They may have escaped their parents, but the Turpin children's trauma is far from over.

Together we sat aghast as we learned 13 siblings had been starved, tortured and held captive by their own parents, David and Louise Turpin.

We remained in awe as more and more of the atrocities these US parents allegedly inflicted on their own children were revealed – from being beaten as punishment and shackled to furniture, to being rationed to one meal a day and prevented from having proper hygiene.

And yet as their parents were arrested on several abuse-related charges last Sunday after a 17-year-old daughter escaped from their California home and raised the alarm, the children’s lives as they knew it came crumbling down.

turpin family california siblings details
Daily abuse is all the Turpin siblings knew. (Image via Facebook.)

While there's no doubt this is the best thing that could happen to the for the seven adult and six children and the extreme physical abuse is a thing of the past for them, the trauma will only continue as they adjust to a world they didn't really know existed. A world where it's not normal for parents to beat and restrain their children and one full of authorities and structures that some of the children had never even heard of, let alone interacted with, such as police officers and medicine.


"To not even know something like [police officers exist] really speaks to how incredibly controlled their environment was. They're going to experience a culture shock even apart from the trauma they have undergone," Patricia Costales, the chief executive of a California-based charity that provides therapy for children, told the Chicago Tribune.

The Turpins also need to reconcile with the fact that their parents are "depraved" and up there with the worst examples of humanity. Clinical psychologist Jessica Borelli says this, along with the separation from them, will be difficult for some of the children.

"When we come into this world, our attachment figures are our primary sources of safety and security, no matter how abusive they are," she tells the newspaper.

"That impulse or that draw to be back with the people who are supposed to keep you safe is incredibly strong, and that is what has to be overridden to get out of an abusive situation."

Borelli, Costales and other psychologists agree the siblings will need years of therapy to have a hope of leading normal lives.

Costales says while the youngest children will find their recovery quicker and easier than the siblings aged in their late teens and 20s, she's optimistic all their lives can reach a level of normalcy.


"Their brains are still adapting, they're still forming, they're still developing their understanding of the world," she said of the younger children. "But someone who has experienced these things for 20-some years of their life will have a lot of learning to do about what relationships are like, what the world is like, how they're supposed to be treated."

Listen: We discuss the disturbing YouTube videos for kids on Mamamia's parenting podcast This Glorious Mess. (Post continues after audio.)

Meanwhile, Borelli says their prolonged abuse will have disrupted their self-protection instincts. She points out that by escaping, the 17-year-old did want to save herself and her siblings, which is a good sign for her own recovery going forward.

And while the recovery of their mental health will be a huge focus, there are also long-term side-effects of malnutrition the siblings will most likely come up against.

According to studies on malnutrition, physically, they may face stunted growth and be more likely to gain fat than muscle, while having an increased likelihood of developing high blood pressure, and therefore an increased risk of heart problems, as well as blood-glucose related complications. Stress, as these children experienced no doubt daily, has also been shown to worsen the severity of any diseases or infections suffered.

There is little doubt memories of the "severe, pervasive, prolonged" torture the children suffered in the California home will haunt these children, but clinical psychologist Abbey Kanzer says, it's hoped this trauma can be contained.

"It becomes part of their story, but not their complete story."