Unless you’ve been homeschooled, isolated and held against your will — it can be easy to make some wrong assumptions about the Turpin children who were famously rescued from their parents David and Louise Turpin this week. There is a tone of surprise by the DailyMail writer who labels the children as intelligent, conversant, “very friendly” and smiley and, as far as anyone knows, not victims of sexual abuse. One Facebook writer predicted the thirteen Turpin’s will be unable to ever function as normal, adult human beings!
Balderdash! Hokum! Malarkey!
When the story broke but details were still scarce, I turned to my husband and said, “Ten’ll get you twenty the kids are super smart, super nice and not overtly sexually abused.” So far, my gut instinct prediction has come true. I should know. I’m a Mensan who was homeschooled, isolated for twenty-seven months during the 1990s and held against my will until 2011. Stockholm Syndrome, thou art my name! But I’m here to say that it isn’t a death sentence. The Turpins can triumph over everything to live happy, normal, grateful lives, just as I have.
When stories of abuse hit the news, it’s easy to make generalized assumptions.
Most obvious is the assumption that all homeschooling parents are somehow mentally skewed, abusive, paranoiac and homeschooling is an excuse for isolating, brainwashing and abusing their children. Nothing could be further from the truth!!! Most homeschoolers are extremely connected and go above-and-beyond for their children to have friends, a social group and a myriad of experiences of every kind — cultural, musical, theatre, sports, etc.
BUT there is always that rotten egg who sees homeschool as a perfect setting for their warped agenda, their skewed My-Kid-My-Lego-Project strategy of child-rearing. Unbeknownst to me when my parents began homeschooling me in 1996, to a minor degree they fell under this unfortunate minority.
But they’re the exception to the rule.
Most homeschool graduates are incredibly intelligent with more book knowledge, life knowledge, morality, self-control, financial acumen and common sense than your average eighteen-year-old. Socially, they’re good conversationalists from having spent so much time with adults. Their hearts are in the right place and their morals impeccable. As the Turpin children warm to a “normal” way of life, I predict the country will be surprised and delighted to find just what a charming addition to society the thirteen Turpin children prove to be.
And after years of domestic incarceration, I predict they will be rabidly independent. I sure am!
At the moment though, they are probably terrified. Just as the seventeen-year-old hero who escaped believed her parents would physically kill her for reporting the abuse, the other siblings are also terrified. How many times during my twenties did I lay in bed, dreaming and planning how I would run away from home? But alas, I truly believed my parents could have the police track me down, restrain me and force me to return to them. I was unaware of the Age of Emancipation! I was a successful woman but felt like a Deadbeat Daughter! Even after owning my own home and getting married, I thought my parents could force me to give it all up, take me away from my loving husband and force me to return to them. That’s how strong brainwashing can be, even if you’re a Mensan! It’s damn embarrassing!
But it can be broken. It takes time, work and trust, but truth always trumps lies. Time is the great healer. Over time, even the nightmares become less frequent. Mine have.
The Turpins are terrified. They’ve been taught to be terrified. To see a rapist around every corner. Talk to no one. Never tell anyone their names. (My husband didn’t know my maiden last name until fifteen minutes before he proposed!) Although my parent was shocked when I told them, they taught me to be scared. I’m surprised they didn’t realize that.
Most of all, I was scared of them.
Like the Turpins, I was terrified of my dad’s blackout rages, their frequent disapproval, how they easily told me I was going to Hell. When I segued from my twenty-seven months of isolation into adult life in 1998, my burden of terror made it difficult, but it’s not impossible! Yes, the Turpins probably have PTSD but that’s not a death sentence! I see my PTSD as a challenge to fight and conquer, day by day, year by year. Sure, the Turpins may be jumpy, tongue-tied and nervous. They may be terrified of asking questions, setting boundaries and saying “N..nnn….n.n.n.n…NO!”
But they’ll learn. I had to. They will too.
During my twenties, I was the young woman who was terrified of knocking on my co-worker’s office doors. Scared they’d snap, get angry, yell at me. Nervous they’d resent my intrusion. Halfway through the conversation I’d be halfway out their door. Hovering. Half in, half out. Desperate to escape. My favorite way to describe myself is “a cat on a hot tin roof.”
But that didn’t mean I didn’t have a successful career working my way up the career ladder as a Graphic Designer turned Franchise Administrator turned IM&T Project Implementation Analyst. And now, Freelance HuffPost and PsychCentral writer. Not too bad for a little girl who doesn’t have a four-year college degree.
My fear for the Turpin children is the burden of false guilt they bear and the cult withdrawal symptoms they will suffer. Even after they learn to function in society as normal men and women, the scars in their souls will still fester. The squalor, shackles and starvation were obvious abuse, something tangible for them to remember when they suffer from false guilt or drown in denial.
It’s the unseen spiritual, emotional and relational abuse they will struggle with the most. Each year, every situation will reveal to them another dark corner of their souls, another misunderstanding, another false guilt. Their first sexual relationship may find them drowning in shame – false shame. I did; they will. The good news, with the proper information, counseling and a lot of hard work, they can and will get over it.
My hat is off to the brave Turpin daughter who blew the whistle and rescued her siblings from Hell. She is my hero! Damn! I wish I’d had her cajones.
In the coming days, months and years, I look forward with great anticipation and joy to watching the thirteen Turpins blossom, grow and discover the kindness of the true God of Love and the intoxicating sweetness of freedom!