“Thank you for your email” wrote the Chief of Police in his Wednesday email to me, “The recent incident involving the Turpin family in California is certainly a tragic situation…your [false imprisonment] personal experiences that you shared in your email obviously had a great impact on you.”
But not everyone is as understanding as the Chief. Wendy Martinez, a near neighbor of the now infamous Turpins who were arrested on January 15, 2017 for endangering, falsely imprisoning and torturing their thirteen children, remarked to the DailyMail that she cannot understand why the older children did not try to escape before. After all, at least one of the adult daughters knew how to drive. The whole herd of Turpins left the house at least once a week albeit in the wee hours. Why didn’t one of them go to a stranger in a store, spill the beans, ask for help, she queried.
And that’s when I saw red. You can ask my husband. There was a distinct sizzling sound from my vicinity accompanied by the smell of bacon and steam escaping my ears!
I’m glad Ms. Martinez has never been falsely imprisoned and held against her will. Her lack of empathy and understanding betray her lack of suffering. But some of us have been held against our will. So I’ll try to explain to people like Ms. Martinez who are inclined to blame the victim, explicitly or implicitly, exactly what it’s like. What the Turpin children don’t need right now is more blame, more shame, more false guilt.
While the thirteen Turpin children are being protected from the press, we’re left with crumbs of information and a lot of reading-between-the-lines. Luckily, human beings tend to think and behave in identifiable patterns. Abusers pretty much all think alike. Their victims all think alike.
If those who are supposed to love you the most are hurting you, surely strangers who don’t care must be worse! In the minds of the Turpin children, out of the firepan, into the fire!
FEAR. With no outside contact with “normal” people — strangers, aunts, uncles, grandparents or even information via television — it was easy for David and Louise Turpin to utterly brainwash their obedient, God-fearing, utterly terrified, weak and starving children.
Lemme guess. They probably told the kids the world is full of worldly, godless people who will be a bad influence on you, tempting you to lose your Eternal Soul, damning you to burn in Hell for Eternity. The only safe, godly, caring and loving people were right there at home. Mummy and Daddy, The Smiling Devils, were protecting them from the big, bad world — and all the bad things the kids would do if they were allowed to have freedom.
Been there! I vividly remember the last time I asked my parents if I could please move out. Big family discussion at the kitchen table. Dad said, “We haven’t worked so hard on you just to throw you to the wolves.”
Translation: “It’s a big, bad world. You can’t handle it. If you had any freedom, you’d either be raped or turn into a whore.” That’s how I heard it anyways. And you simply don’t defy a man who brags, “I can scream loud enough to rattle glass.” His rages were legendary; I have the PTSD to prove it.
Just because Kent Ripley, the Elvis impersonator who sang for the Turpin’s vow renewal (3 or 4 times!) said, “They [the Turpin’s children] weren’t bossed around. They weren’t yelled at. They smiled a lot” doesn’t mean it was a happy family. The kids were simply terrified. Broken. Pseudomutuality, it’s called.
My parents bragged I was “perfect” by the time I was four. Strangers couldn’t believe how well-behaved I was. I too smiled a lot. But is that normal for a child? Dad used to brag they had to break my will. Is that truly what you should do to a child? It sounds to me like the Turpins subscribed to the same philosophy on child-rearing. (Abuse much, Dr. Dobson!?!) And just like my parents, they’ve now lost their children.
The Turpin girls were doubtless convinced that lurking around every corner was a man and every man was a would-be rapist. Undoubtedly they believed their creepy watch-the-aunt-in-the-shower, lewd-act committing Father was the only “safe” man they could trust.
Perhaps they were convinced that women, married or single, are to be “keepers at home.” That their Daddy was to be their head until their husband came along to take over control of them. Perhaps they were told that God would bring them a man; no need to look. (I’m thinking Fred Phelps / Westboro Baptist Church right now.) But you and I know their parents would never have allowed any of them to mingle, marry or leave. If the rescue had never occurred, all thirteen Turpins would have spent their entire adulthood within those four walls. Lived there; died there. After all, my parents never set an age where I was allowed to move out. I would still be there if Dad hadn’t given me permission to move out. I often thought, “I’m going to live and die in this house. My whole life – a boring waste.”
I can assure you that none of the children knew they had a legal right to freedom nor knew about the Age of Emancipation. I never did!
And those trips to Disneyland!? All sugarcoating to make the Turpins look like good parents. Just a treat to keep the kids silent. To keep ’em grateful. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome, baby! A one-time treat in lieu of freedom. Been there! I supposedly had “freedom” — but within rules that were SO restrictive, it was hardly worth it and just enough to shut me up.
Oh, I’m just getting started!
Given the “truth” their supposedly godly, caring, loving, trustworthy and much-honored parents imparted to them, why would the Turpin children approach a stranger? Why would they approach a stranger when their nearest and dearest were abusing them? If those who are supposed to love you the most are hurting you, surely strangers who don’t care must be worse! In the minds of the Turpin children, out of the firepan, into the fire!
