The “Worst” Case of Child Abuse in Recent History

Every case of child abuse, neglect or maltreatment is disturbing. Stories come in from all over the country each year, with graphic details that conjure up visions of monsters and animals with no regard for life. So with dozens of stories that make headlines each year, how can we choose the worst case? We are guessing that, at the very least, there will not be another case this year involving the same number of children as the one we are about to describe.

A California couple had a total of thirteen children held in captivity in their home, near Los Angeles. This was discovered after one child, a 17-year-old girl, managed to escape and call the police. The other twelve children, ranging in age from two to twenty-nine, were allegedly held like prisoners. Police found them shackled to their beds, malnourished and hungry. Most of them appeared younger than their actual age due to malnutrition.

David and Louise Turpin were arrested for child endangerment and other charges. It is clear that the children were allowed outside from time to time, but some neighbors said they had never seen the kids at all. The couple put pictures of the children on their Facebook page, so people who knew them would think that everything was fine. Meanwhile, according to the charges filed against them, they were starving, beating and choking their children all along. To put this into context, the twenty-nine year old weighed only 82 pounds when rescued from what is being called the “hell house”.

It is surprising to hear of such stories in places like California. The state of California was the first to require licensed and certified teachers and nurses to take mandated child abuse training. Training professionals in how to identify and report abuse has prevented thousands of cases from progressing, not only in California but also in New York and other states. Each year, thanks to such programs, over a million cases are reported, and many end up being investigated and proven to involve abuse.

And yes, it may be a bit premature to say that this is 2018’s worst case of abuse, especially since it is still early in the year, but based on sheer volume/quantity of victims in this unique situation, we stand by our decision.


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