In the early hours of Jan. 4, 2018, Jordan Turpin quietly slipped out of a window of her family’s home, where she and her 12 siblings had been held in captivity for years.
With trembling hands, Jordan dialed 911 on an old cell phone. She told the dispatcher that she and her siblings desperately needed help. Their parents had been holding them prisoner in their home. They were beaten, starved and often shackled to furniture for months at a time.
“They hit us … they like to throw us across the room. They pull out our hair,” Jordan, then 17, told the dispatcher. “My two little sisters right now are chained up.”
“I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is,” she said on the call.
It was the first time Jordan had ever talked to anyone on a phone.
When authorities arrived at the Turpins' residence in Perris, California, later dubbed a "House of Horrors" in the media, they discovered 12 malnourished victims in filthy conditions. Some of the children were tied to their beds. Some were so emaciated they could barely walk.
“Sometimes it doesn’t feel real,” Jordan says in an exclusive interview with TODAY.com. “I just feel so blessed to be free and to be able to try new things.”
David and Louise Turpin were sentenced to life in prison in 2019, after pleading guilty to 14 counts of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment.
The nightmare didn’t end for the Turpin children. Six of the 13 siblings, including Jordan, were placed in foster homes where they say they were physically, sexually and emotionally abused. The California Department of Social Services tells TODAY.com through a spokesperson that it cannot comment on specific cases.
Jordan, who opened up to TODAY.com in a wide-ranging interview on Jan. 23, was asked by her lawyer not to speak about the ongoing lawsuits over their time in foster care. But Jordan did offer one piece of advice:
"Social workers should listen,” Jordan, 22, says. “Like if a kid goes to you and says, ‘This is happening in the foster home,’ look into it. I just wish they had listened to me. And that’s all I can say.”
Today Jordan and her siblings are finally safe. Jordan lives in a light-filled Los Angeles-area apartment with a stocked refrigerator. The walls are decorated with motivational quotes and there are splashes everywhere of purple, Jordan’s favorite color. Jordan’s siblings are regular overnight guests. Life is good.
After being assessed at a third-grade level when she escaped her family home in 2018, Jordan went on to earn a high school diploma.
Jordan loves sharing dance videos on TikTok, where she has more than 924,000 followers. When they were still living with their parents, Jordan and her sister Jeanetta used to distract the others by making up songs.
“We would sing to make our little siblings feel like they were at a concert,” Jordan reveals. “I wanted to show them that there was another world out there and that we were going to be free one day. I wanted to be a role model.”
Now, she says, posing for pictures as a model comes easily.
“Once the camera is on me, I’m ready to go,” she says.
Photographer Jessica Gillette, who worked with Jordan last year, couldn't agree more.
"She's super sweet and has a very young energy — but once we got to work, this like, womanly diva came out of her. She surprised me," Gillette tells TODAY.com. "She also listens and takes directions really well."
When asked if she wants her parents to see her modeling photos, Jordan says she doesn’t really care. They don’t motivate her decisions, she says. She’s focused on inspiring others.
“No matter how bad it is, there is a way out — and it does get better,” she says. “It won’t ever go away … like when you go through that kind of trauma, you can’t forget it. But it will get better— and there’s hope. You can heal from it.”
“Life is hard,” she continues, on a video call with TODAY.com where she seems bubbly and at times much younger than her age. “But whatever you go through, you can choose where you let that take you. I’m turning what I went through into something positive by helping others.”
Adjusting to adulthood after a childhood of abuse isn't easy. Jordan remembers struggling when she worked at Taco Bell in 2021.
“I had just gotten out of an abusive situation and so I was always, like, jumpy. I would say ‘sorry’ every five seconds,” Jordan recalls. Some of the teenagers would pick on me. I tried not to let it get to me — but sometimes I would go in the bathroom and cry.”
Still, searching for the silver lining, she says, “I learned a lot there.”
Jordan lights up when she talks about her brothers and sisters and how far they’ve come in four years. When Jordan escaped from her parents' home in 2018, she didn’t even know what medication or pills were. She had never walked on a sidewalk.
“We’re all very fast learners,” Jordan tells TODAY.com, her voice oozing with pride. “Me and my siblings, we have a lot of talents — and now we can embrace those talents.”
Jordan hopes to become a motivational speaker and dreams of writing books. She says she also wants to use her voice to improve the “broken” foster care system.
“People should become foster parents because they want to help kids. They want to help them from the bad situation they came from,” Jordan says. “Some people have other motives to do it.”
Jordan hopes to have a family of her own one day — she wants three kids and 10 dogs — but for now, she’s enjoying being a mom to two Pomeranians. She’s also focusing on herself.
“I didn’t come from just one bad situation, I came from multiple bad situations, and I have a lot of healing to do,” Jordan says. “This stuff still keeps me up at night.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com