Shackled children face long road to recovery

Associated Press


They are safe for now and, according to authorities, they are relieved.

But the 13 children, age 2 to 29, rescued from what was described as nothing less than a torture chamber will have years of therapy ahead, experts say, as they learn to live in a world that, until a week ago, they never really knew.

Since arresting David and Louise Turpin earlier this week, authorities said they have learned the children were confined to the house, chained to furniture, starved and often deprived the use of a toilet. Some of the children were so detached they didn’t understand the concept of a police officer or medicine.

“You don’t need to learn what a police officer is from going to school – you learn that from just being out in the world,” said Patricia Costales, chief executive of The Guidance Center, a Long Beach, Calif.-based nonprofit that provides mental-health therapy to thousands of children.

“To not even know something like that 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,” said Costales, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist who has treated kidnap victims, some held for years.

The Turpin siblings, seven adults and six children, likely need years of therapy, psychological experts said, adding that if possible it would be best to keep them together.

The youngest should have the easiest road to recovery, Costales said, but added she is optimistic that over time all could eventually learn to lead relatively normal lives.

“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.”

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