin, Incest victim
She later married and moved across the country and had a baby girl. But wanting to be near family, she returned to Sioux Falls and got a job at a day care. Her father had remarried a woman with a child, a four-year-old girl, who happened to attend that very same day care.
“I stayed because I wanted to stand my ground and say this isn’t happening anymore. You don’t get to keep winning. You don’t get to go about doing whatever you want to do and I have to change my life and jump over backward for you at every turn,” Justice said.
She called her father’s parole officer and two days later, her father and his wife removed the child from day care.
“It felt like a victory to me. I wasn’t moving. I wasn’t wavering,” Justice said.
Justice says she still suffers from nightmares and has trouble trusting people, but felt the need to share her story publicly.
“I feel like you go through this stuff and I feel like it’s my obligation to be the person who says something,” Justice said.
Justice says she stays strong now for her baby girl.
“I have a beautiful baby, a beautiful baby. I like to call her an angel baby and she’s amazing. I was really young and I made a promise to myself one night lying in bed that I was not going to be like my parents. And I’ve done everything I possibly can not to be like my parents and I think I’ve done a pretty good job,” Justice said.
While incest is estimated to occur in more than 10 percent of families, only 20 percent of cases are reported because the perpetrator is someone the child loves and trusts.
National Sexual Assault Hotline