FILED IN: Child Abuse

Oprah: Tortured 7 year old girl who lived in dog cage finally speaks

Chelsea, girl who was tortured and made to live in dog cage talks to Oprah. Screen shot via Oprah Winfrey Show.
Chelsea, a 21 year old girl from Brillion, Wisconsin whose name was not known 14 years ago when she was referred to as “girl in cage”, opened up for the first time on Oprah today. Fourteen years ago, Chelsea was the victim of relentless torture. The abuse was brought to the attention of the local, Brillion Wisconsin police department by one of Chelsea’s 4 brothers. Chelsea was only 7 years old at the time she was forced to sleep in a tiny dog cage in her family’s basement. She tells Oprah today that she didn’t even know that her house had a yard because she was confined for so long. Cold and scared, Chelsea goes onto tell Oprah about the minor infraction that prompted her parents to imprison her in the dark, damp, confined dog cage.

Chelsea explains that at first she was locked in closet with little to nothing to eat. Her 4 brothers were also abused, but not to the extent that Chelsea, the only girl, was. One of her brothers let her out of the closet one day and proceeded to break into candy drawer to pillage for food. When her mother found out, she was “furious”, according to Chelsea. She locked the two boys out of the house without shoes or coats in the harsh Wisconsin winter elements and from that point forward, Chelsea was confined to a dog cage.

Although she doesn’t remember all the details, she does remember certain parts of the torture. She had only a small tan blanket which she believes couldn’t have been enough to keep her warm. There was no bathroom, so she was forced to find places on the cement to relieve herself and would then get into further trouble for going to the bathroom on the floor.

The nightmare finally ended when one of her brothers walked to the police station, barefoot and alerted the police to the abuse. Police went to the house and found little Chelsea, curled up in a dark basement inside a tiny dog cage. Chelsea’s biological parents, Michael and Angeline Rogers, both 28 at the time, were only sentenced to one year in prison.

Even more heartbreaking, older news reports suggest that poor Chelsea might have deserved this torture and that her parents had no choice. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, dated September 16, 1988, the absurd allegation towards little Chelsea was reported the following way:

Court records that were kept secret until now to protect confidential information involving the girl and her four brothers describe Michael and Angeline Rogers’ failure to cope after learning the girl had a mental disorder.

The Rogerses, who were sentenced to one year in jail Friday instead of being sent to prison, abused the girl after episodes in which she put feces into milk in the family’s refrigerator and wrapped a sheet around her infant brother’s neck, testimony and court records say.

While society can’t excuse the actions of the parents, who had faced up to 40 years in prison, the issues surrounding the case are more complex than it first seemed, according to experts who have studied the case.

When the girl was 3, a psychologist diagnosed her as having a mental condition known as oppositional defiance disorder. Its symptoms include deliberately annoying people, defying adults’ requests and being angry, resentful and spiteful.

Two psychologists and a psychiatrist, who examined the girl before the parents were arrested, later agreed with that diagnosis.

Chelsea, who is now 21 years old, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show with a message of hope. She surprised Oprah with her poise, positive attitude and determination. Oprah described her as a “survivor”. Chelsea is now the proud mother of an 18 month old son, who she adores and says the experience has made her a better mother because now she knows what “not to do”. She also tells of a life after being rescued — having been shuttled from foster home to foster home which she describes as leaving her without stability and consequently adding to ongoing mental abuse. However, in the face of such horror, it would seem from the interview that she has found a way to persevere and move on. Chelsea admits that she’s received very little counseling in which Oprah encouraged her to seek out for the sake of her son.