The Girl in the Cage: How Michelle Stevens Survived a Horrific Childhood

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When we explore True Crime stories—I’m always amazed and inspired by the strength and resilience of the human spirit. But Dr. Oz and I’ve never been more inspired than when we met Michelle Stevens.

Most survivors of this level of trauma, violence, and crime cope by numbing the pain through drugs. So it was remarkable to meet a survivor who used her past as a case study for her doctorate thesis.

To appreciate who Michelle Stevens is today, we must go back to the beginning.

It all started with a doll. A genuine replication of an antique bisque. Michelle’s mom found it in an antique store for $300.  A layaway plan was set up. Every few weeks, her mother would drag her back to the store and hand the lady a few more bucks. At eight years old, she didn’t think much of this. Little did she know she was being stalked.

There was a man at the store, a fifth-grade teacher who owned the place as a side business. Gary Lundquist had a penchant for toys and games and all the other fun stuff of childhood. “And, right after he laid eyes on me, he also claimed to have a penchant for my mom,” Michelle said. Michelle Stevens and her mom moved in with Gary Lundquist, adding it became clear he was ‘more interested in Michelle than her mother’.

From the age of eight, Michelle was brutally tortured and grotesquely enslaved, raped, and prostituted by a sadistic stepfather. For almost a decade she endured relentless physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, which triggered psychological breakdowns and three suicide attempts.

The Cage

Gary, became her capturer when he threw her in a cage and started “training” her to be a sex slave. Michelle goes into great detail about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Lundquist in her memoir, Scared Selfless.

‘I am naked and locked in a cage: three feet by three feet probably. Just big enough to sit up with my legs stretched out or lie in a fetal position,’ the passage reads.

‘It’s made of thin metal bars with a metal tray on the floor.’ Stevens then wrote that there was a small padlock holding the door shut, then referred to it as a ‘dog cage – the kind they use to crate puppies’.

Gary Lundquist kept his stepdaughter as a sex slave for a total of six years. Michelle described it as a ‘campaign of unimaginable cruelty’, She said she suffered at the hands of ‘countless men’ as a result of being ‘pimped out’ for prostitution and being forced to take part in ‘kiddie porn’.

Going back to that first night locked in the cage, Michelle recounts that she was tortured repeatedly and that Lundquist ‘used her to quench his voracious and deviant sexual whims’.

In order to cope with the trauma, her personalities split and she developed amnesia—to forget the years of rape, sex rings, and child pornography at Gary’s hands.

Life After the Cage

Over the next decade and a half, after escaping her tormentor when she left home to study at New York University, she battled with PTSD from the abuse. But Stevens has been able to emerge from the darkness and eventually received a Ph.D. in psychology in 2012.

‘As people become more sympathetic to survivors, survivors will be more sympathetic to themselves.’ Dr. Michelle Stevens says.

Gary Lundquist was sentenced to three years’ probation in 1985 for engaging in sexual contact with two young girls who were students at the school where he taught.

He died in 1997.

Today Dr. Michelle Stevens sits down to talk to Dr. Oz and I about living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (known commonly as Split Personalities) and panic attacks, and how she overcame such a horrific childhood.