DISCLAIMER/TRIGGER WARNING: This article may contain triggering content related to child abuse and violent death. It is also not intended to be medical advice and should not be taken as such. If you are a victim of abuse, please seek professional help immediately.
Meet Gypsy Rose Blanchard. On the surface, she was a girl bound to a wheelchair, suffering from deadly illnesses, in the care of her loving mother. But things were actually much different than it seemed. Behind the curtains, there was a tragic play, one that would eventually lead to murder. Gypsy was a victim of an abusive household. Her experience offers us a glimpse behind the curtains – what is the reality of living with an abusive parent? Let’s explore her story.
Beginnings Of An Illness
When she was only three months old, her mother Dee Dee began taking her to hospitals for checkups and tests, convinced that she had sleep apnea. Even though the results were negative, Dee Dee refused to accept that her daughter was healthy. As Gypsy grew up, her mother convinced her that she suffered from various illnesses, such as leukemia, muscular dystrophy, intellectual disability, seizures, and many more. She also caused her to undergo unnecessary surgeries and take medication that caused her to lose her teeth. A pediatric neurologist Bernardo Flasterstein suspected that Dee Dee was likely suffering from Münchausen by Proxy, a mental disorder where a caregiver feigns illness in someone under their care for attention and sympathy. This disorder allowed Dee Dee to gain both attention and monetary gain from the donations she received as a result of pretending her child was sick.
And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for an untreated, mentally ill parent to become abusive. A 2012 study showed that many abusive parents experienced mistreatment during their own childhood. Later on, they developed personality disorders and continued the cycle of abuse with their own children.
Away From A Helping Hand
To ensure she had Gypsy under her full control, Dee Dee kept her far away from her family’s reach. She made Gypsy believe her father abandoned her, that he didn’t care about her and was having fun with his new family, far away from his daughter. In turn, this made it easier for Dee Dee to manipulate her daughter into believing her false reality. This strategy is often used by abusers in abusive relationships. Domestic violence researcher Clare Murphy wrote on her blog that isolation is a pivotal tactic used in order to weaken the victims, prevent them from hearing others’ perspectives, and to bring them into line with the abusers beliefs and requirements. Abusive parents might turn their children against other family members, keep them from seeing friends, or even restrict their phone access.
The Fake Mask
Because Gypsy was isolated and manipulated, nobody really knew what was going on. In fact, when others looked at her mom, all they saw was a loving, hard working single mother who gave all she had to help her sick daughter. What was actually a selfish act of abuse, on the outside seemed like the most selfless kind of love. DeeDee was hiding behind a mask, the same mask that abusive parents often wear.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it’s common for abusers to hide their harmful behaviors in public. They play a nice role and act like saints when other people are around, but as soon as they’re behind closed doors, the mask slips. This in turn makes the victim even more isolated and reluctant to seek help, too afraid that no one would believe them.
The Nightmare Ends
In June 2015, Dee Dee tried to make Gypsy undergo another unnecessary surgery. But this time, Gypsy was the one who took control. When her mother was asleep, she let her secret online boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn into her house, and led him to her mothers room. Gypsy hid in the bathroom while Nicholas killed her mother. And just like that, a once sick girl got out of her wheelchair, became an accomplice, and stepped out of that house forever.
While Gypsy’s actions were extreme and unacceptable, resulting in her being sentenced to 10 years in prison, we can also acknowledge the dire circumstances she found herself in, that highlight the need for those experiencing abuse to find a way out. While we don’t condone what Gypsy did, we can use her story to help save others. If you’re in a situation where your parents are abusive, please know that it’s possible to find freedom. It’s difficult when you’re young and depend on your parents for things like money and housing, but one day you’ll be able to get as far away as you’ll want to, even having no contact if that’s what you want. You’ll start your healing journey far away from those who hurt you. Meanwhile, please take a look at the resources in the description box if you’re in need of immediate help.
Gypsy’s now slowly learning to embrace her identity, her authentic self, free from her mother’s influence. As she said in an interview with Dr. Phil:
Let her words remind you that your past does not define you – you have the power to continue the story your way!
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: “(1-800) 4-A-Child” or “(1-800) 422-4453”
Child Abuse Education & Prevention Resources – https://www.childhelp.org/educator-resources/child-abuse-education-prevention-resources/
Abuse and mental illness: Is there a connection? (2020, September 20). The Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/resources/abuse-and-mental-illness-is-there-a-connection/
Dr. Phil. (2017). ‘She didn’t deserve what happened,’ admits gypsy rose blanchard who pled guilty for her role in H… [Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUztDp6gCB8
Fontaine, D., & Nolin, P. (2012). Personality Disorders in a Sample of Parents Accused of Physical Abuse or Neglect. Journal of Family Violence, 27(1), 23–31.
Murphy, C., PhD. (n.d.). Tactic #4 — isolation. SpeakOutLoud. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://speakoutloud.net/intimate-partner-abuse/isolation-tactic-of-control