David Bisson

ON 19 August 1982 the inhabitants of a house in Bretigny, an outer suburb of Paris, found a little boy curled up under a bush in their garden. He was strangely clad in an anorak, a bonnet and large tennis shoes. His hands were disfigured, with webbed fingers and burn scars. At first they thought he was dead, but upon hearing them speak he sprang up: 'Don't send me back home please,' he begged them. A truant? Schools were closed for summer. An escapee? Many children run away from home in a huff, get lost, and are glad to be restored to their worried parents. But this boy did not know his own address: 'I was locked up in a cupboard . . . I have never been to school . . . I don't know how to read and write,' he said in a thin, halting voice. They called the police. The boy's story seemed too horrific to be true. Although he had the body of a six-year-old, he told them he was 12, and had been imprisoned by his mother for eight years, first chained to a pipe in the bathroom, then under her bed, and for the last year locked in a small cupboard. His mother subjected him to a routine of appalling 'punishments' - one day he was brutally beaten, another burnt with cigarettes, or forced to eat his own vomit if he could not keep his food down. At best he was fed scraps, at worst deprived of food for days at a time. L'Enfant Derriere La Porte - 'The Boy Behind the Door' is written with the help of a psychotherapist, Evangeline de Schonen: 'I listened to him talk and recorded him for nearly a year, then after a period of gestation, wrote it simply in chronological order.' David Bisson is small and thin, with deep blue eyes, a gentle smile and dignified manners. He speaks hesitatingly, at an almost inaudible volume: 'Dr Laine helped me to get rid of my hatred, and to understand the reasons for my mother's behaviour. The physical pain goes, but mental pain . . . I could not have done it without him.'

David Bisson

ON 19 August 1982 the inhabitants of a house in Bretigny, an outer suburb of Paris, found a little boy curled up under a bush in their garden. He was strangely clad in an anorak, a bonnet and large tennis shoes. His hands were disfigured, with webbed fingers and burn scars. At first they thought he was dead, but upon hearing them speak he sprang up: 'Don't send me back home please,' he begged them. A truant? Schools were closed for summer. An escapee? Many children run away from home in a huff, get lost, and are glad to be restored to their worried parents. But this boy did not know his own address: 'I was locked up in a cupboard . . . I have never been to school . . . I don't know how to read and write,' he said in a thin, halting voice. They called the police. The boy's story seemed too horrific to be true. Although he had the body of a six-year-old, he told them he was 12, and had been imprisoned by his mother for eight years, first chained to a pipe in the bathroom, then under her bed, and for the last year locked in a small cupboard. His mother subjected him to a routine of appalling 'punishments' - one day he was brutally beaten, another burnt with cigarettes, or forced to eat his own vomit if he could not keep his food down. At best he was fed scraps, at worst deprived of food for days at a time. L'Enfant Derriere La Porte - 'The Boy Behind the Door' is written with the help of a psychotherapist, Evangeline de Schonen: 'I listened to him talk and recorded him for nearly a year, then after a period of gestation, wrote it simply in chronological order.' David Bisson is small and thin, with deep blue eyes, a gentle smile and dignified manners. He speaks hesitatingly, at an almost inaudible volume: 'Dr Laine helped me to get rid of my hatred, and to understand the reasons for my mother's behaviour. The physical pain goes, but mental pain . . . I could not have done it without him.'

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