Provo, Utah (KSTU) -- A nine-year-old girl was allegedly the victim of waterboarding as a punishment from her father and stepmother.

The girl’s father, 29-year-old Joseph Maeser Mitchell, and stepmother, Ilaria Catherina Mitchell, were arrested by Provo police Thursday on accounts of child abuse.

Police said on three separate occasions, the pair held the child in the bathtub, put a towel over her face and poured water on her face.

"Throughout the forensic interview with detectives [the girl] said it causes her pain and it made her unable to breathe," Sgt. Nisha king told KTSU.

Police said the girl also told detectives her stepmom had punched her in the face and caused her to have a nosebleed.

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The girl’s biological mother Brittany Calabrese said she hasn’t seen her daughter since 2014, but learning that the girl’s father and his wife were abusing her was heartbreaking.

“It was the hardest thing for me to hear,” said Calabrese. “She’s nine, nine years old. That is torture of a child.”

Calabrese lives in Texas and was notified by Child Protection Services that her daughter was taken into custody and is safe.

The case came to light after the little girl was checked into Utah Valley Hospital by her father earlier in November and nurses saw something was wrong.

The Division of Child and Family Services now has custody of the girl while the court decides her future.

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