Warning: This article contains information about child abuse which may be distressing for some readers.
The world has been shocked to learn of the 13 brothers and sisters in a small Californian town found starving and filthy, several of whom had been chained to their beds, as their own parents allegedly held them captive for years. We have all been haunted by a question: How could such a thing take place in plain sight?
I know how, because it happened to me. From birth to the age of 18, I was held in captivity by my father and deprived of all contact with the outside world. Convinced it was his sacred duty to do so, from the time I was small my father subjected me to endless drills meant to “eliminate weakness,” like holding an electric fence for minutes at a time, sitting in a rat-infested cellar all night and doing manual labor. My mother was his brainwashed subject and instrument of abuse. At 18, I escaped.
While it took me years to break free emotionally, I have since come to see my father for what he was: A predator. An ogre. I have devoted my career as a psychotherapist to understanding the mechanisms behind mental and physical incarcerations, and to helping victims break free from their own ogres.
David and Louise Turpin appeared to be a normal couple that had simply chosen to homeschool their kids. Yet while there are valid reasons to homeschool, it should also be clear that withdrawing one’s children from the school system is a perfect gateway to establishing physical and mental control over them, away from outside interference. The grandparents have spoken of how the children could recite long passages from the Bible — rote memorisation being a known tool for preventing original thought, questioning or self-awareness.
The family did everything to come across as normal and happy. Louise Turpin’s sister has said, “We always thought she was living the perfect life.” And even the small town’s police chief appeared baffled: “I wish I could come to you today with information that would explain why this happened”
Yet a neighbour did admit that over a period of two years, she’d only once seen the children, and only three of them. She described them as looking like vampires because they were “really, really pale” and “only came out at night.” Others have said they held their suspicions in check out of a reluctance to make assumptions or to pry.