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

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Theresa May doesn’t get it - banning ideas we don’t like is to suggest that we are frightened of them

Mike Harris
David Cameron gives his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham  

Conservative Party Conference: Here's what David Cameron said in his speech…and what he meant

John Rentoul
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?