I’m sure everyone has heard of Gypsy Rose Blanchard in one way or another at this point with her recent media tour and a new lifetime documentary regarding her life. If you are unaware of who Gypsy Rose is let me give you a little background on who she is and why her case is important in the family law realm.
Gypsy Rose Blanchard is most famously known for the assistance in the murder of her mother and only receiving 10 years in prison for this case. However, many people see her murder as justified as a girl who had been abused all her life, felt she had no way out of this mess, and assisted with the murder of her mother due to the years of abuse she endured. From as early as 3 months old, her mother Dee Dee claimed that Gypsy had serious medical concerns. She underwent many unnecessary medical procedures that included procedures on her eyes, being fed through a feeding tube, removal of her salivary glands, etc. The list continues on. Gypsy Rose was confined to a wheelchair under the assumption that she could not walk. Because of the serious health concerns, Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose received numerous monetary donations, a house built for them through Habitat for Humanity and other such support.
Now if you have never heard of the Blanchards, you may be thinking okay, what’s wrong with donations and a devoted mother caring for her ill child, however, Gypsy Rose never suffered these ailments and was made to believe she was younger than she was and that she was sick, all due to the fault of her mother. It came out after the murder of Dee Dee that Dee Dee had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy or sometimes called Factitious Disorder imposed on another (FDIA). This disorder is a complex and rare form of child abuse where a caregiver, usually a parent, fabricates illnesses of another person under their care. The caregiver either exaggerates or makes up illness leading the child to undergo unnecessary medical procedures, testing, and surgeries. One may ask, how does this occur? Well, when Dee Dee realizes that medical professionals start to catch on regarding these fictious telling’s of mysterious illnesses, Dee would change medical offices or providers, often called Doctor Shopping.
Now, here’s where family law comes into play… What would have occurred had Gypsy Rose, someone on behalf of Gypsy Rose as a Guardian ad Litem, or even a family member gone to the Family Court for assistance, rather than Gypsy taking matters into her own hands and assisting in the murder of her mother, simply to escape the years of abuse she had been through?
Here, I strongly believe that either Gypsy Rose herself or someone on her behalf could have obtained a Domestic Violence Restraining Order seeking protection for Gypsy from her mother, Dee Dee. Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVTRO’s) are utilized to protect a person from current or future harm. There are 6 categories of relationships that fall under a DVTRO with those being: (1) a spouse or former spouse, (2) a “cohabitant”, (3) a person who was involved in a dating or engagement relationship with the other, (4) a coparent (mother and father of the same child) (5) a child of a parent or (6) blood relatives, meaning that any person that falls under those categories can obtain a restraining order against the other. Another way to obtain a DVTRO is via guardian ad litem. A child over the age of 12 may obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order on their own behalf, however, child under the age of 12 must have a neutral third-party file the DVTRO on their behalf.
To obtain a restraining order, the person seeking it must show past acts of abuse. The word “abuse” is broadly defined and includes intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, placing a person in “reasonable apprehension” of imminent (immediate) serious bodily injury or engaging in any of the following behavior, as defined by Family Code section 6320: “molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls as described in Section 653m of the Penal Code, destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party, and, in the discretion of the court, on a showing of good cause, of other named family or household members.”
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is a form of medical child abuse, which is covered under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act in California, meaning that any one of the parties listed above could have likely successfully obtained a restraining order protecting Gypsy Rose from Dee Dee and had her removed from her care. I know that Gypsy’s case goes much deeper into the nature of Dee Dee and her ability to alienate Gypsy from family and friends, however, had only one person attempted to speak up on behalf of Gypsy and go through the Family Law Courts, we may have one saved child and one more alive human.