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  5. Gypsy Rose Blanchard was a victim of Munchausen by proxy. Experts explain why moms are often behind the abuse.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard was a victim of Munchausen by proxy. Experts explain why moms are often behind the abuse.

Rebecca Rommen   

Gypsy Rose Blanchard was a victim of Munchausen by proxy. Experts explain why moms are often behind the abuse.
  • Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a form of child abuse where a parent or carer fabricates symptoms of illness in a child.
  • It is also known as fabricated or induced illness (FII), per the UK's National Health Service.

"I really did think it was me and my mom against the world. I thought she was my best friend," Jordyn Hope, a Munchausen by proxy advocate who was medically abused by their mother, told Business Insider.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy, also known as fabricated or induced illness (FII), is a form of child abuse that grabbed headlines late last year following the release of Gypsy Rose Blanchard from prison.

Blanchard served eight years after being convicted for her role in the murder of her mother, Clauddine "Dee Dee" Blanchard.

"I just wanted out of my situation, and I thought that was the only way out," Gypsy Rose Blanchard said in an interview on Good Morning America following her release.

Following Blanchard's arrest, it came to light that Dee Dee had spent much of Gypsy Rose's life persuading her and others that her daughter was terminally ill and forcing her to undergo many unnecessary medical procedures.

While Blanchard's story was an extraordinary tale of deceit and abuse, she is one of many to have suffered from the abuse.

Business Insider spoke to several experts and one victim about who typically carries out the crime.

Hope, whose pronouns are they/them, said their mother subjected them to numerous hospital visits and treatments for made-up illnesses.

"My mom claimed I had rare blood diseases, saying I had neutropenia which is a rare disease that affects white blood cells," they said.

Hope now knows that they don't have neutropenia, but they were made to believe they did until the age of 22.

They were even put through unnecessary major back surgery and a spinal fusion at 15, leaving them with four screws and two rods in their back, they added.

Hope's story is reflective of a much wider pattern that shows that women are often behind the abuse.

Studies suggest moms are often the perpetrators

A study published by the National Library of Medicine in 2017 found that in many cases of Munchausen by proxy, women were the perpetrators.

The report, which looked at 796 cases of the abuse, found that 97.6% of the offenders were women and 95.6% were the victim's mother.

Beatrice Yorker, a professor at the California State University, Los Angeles's College of Health, told BI that this was likely due to "women's roles in society."

"This is their domain. This is where women have the utmost power and control over their children," she said.

Marc Feldman, an expert in Munchausen by proxy, agreed, saying that as women are frequently the primary caregivers for children, "they simply have more access" — and it is often a "crime of opportunity."

Andrea Dunlop, who created the podcast Nobody Should Believe Me, a hit true crime show about Munchausen by proxy, said "abusers will look for places where they have power because abuse is an abuse of power."

"One of the only places that we give women authority is over children. This arena of managing a child's medical care is the place where we cede full authority to the female parents," Dunlop added.

Father figures are also often absent in cases of Munchausen by proxy, Hope added.

This was the case for Blanchard, whose parents separated shortly before she was born.

Rod Blanchard had been so in the dark about his daughter's true health that the first time he saw her walk was in a news report on her arraignment hearing following Dee Dee's murder, BuzzFeed News reported.

He said he was so confused that his first thought was how happy he was that she was walking, per the report.

Why Munchausen by proxy occurs

There is no definite answer as to why this form of abuse occurs, but the UK's National Health Service (NHS) says it may be influenced by the the parent or carer attempting to gain something, "such as attention, support or closeness to the child."

It adds that it may also stem from having "anxiety or incorrect beliefs about their child's health, and they need these beliefs to be confirmed and acted upon."

Perpetrators are usually seeking "attention, sympathy, and care," Feldman said, adding that this could become exasperated in women after giving birth, when their personalities can be "subsumed under the category of mother or superwoman."

"They're defined by their children, not by their own achievements," he said.

Emma Milne, an associate professor in criminal law and criminal justice from the University of Durham whose research interests include gender and crime, told BI that she believed fabricated illness as a form of abuse was "mostly a consequence of a psychiatric condition."

The NHS notes that many of the perpetrators of the abuse have "borderline personality disorders characterised by emotional instability, impulsiveness and disturbed thinking."

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