House of Horrors Survivor Jordan Turpin Breaks Silence on Foster Care Trauma: 'I'm Trying to Heal'

The courageous 21 year old — who escaped extreme parental abuse 4 years ago — opens up about enduring more pain in foster care and finding "light" in her 12 siblings

People.July 27, 2022

By Melody Chiu

For the first time in her life, Jordan Turpin has her own safe haven.

The courageous 21-year-old woman, whose harrowing escape from the so-called "House of Horrors" captivated the nation four years ago, has been settling into her first apartment in Southern California over the last few months.

"At first it was scary. It's expensive, and you're not aware of how much you're gonna need," Jordan — who saved herself and her 12 siblings from a lifetime of parental abuse — tells PEOPLE exclusively in her first interview since leaving the foster care system. "But I love design and decorating, and I'm a very organized person."

Most importantly, Jordan finally feels free.

"Sometimes I walk into my apartment and literally think, 'Is this real?' I'm more independent and can just be myself. This is everything I ever wanted," she says. "I've been feeling like my life is about to actually start."

For 17 years, Jordan — alongside her brothers and sisters, who ranged in age from 2 to 29 at the time of their rescue — endured extreme abuse at the hands of their parents, David and Louise Turpin. (In February 2019, they pleaded guilty on 14 felony counts of abuse and were sentenced to life in prison.)

Yet, Jordan and five of her siblings say their nightmare continued when they were placed in an abusive foster home. On July 20, Jordan and those siblings (identified as Jane and John Does) filed lawsuits against Riverside County and ChildNet Youth and Family Services, a private foster care agency.

In the complaints, they allege not only that the foster family had a prior history of abusing children, but also that the organizations were aware of that history — and failed to act even after the children asked for help.

The complaints referenced that in March 2021, the foster parents, Marcelino and Rosa Olguin, and their adult daughter Lennys Olguin, had been arrested and charged with multiple counts of child abuse. Marcelino has also been charged with committing lewd acts on children. (All three have pleaded not guilty.)

"I'm not ready to go into details about what happened to me in that home. I was very traumatized, and it's been a very scary journey," she says quietly. "It was really hard to understand the first situation [with my parents]. Then going into another, that was just really, really hard. You have all these questions and you just don't get the answer."

She hasn't spoken to David and Louise in years, and she plans to keep that door closed.

"I still have nightmares. I can't imagine if I ever kept in contact with them," she says. "There's no way I would be able to heal."

Even as she suffered in foster care, Jordan — who taught herself basic math, reading and writing in captivity — found joy in schoolwork.

An assessment test placed her at a third-grade level, but "I was a fast learner and would literally want extra homework," she says. "Math, government and economics were the hardest, but that's why I liked them."

Within a year she had caught up to high school junior level — and at 18, she entered a school building for the first time.

"It was so cool because I've never been around people my age other than my siblings," says Jordan, who used a different last name at the time for confidentiality reasons. "I made friends within two weeks. Every time someone would ask me questions [about my past], they'd say, 'She's too shy. She won't answer!' I loved it."

After finishing high school, she dreamed of attending college. "It was always being put off," she says.

A month before the Riverside County Sheriff's Department arrested the Olguins in March 2021, Jordan was placed into a different foster home.

"They separated me from my younger siblings and basically left me to be homeless," she says. (Although Jordan had been placed with the new family, she says she was then kicked out while she was visiting her older sister.)

She also later discovered that documents filed in court erroneously stated she was in college and residing in her own apartment. "[Someone] gave false information to the judge," she says. "That's what hurts the most."

Despite not having stable housing, she was finally able to enroll in college — but her depression was crippling.

"It was impossible to sleep. Every time my eyes would close, I dreamed about being [in my first foster home]," she says. "I had to go to the emergency room a lot. I was really, really broken."

Last summer she gave her first interview to Diane Sawyer for ABC News. "I wasn't doing well," Jordan — who was joined by her older sister Jennifer — says now of that time. "But I felt we weren't the only ones being treated wrong in the system — and I wanted to help my siblings."

After the ABC special, she finally saw change. "The people that really know they messed up were just gone," she says. "Some quit and said, 'I don't work here anymore.'"

Kate (her last name is being kept private for confidentiality), someone who works closely with Jordan, marvels at her resilience.

"Jordan has a fighting spirit that has continued to blossom as she is finding new independence. Watching her embrace her autonomy has been a joy to witness. Independence comes with its challenges, but watching her grow in a sense of empowerment reminds me how strong and resilient Jordan is," says Kate. "And she is hilarious! Her humor, again, in the face of adversity, is striking."

Jordan also remains "very, very" close to her 12 siblings. "We have inside jokes and have so much fun together," she says of her brothers and sisters, who all joined her at a Justin Bieber concert this past March. "After everything that happened, and after escaping, I'm so protective over each one. They always know they have me."

As she navigates her future — Jordan plans to write a memoir and become a motivational speaker one day — she is determined to help others facing similar struggles.

"I want to take what I went through and turn it into something positive," says Jordan, who copes on hard days by journaling, writing songs and exploring the outdoors. "I want people to know they're not alone. There is a way out."

Over the last year, she's amassed 750,000 followers on her joyful TikTok account, where she shares beauty tips and viral dance clips.

Her biggest dream, she says, is that someone watching is finding strength through her story.

"The best thing that can happen to me is seeing that I made someone's day. Sometimes I get comments like, 'I can relate to this,' and that makes me so excited," she says. "I'm very thankful and blessed that I can be there to help others and make a difference."

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