The pink-sided bungalow perched on a quaint street in Greene County, Missouri was the perfect home for beloved mother-daughter duo Claudine “Dee Dee” and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. What appeared to be a home to a mother acting as caregiver to her sickly daughter actually hid the torment that had been occurring for years behind those bright walls.

For years, Gypsy was abused by her “caregiver” mother, who was later diagnosed with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Dee Dee falsified Gypsy’s medical records by claiming that she suffered from multiple illnesses including muscular dystrophy, leukemia and various seizures. In order to satisfy Dee Dee’s need for her daughter to be dependent on her, she bound Gypsy to a wheelchair after she fell off of her grandfather’s motorcycle and scraped her knee. While the doctor’s claimed Gypsy was fine and only had a minor scratch, Dee Dee believed that allowing Gypsy to walk would further damage her legs, thus condemning her to life in a wheelchair. Aside from falsifying Gypsy’s medical records, and constantly lying about her true age, Dee Dee tormented Gypsy by giving her an unmandated feeding tube that not only caused Gypsy indescribable pain, but also allowed Dee Dee to force unnecessary medication into her daughter.

After years of suffering from such violent abuse, Gypsy met Nicholas Godejohn online who helped to plan and execute her mother’s murder. In the late hours of June 14, 2015, as Dee Dee was sound asleep, Gypsy allowed Godejohn to enter their home where she stayed hidden in the bathroom as he violently stabbed Dee Dee to death. Only a short while later, Gypsy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for second degree murder, and Godejohn is currently serving a lifetime sentence without parole.

Since the breaking news of her mother’s murder and the falsification of Gypsy’s illnesses, many individuals have argued that Gypsy is not the criminal in this case, but rather a victim of her mother’s immoral abuse. During the times Gypsy has had interviews with the press regarding her childhood and the murder of her mother, and after all of the abusive actions Gypsy suffered through, the most chilling statement ever uttered from her was that she feels “freer in prison” than she did living with her mother. Imagine how harrowing her life with Dee Dee was that she believes she is freer and happier behind prison bars. The life of trauma, constant doctor visits and consciously lying to the media to satisfy her mother’s need for reliance should not be punitive by prison. Gypsy does not need punishment, she needs rehabilitation. While she may have helped planned a true immoral act, Dee Dee Blanchard was the true perpetrator in this case.

Gypsy is not receiving the proper treatment she needs by being forced to live in a suffocating cell. The trauma that her mother inflicted upon her will not merely go away with time; she needs professional help and therapeutic treatment to help ensure that once she is released she will be able to properly function and not suffer from a life of post-traumatic stress and inability to cope.

In Gypsy’s life justice has not been served, rather the system has failed her multiple times. However, the greatest failure in her life was in her mother, and now she is continuing to be wrongfully punished for a life of pain she did not ask for. Looking at the story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, our system needs to stop punishing and start protecting.

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