Dr Ian Stephen: The traumatising effect of isolation

Share
Related Topics

In terms of psychological harm, the 42-year-old female victim will have lost any developmental opportunities from childhood through to adulthood. She will find it almost impossible to develop normal relationships with people, and will be almost unaware of the reality of life outside the house where she was imprisoned for so long. She's been utterly isolated from her peer group, and, because she has been totally dominated by her father, she'll also be restricted when it comes to her own independence.

She might also have developed Stockholm syndrome, eventually becoming totally passive and fully compliant to all of her father's demands, in order to survive her fear of him. How she's going to express herself and relate to other people in society is a big issue: she'll have to re-socialise, and become aware of emotions and feelings that have become flattened and numbed. You can see the damage done to hostages who are held for short periods of time and this is, in effect, a hostage situation involving somebody's own father and continued over decades. I don't think there's any precedent for this.

After several months of numbness, normality will start to sink in, and she'll probably suffer a very complex form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The whole thing must have been extremely traumatising initially when she was a young girl, and will have continued to traumatise her throughout her days.

Being imprisoned from a young age will mean that her learning abilities could be severely underdeveloped or handicapped. Her children, some of whom have never seen the light of day, will also be severely damaged after suffering total stimulus deprivation.

In terms of rehabilitation, it completely depends on the woman and how she's coping with what has happened to her. But as the abuse was violent all the way through, it's difficult to see how people are going to help her through this. She hasn't even got the security of her family to look to, and she's not a child any more: she's a mature woman in age, but not in development.

She has only been allowed to see and hear what her father allowed, which would tend to be himself, and she will find it very hard to come out into the world. She'll need a lot of support from people in terms of learning to communicate again, and the learning abilities she gained in the early part of her life will have to be brought back.

The dynamics of the whole family are a psychologist's nightmare to work out. How have the children in the basement developed and matured? How have they been mothered? Incest often occurs with the onset of puberty, when a child develops into adulthood. The father's feelings have shifted from the paternal love of his child and have made him see her as a sexual object rather than a daughter. Once that change has happened, it will have become all about his needs and wants being met."

The author is a consultant forensic psychologist who has helped police with numerous investigations, including the Suffolk prostitute murders

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week