Facebook

Twitter

iTunes

RSS

HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

« Performance-Enhancing Drugs: A Cheat Sheet | Main | Cleveland Kidnap Victims Step Out, but Experts Advise Caution »
Monday
Aug052013

Billionaire Twins Discuss Childhood of Abuse

American tobacco heiress Doris Duke. -- New York Times Co./Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Child abuse isn't pretty, no matter how much money you have.

Twins Georgia and Walker "Patterson" Inman III, now 15, are set to inherit $1 billion when they are 21. But in the meantime, the two, who are the only surviving heirs of Doris Duke, have been to hell and back, according to an interview in the latest edition of Rolling Stone magazine, "Poorest Rich Kids in the World.''

The teens described a life of plenty in their 10,000-square-foot Wyoming mountain retreat and a South Carolina plantation -- a pet lion cub, diamonds for show-and-tell and snorkeling in Fiji.

But juxtaposed against that was a slavelike childhood, being locked in a basement filled with feces and scalded by boiling baths.

They were terrified most of the time, "dead bolted" in their rooms at night where they had to relieve themselves in the corner, according to the interview. They were raised by various nannies and subjected to the explosive nature of their father.

"I never asked to be born into any of this," Georgia told Rolling Stone. "Sometimes I wish I was never born."

Their father, Duke's nephew Walker Patterson Inman Jr., was a heroin addict who got custody of the children when he divorced their mother when they were 2. Racking up five wives, he lived on an estimated $90,000 monthly inheritance.

Walker Jr. died of a methadone overdose in 2010. It was then that the twins moved in with their mother, a former model and his third wife, Daisha Inman, according to the magazine.

ABC News emailed and called Inman, 53, at her Park City, Utah, home, but no one responded.

The family had a few brushes with authorities, and several calls to social services stopped dead in their tracks. Once, police were called to a diner after Inman Jr. slapped his daughter "so hard, diners feared for her life," according to Rolling Stone. The twins were at one point sent to a mental hospital for three months.

What was most striking was that by and large, few people intervened to help the children.

"Absolutely, money does not protect you from abuse -- in fact, it seems like a lot of people were worried about reporting this potentially because of their money," said Jamie M. Howard, director of the stress and resilience program at the New York-based Child Mind Institute.

"It's really disheartening that people didn't reach out to child protective services," she said. "People don't realize you can make anonymous reports without fear of retribution....There were a lot of staff who were paid high salaries and could have felt threatened to lose their incomes."

Both children reported that they had considered suicide and suffered from anorexia.

In the interview, Georgia said of her wealth, "People can look at this as a blessing all day long, but it's blood money."

Some might argue that is a fitting description of the family fortune, culled from the Lucky Strike cigarette brand. Duke became the "richest little girl in the world," when she inherited $100 million in 1947, the only child of tobacco tycoon James Buchanan "Buck" Duke.

But the 6-foot-tall glamour queen went on to do good works, donating much to North Carolina's Duke University, which had been named for her tobacco-growing ancestors, and the Duke Energy Corporation. Her Doris Duke Charitable Foundation gives away hundreds of millions of dollars, championing good causes around the world.

Walker Inman Jr. was taken in by Duke, his father's half-sister, when he was 13. His father, an alcoholic, died when he was 2; his mother died when he was 6.

But Duke, known for her sexual escapades, was a half-hearted guardian and stripped Inman of executor powers, giving them to her butler. She gave almost all of her fortune to charity, leaving her disgruntled nephew only $7 million.

But Walker Jr.'s children also inherited money through their grandmother, who was Doris Duke's mother, and his father, Duke's half-brother.

Judy Kuriansky, a psychologist at Columbia University's Teachers College, didn't treat the Inman twins, but suggests dysfunction begets dysfunction.

"This is a generational problem escalated over time," said Kuriansky. "Their father is really passing on his own abuse from a generation before and so these kids, in a sense, have very little chance."

"When you think about this family, it seems almost like the problems with Michael Jackson's kids," she said. "They were so sequestered and treated so strangely and brought up so separate from society....This family is the Michael Jackson situation times a hundred."

The twins were recently suspended from a private school in Utah for about $25,000 in unpaid tuition and late fees, according to Forbes magazine. Their mother is involved in a legal battle with Citibank and JP Morgan over the handling of the children's trust funds.

Court filings, according to Forbes, show outlandish requests for cash: $6,000 for a Halloween party, $1,000 per month for her children to eat out, especially at Starbucks. The monthly allotment for the twins is $16,000, which Daisha Inman claims is far less than the $180,000 a month their father spent before he died.

The twins told Rolling Stone that when they were 12, their father's fifth wife, Daralee, crashed into a tree, drunk at 7:30 a.m. when she was driving them to school. They were shaken, but uninjured.

At the same time, isolated from society, the teens said in the interview that they had never heard of the game musical chairs and still believed in Santa Claus.

"Dear Santa, I know I haven't been good, but if you do come all I want is to say hi to you in person," Patterson recently wrote, according to Rolling Stone.

According to Forbes, when the children were returned to Daisha Inman in 2010, they began "intensive" counseling to "rekindle their relationship" with their mother.

Psychologist Howard, who has not treated the Inman twins, said that the magazine interview may have been a first step for the twins in an attempt to rebuild their lives in therapy.

"This kind of longstanding and chronic and severe trauma and abuse and neglect definitely disrupts a typical child's development," she said.

"Typical tasks are harder to achieve," said Howard. "One of the first is the infant or toddler's secure attachment to the caregiver, relying on someone to meet their needs. That's how we develop the capacity to trust each other."

She said it is plausible that 15-year-olds could still believe in Santa because of disruptions in cognitive development, as well as isolation.

"Magical thinking can persist in a kid who has experienced long-term abuse," said Howard. "They are living in their imagination as an escape."

The twins may have been lucky, at least, to have each other. "It may have been the social support," she said. "Going through this alone is harder than with someone else....A child alone [blames himself and] thinks he is really bad. A child with someone else thinks, 'Dad didn't want us.' It's less personal."

It's never too late to address the traumatic effects of abuse and there are good treatments to increase the capacity to trust, ease anxieties and to regulate emotions, according to Howard.

"Telling their story is one of the parts of trauma treatment," said Howard.

She said the Rolling Stone interview is a strong reminder to people to "do the right thing and make a phone call if kids are living in horrible conditions."

"My hope is that they come out of this," said Howard. "It could be a step in therapy, and hope they are protected and have the privacy to develop the appropriate narrative for themselves."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio