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The 6-Year-Old Chained In A Closet By His Own Family | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN

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It was the year 2000 when we told his story. Back then we couldn't say his name or show his face, but so many of you were outraged. He was a six-year-old little boy who had endured some of the most heinous child abuse our nation had ever heard. Try to imagine what it would be like for a small child to be locked inside a closet very much like this one. Our crew reconstructed this closet based on police evidence photos. It is less than 2 feet by 2 fate-- by 2 feet. And inside, Clayton's little body-- look at this-- Clayton's little body was wrapped in a wire fence and then bound with chains like an animal. He wasn't given food for days. Sometimes he would eat pieces of a paper bag that were left in this closet. Even more unfathomable, this was not at the hands of strangers. While living in a small Indiana town, six-year-old Clayton was terrorized and brutally abused by the very people who are supposed to protect and care for him-- his father, Joseph, and stepmother, Carmen. For months, Clayton was locked inside an airless, dark bathroom closet, often for 24 hours at a time. Inside the closet was another horror. The small boy was tightly bound in wire fencing then wrapped and locked in chains. Clayton had to stand for agonizing hours on end, even while sleeping. His tiny neck and chest bore scars from the wire and chains cutting into his bare skin. When Clayton could no longer hold his bodily functions, he was forced to go to the bathroom on himself. His stepmother punished him by rubbing his own feces in his face. Then his father would urinate on him. The only kindness Clayton ever received was from his 14-year-old stepsister, who let him out and fed him cereal when both parents were away. While his stepsister was spared the cruel abuse, she was still desperate to escape. She ran away to Kentucky and was picked up by police. She begged them not to take her back home and eventually confessed her family's horrifying secret. So as I said, Clayton was just six years old when he was rescued from that closet. Back then he could not speak for himself about his unimaginable ordeal. Today he is a 19-year-old young man and telling his story in his own words for the first time. You'll be astonished at his resilience. Please welcome Clayton. [APPLAUSE] Howdy. Howdy. So welcome. Thank you. Welcome. Welcome. So what do you remember about those years? Do you remember the very first time you were put in the closet? I don't. I mean, I just-- I remember being in there and just wondering, you know, when am I going to get out? And just it seemed like forever, an eternity that I was in there. The police believed that you were locked in there for, what, three to six months, they say. Yes. Do you have any idea? I was in there quite a bit. I mean, very, very seldom was I let, you know, out. And when I was, I was locked in my bedroom. And do you remember your stepsister letting you out to feed you cereal? - Yes. Cheerios. OPRAH WINFREY: Cheerios. So, I mean, it was when they left-- very, very seldomly when they were both gone, you know, she'd let me out. I'd sit down watch TV with her, have cereal, a sandwich, whatever. You know, just-- Were there ever any other children around near you? I mean, outside maybe. OPRAH WINFREY: Yeah. I mean, could you-- could you ever, like, go and play with other children? CLAYTON: No. Never. I mean, I wasn't a kid at all. OPRAH WINFREY: Do you remember being in the closet and thinking, why? CLAYTON: I do. I'd just ask myself why. Why are you doing this to me? I wondered why I couldn't be a normal child and why I had to be confined and what I did wrong. I just never got it. Never understood. Could you-- did you have a sense of-- because many times when somebody has been treated badly for so long, that becomes their normal. But did you have a sense that other kids aren't treated this way, that this isn't normal, that this is wrong? I did. Most-- more so that, I mean, I was just wondering what I did wrong. I mean, they never-- never specifically I explained it to me. They just, you know, punished me. OPRAH WINFREY: So you would be screaming in the closet? Mmm hmm. CLAYTON: Yeah, and, I mean, it was just that. And what would happen when you were screaming in the closet? The soap. You know, they'd put dish soap in my mouth and just leave it. They wouldn't rinse it out. They wouldn't-- I mean, so I just had to, you know, endure that taste. And I mean, I just-- I still to this day, I can't stand the smell of it just because of-- you know. OPRAH WINFREY: And what would they be doing-- do you know-- while you were screaming in the closet? You know, anything from, you know, being at work-- from, you know, sitting and, you know, watching TV to showering together, you know, couple of feet away from me. Because this was in the bathroom? This closet was in the bathroom. CLAYTON: Yes, it was the bathroom. So when Clayton was first rescued, the police officer who interviewed him recorded the conversation. Now I know those of you who are here on our audience and in our audience outside of the studio can remember your own six-year-old self, and many of you can remember raising your children or are still raising your children who are at this age. So imagine this. OFFICER: Can you tell me what your name is? CLAYTON: Clayton. OFFICER: OK. You told me about a closet that you sometimes had to go to when you were bad? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: How did they keep you from getting out of the closet when they put you in there? CLAYTON: They had a lock on there, and I had a fence around me, chained up on the fence. It was wrapped around my legs, my, around-- OFFICER: Under your arms? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: OK. CLAYTON: That's how my arm pits hurt. OFFICER: Do you ever stay in there for a few days at a time before you ever come out? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: Without ever coming out? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: When you have that fence and chain around you, do you lay down in the closet or can you lay down? CLAYTON: I can't. It's too-- it's too little. OFFICER: So you sometimes stay in there all day and all night and have to sleep in there? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: Is it hot in the closet? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: Do you sweat? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: Did you ever get hungry while you were in the closet? CLAYTON: Real hungry and sometimes they didn't give me a drink when I was thirsty in the closet, and I was very thirsty. OFFICER: Did you ever go all day without eating? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: What about when you have to go to the bathroom? What do you have to do? CLAYTON: Sometimes I have to pee in a cup 'cause I have pee on my feet. OFFICER: You pee on your feet? CLAYTON: 'Cause I pee on the floor and I pee in my pants and it goes down my legs and it gets on the floor and I step in the pee. OFFICER: Do you ever cry while you're in there or holler for anybody to let you out? CLAYTON: I holler, and I cry. OFFICER: You cry? CLAYTON: Yeah. OFFICER: Does anybody come when you cry? CLAYTON: They wait a long time. If I don't shut up, they get the dish soap. You heard those tapes for the first time yesterday. Do you remember that conversation? CLAYTON: Ahh. Yeah, it just seems so surreal, like it happened, you know, yesterday. What happened to that little boy? He never got his childhood. I mean, I was adopted, and, I mean, I kind of got a little bit of a childhood afterwards. But, I mean, that chunk of my life, it just seems like from there, you know, from when I was born all the way up to being six, you know, there was no childhood for me. Have you seen your parents since you were rescued? CLAYTON: Nope, I haven't seen them since. Don't really want to. Yeah, because do you think of them as parents? They're always going to have that title just because, you know, well, Joseph is because, you know, he was my biological father, but I don't consider him my father and I have way better parents now. So, you know, lots of people have had horrible things happen to them, and everybody has a choice when horrible things happen to you, I think. You can choose to step out of that history and not be defined by your past no matter who you are and no matter how dark the past has been, or you can let that define your life. And you were telling me that you have made a decision to not let it define your life. So I know you haven't spoken before now. Why did you want to speak today? I just wanted to let everybody know, you know, to keep an eye out. You know, people had seen that I had been there at one time, and then also and I just was nowhere to be found. And they just-- they didn't think anything of it. I want people to see, you know, to pay attention to actually, you know, look into things like that. I also want to show people that, you know, you can come out of being, you know-- you can't let it define you to be a bad person. You have to grow from it and learn from it and be a better person. OPRAH WINFREY: Have you grieved it though? I mean, I can see you-- you're being strong here and you want to be strong, and I appreciate that. You want to be strong and not be too emotional about it. But have you given yourself a chance to grieve what happened to your little boy self? I went through counseling for a little while afterwards. I didn't feel like it was helping. I felt like, you know, I was handling it very well myself. I do maintain my composure, and, you know, it hurts inside. It's just really-- I mean, I'm a male, so it's hard for me to show those feelings to everybody else. But, I mean, I-- Because when you hear that little tape-- I mean, you could see people in the audience are crying when we hear your little boy voice because everybody remembers how little you are six years old and how trusting you are six years old. And when you hear that, you feel what for that little boy? CLAYTON: I feel bad. When you grow up, you lose that trust. And I-- you know, I trusted my father, and he ruined it.

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