The California couple charged with torturing and starving their 13 children over many years have pleaded not guilty on all counts. But, ultimately, whatever happens to Louise and David Turpin, their children must somehow move on and carry on with their lives.
For now, they are being cared for at local hospitals and telling investigators their nightmarish stories of allegedly being held captive by their own parents. The siblings range in age from 2 to 29. One of the daughters managed to escape their Perris, California, home with a cell phone and call the police.
Dr. Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist and pioneer in trauma science, told CNN that the siblings are likely to suffer from severe psychological effects such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which results from trauma that took place over a long period of time or in captivity.
“We can assume that there could be depression and nightmares,” said Ochberg, who was a key prosecution witness in the trial of Ariel Castro in Ohio. Castro, in 2013, was sentenced to life without parole, plus 1,000 years, for kidnapping, raping and assaulting three women over several years.
Because of starvation, the siblings were deprived of vitamins and minerals essential to their development. Neighbors who caught glimpses of the children have told reporters about how thin and pale they looked. That can cause cognitive impairment
Dr. Roshini Raj, an associate professor of medicine at New York University, told HLN that it may take a long time to get the siblings to a healthy and normal weight. “But it can be done,” she said.
Infection is another issue.
“When you’ve been malnourished for so many years, your immune system is much weaker than it should be, and you’re more prone to getting infection,” Raj said.
Ochberg suggested it is possible that the siblings will recover and that separating them from their parents gives them a chance to be normal.
“While there can be a number of complicated and interrelated medical, social and psychological disorders, there have been amazing and heartwarming examples of people who are survivors,” Ochberg said. “We don’t want to overemphasize hopelessness when everyone who cares about people like this are trying to find reasons to hopeful and optimistic.”
But where, and with whom, will all the siblings resume their lives?
In the short term, it appears finding foster parents will be the first goal, with foster parents perhaps then becoming the adoptive parents.
Amy Heilman, director of foster care and adoption at the Children’s Bureau, a Los Angeles-based social service nonprofit, said keeping the siblings together would be optimum, but because there are so many of them, that is considered unlikely.
There is some belief that David Turpin’s elderly parents want to be involved in the placement process. At the moment, they are still trying to contact their grandchildren.