January 26, 2017
When Lauren was a 2, her mother, Barbara, and stepfather, Kenneth, locked her in a dark closet. They held her captive for the next six years, where she was starved, infested with lice, and surrounded by human waste. Lauren says when her parents did allow her out of the closet; it was only for more punishment and abuse. Neither Lauren’s older sister, Blake, nor their four younger siblings, were singled out for the same torment.
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Blake, who asserts she currently has no contact with Barbara claims she and the others “were “completely brainwashed” by their parents into believing that the child they called “that girl,” “it,” and “the problem” deserved to be shut away. Just three years older than Lauren, Blake says she was able to sneak food to her a few times, but was scared, and lacked the resources to get her sister the help she needed. She says she feels guilty every day that she wasn’t able to do more for Lauren. Lauren maintains she never blamed Blake for anything.
Barbara and Kenneth Atkinson are serving life sentences for what they did to Lauren. Barbara recently posted a video to Lauren in which she claimed she was sorry for what she did to her daughter, saying, “I don’t know the right words to say to you to explain what I did ... I don’t think there are any words … But Lauren rejected her mother’s words, saying they made her “super angry.”
Dr. Phil talks to the sisters, who are now adults, about the power of forgiveness; including forgiving their mother – but not for her sake – for theirs.
Noting that he believes Barbara lacks empathy, he says, “But I recognize that she is a very mentally ill person. I hope at some point that you find it within you to forgive her, not for her, but for you.”
“She can control you from prison by engaging you in bitterness and anger and hatred,” continues Dr. Phil.
“And I’m not saying you’re ready to turn that loose at this point, but I do want you to understand that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you’re saying what they did was OK.
“That doesn’t mean, ‘OK, well, we’re going to forget that, and we’re just gonna say that ‘that’s OK.’ That’s not what we’re saying.
“Forgiving them says, ‘Look, that’s going to be between you and God, but I’m not going to spend another second of my life invested in you.’”
Will the sisters take his words to heart? Watch the full episode, Thursday.
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