What if they had approached a stranger for help? The seventeen-year-old who reported the abuse feared for her life. She was convinced her parents would murder her for going to the police.
If she had done-a-bunk in a store where her parents might’ve seen her approach that forbidden stranger, there would’ve been Hell to pay at home. Like my friend’s Amish brother-in-law who spanked all ten of his children when one disobeyed, the Turpin Thirteen would likely have all been punished as a cautionary tale (starved? shackled? beaten?) to remind them to never, ever speak to anyone about anything ever again.
SILENCE: The hallmark of an abusive family. I was taught to never tell grandparents, teachers, strangers or authorities about certain things. My parents terrified me by saying the authorities would take me away from them if I ever admitted to being disciplined, for example. My husband, who was raised in a criminally abusive family, was taught to never, ever talk. There would be Hell to pay if he did. Hell! He got whipped for stuff he never did.
What would you do if a ghostly, starving, filthy, stinky child approached you in a store and whispered something so unbelievable that your stomach churned. What would you do when their parent rushed over, grabbed them by the wrist and dragged them away with either a smile or a snarl of rage, quickly exiting the store for a fast getaway? Oh, I don’t mean what your courageous inner Legolas would do. Not the hero you imagine yourself in the dark watches of the night. But in real life. What would you have done? What could you have done against a well organized familial concentration camp?
Worse still is the reaction of the authorities. When I reported being held against my will to the Police, they blew me off and hung up. If Miss Turpin hadn’t had photographs to corroborate her story, what would the police have done?
Even extended family are not necessarily a source of rescue. Not one person in my extended family, not one, queried why I still lived with my parents at age thirty. When I did dare to reveal the abuse and being held against my will, the nuclear and extended family attacked me! Threatened. Got lawyers. Sent Cease-and-Desist letters. Tried to silence me. Demanded the return of gifts. There was no sympathy, no empathy, not a shred of love nor care. That’s why it didn’t surprise me when David Turpin’s mother defended him and his wife. The Turpin children couldn’t even turn to their grandmother for help.
Oh, but it gets even worse.
When I was being abused, my family was utterly silent. After I escaped by marrying a wonderful man who treats me like a princess, that’s when the family screamed that I was being abducted. Being forced to move house against my will. That’s when they sent the police to my door. How fucked up can they get!?!?
According to one the Turpin’s neighbors, one of the adult female children was able to drive. She probably had the best chance of saving her siblings. But let me tell you how that would go down, from personal experience.
Before Miss Turpin ever got behind the wheel of her parents’ car, they may’ve forced her to sign a legal contract detailing what she could and could not do while driving their car. She was probably being tracked and timed to her destination. She probably had to call or text her parents when she arrived at and left her destination. They probably demanded to know exactly what roads she drove to and from. And they timed her, to make sure she didn’t deviate in any way from her route, her schedule, her destination. If there was any anomaly, there was Hell to pay! That was my life until I was 32. What can I say. Shit happens. And when you’re driving your parents’ car, they can easily accuse you of stealing it if you stray at all.
I couldn’t be prouder of the seventeen-year-old Turpin who risked her own life to save the lives of her brothers and sisters. That is true bravery, true courage, true selflessness. True love. God only know how many Turpins may’ve died but for her heroism.
How many other Smiling Devils like the Turpins are out there, falsely imprisoning other human beings under the excuse of love, of safety, of godliness? Big cults. Small cults. Families that operate like cults. Possessive boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends, wives. Smother mothers. Pedophiles. Kidnappers. Pornographers. Child traffickers. Creeps and devils of all types, sizes, ages, descriptions, religions, ethnicities and genders.
How many men, women and children are held hostage by shackles, fences and barbed wire – perhaps physical, but more likely, mental? Held against their will without even realizing it. Too terrified to say anything or do anything to free themselves. Convinced God will damn them to Hell for Eternity if the even question the cult belief system, let alone make a run for it! If you were born into that cult and have been so isolated you know nothing else, the chances you will leave are sliim. Growing up, there were no newspapers and no television in my home. My parents even demanded I turn off the radio whenever the news came on!
How many children are growing up believing God is a Smiling Devil whose “love” hurts like the very devil. Children who believe that God hates their guts and will gleefully damn them for any and every reason. How many? Until a year ago, down deep I believed that God hated me. Hated me! Luckily, my husband with a snort of disgust, convinced me otherwise.
Perhaps there are “hostages” in your neighborhood, perhaps in mine. So, what are you going to do about it? I’ve reported the one possibility of child sexual abuse I’m aware of to the police. The ball is now in their court.
Don’t be like the Turpin’s pathetic neighbors. Many saw something was wrong. They saw the kids marching for hours or rifling through garbage cans, looking for food. One suspected child trafficking. Not one said a damn thing. Not one!!!! In my mind, that makes them parties to David and Louise Turpin’s crime.
But the Turpin children, young and old, are innocent. Utterly innocent. They survived! In my book, they’re all heroes.