Chinese-born woman sues adoptive US parents for using her as a slave, locking her in a ‘dungeon’ for years
A young Chinese American woman is suing her adoptive New Hampshire parents for treating her like a slave for years.
The suit, which was filed Monday in Merrimack County Superior Court, also names multiple co-defendants, including the state’s child protection system, the local school district, New Boston police and a Massachusetts adoption agency. The agencies allegedly ignored the plaintiff’s situation, partly because she was a minority child.
Olivia Atkocaitis, now 19, was adopted from China at the age of 14 months in 2004.
The abuse allegedly began when she was 3, with her being tied to a metal column with a dog leash, as per WMUR.
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Olivia said her parents, Thomas and Denise Atkocaitis, built her an 8-by-8-foot room in their home’s basement, which is described in the suit as a “dungeon.”
She would reportedly spend the next several years locked up.
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The Atkocaitis family had three biological children. They lived in a four-bedroom, 4,300-square-foot New Boston residence that sits on 27 acres of land next to a state forest, as per New Hampshire Union Leader.
Olivia’s dungeon allegedly had only one window, which was secured with chicken wire. She used a bucket for a toilet, causing their home to smell, according to her siblings.
Olivia was allegedly freed from her dungeon to do multiple chores, including tending to farm animals and massaging her mother.
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The suit says she repeatedly attempted to escape as a child, but local police would always return her home.
When Olivia attempted to escape, as she did repeatedly as a child, local police hunted her down, reprimanded her for escaping, and returned her to servitude. During her last effort at escape, the police used dogs to track her.
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Olivia allegedly attended school only once, while her siblings studied in public schools. In 2011, one sibling reported to a school counselor that Olivia — then 8 years old — was starved, whipped and pushed down the stairs.
The school allegedly notified New Boston police and New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). But the police only photographed Olivia’s dungeon, while DCYF only moved her sibling who reported the abuse out of their home.
As a result, Olivia allegedly suffered more years of abuse. However, it all ended in 2018 when she managed to escape.
Thomas and Denise were subsequently charged.
Denise pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment and received a minimal jail sentence, while Thomas pleaded guilty to felony criminal restraint and avoided jail altogether.
The suit also claims that Olivia’s adoption agency, nonprofit Wide Horizons for Children, learned during a pre-placement investigation that one of the Atkocaitis children was beaten with a belt by their father. The agency notified DCYF, but the latter never investigated, the suit said.
Wide Horizons last inspected the home in May 2005, according to the suit. In its report, it said Thomas and Denise were “devoted to their children, and they are raising them in a loving, Christian home, where each child is thriving.”
Michael Lewis, Olivia’s lawyer, believes the state “permitted slavery to exist in its jurisdiction.”
“Her life was a nightmare, in that she was treated in the most vile fashion. And as the lawsuit indicates, the people who should have protected her didn't. And it's shocking,” Lewis told WMUR.
The suit alleges Olivia was denied her rights under the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.
“It takes enormous courage to do something like what she's done here,” Lewis added. “And the big question is whether she's going to be punished for doing that or whether there's going to be an acceptance of some level of responsibility.”