On November 4, 1970, Los Angeles Child Services discovered 13-year-old Susan Wiley who had the appearance of a 6-year-old, Susan was unable to walk, feed herself or even use the toilet. At less than 60 pounds, the girl walked with an unusual gait, the result of years of confinement.
When the authorities began investigating parents Irene and Clark Wiley, they found out that two of their children passed within months of their births. One of the remaining children lived with Clark’s mother until she unexpectedly died and the fourth one was Susan, also known as “Genie.” Genie’s mother, Irene was nearly blind as a result of a childhood accident.
Her Family Locked Her In A Room
Susan Wiley, aka Genie, was born about five years after her brother, around the time that her father began to isolate himself and his family from other people. At birth, she was in the 50th percentile of the weight, the next day, she showed signs of Rh incompatibility and required a blood transfusion.
A medical appointment three months later showed that she was gaining weight almost normally, but she had a congenital hip dislocation which required her to wear a highly restrictive Frejka splint from the age of 4 1⁄2 to 11 months. Based on early medical records, Genie exhibited no signs of impaired mental development from birth.
When child services discovered Genie’s abusive life, the 13-year-old was unable to talk or chew. Genie’s stunted growth as a result of severe neglect and isolation. Her father was an abusive man with the insensitivity of sound, he forcefully deprived Genie of any human contact.
Her Family Fed Her As Little As Possible
Genie’s father fed her as little as possible and refused to give her any solid food, he continued to feed her only baby food, cereal, pablum, an occasional soft-boiled egg, and liquids.
Genie’s family treated her like a monster, her father and her brother forced spooned food into her mouth as quickly as possible, and if she choked or didn’t swallow fast enough the person feeding her rubbed the food on her face.
Genie’s mother told the researchers that she was not allowed to feed Genie herself, and she tried to give her food late at night around 11:00 PM.
Genie Was Physically and Emotionally Abused
Genie’s father had an extremely low tolerance for noise, he never allowed his wife or son to talk in the house and viciously beat them if they did so without his permission, particularly when they were around Genie.
Genie’s father punished her for making noise or for acting out, especially during feeding time, if Genie attempted to make any sounds, Clark beat her with a wooden board until she was silent. He used the same wooden board to beat Genie’s brother
When the authorities investigated Wiley’s home for child abuse, they found that Genie was living in complete neglect. The found Genie dirty, unbathed, and wearing a soiled diaper, she had never learned how to use a toilet. Her father used cloth, to bind Genie to a potty chair. He also confined her to a crib covered in wire, bound so that she could not attempt to move.
Genie’s mother was passive by nature and was constantly on the receiving end of her husband’s anger. Clark continued to beat her throughout the time and threatened to kill her if she attempted to contact her parents or anyone who lived nearby.
Clark and Irene’s Daughter Was Killed By Neglect
Clark and Irene Wiley’s marriage was an abusive relationship, Clark used to beat her and never allowed her to leave the house. On some occasions, Irene’s injuries were so severe that she had to go to the hospital.
Clark never wanted to be a father, which was visible by the way he treated his children. In 1948, the couple had their first child, Dorothy Irene. After the baby’s birth, Clark began to show signs of aversion to sound. When the baby cried, he found it disturbing and put the baby in the garage. As a result, Dorothy Caught pneumonia and died shortly after.
Couple’s second child, Robert Clark was born in 1949 and died after 2 days, possibly from neglect. The couple had another son in 1952, John, when John was 4 years old, he went to live with his grandmother, but two years later his grandmother as killed in a hit-and-run case, after which he moved back with his family.
Genie Wasn’t Rescued Until she was 13
In October 1970, when Genie was approximately 13 years and six months old, her parents had a fight after which Irene threatened to walk out if she could not call her own parents.
The next day when Clark went out of the house, Irene left with Genie and went to her parents in Monterey Park. Genie’s brother already ran away from home and was living with his friends.
Around three weeks later on November 3, Genie’s mother went to apply for disability benefits for the blind and also brought Genie with her, but on account of her near-blindness Genie’s mother accidentally entered the general social service office next door.
The social worker who greeted them sensed something was wrong when she saw Genie and was shocked to learn her age. Genie looked six or seven and possibly autistic. The social service office contacted the police and Genie’s parents were arrested and Genie became a ward of the court.
At the age of 13 Genie looked like she was about 6 or 7 years old. She weighed less than 60 pounds (27.22 kg) and looked gaunt.
Genie’s mother told the authorities that she tried to interact with her daughter when she could, but suffered severe beating from her husband. She also mentioned that she gave Genie extra food, but Genie was often unable to eat. The court dropped the child abuse charges again Irene.
Genie Wasn’t Able To Chew Or Even Straighten her Limbs After
Due to Genie’s physical condition court ordered her to be taken to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. When Genie arrived at the hospital she was malnourished, weak, and filthy. During Genie’s evaluation, doctors reported that Genie walked awkwardly, spat all the time, and couldn’t straighten her limbs all the way.
Genie’s muscles were incredibly underdeveloped, and she wasn’t able to feed herself. When Genie was fed, they discovered that she could not chew and had trouble swallowing. She was entirely incontinent as her parents never taught her how to use a toilet.
Genie’s gross motor skills(abilities acquired during childhood as a part of child’s learning) were extremely weak; she could neither stand up straight nor fully straighten any of her limbs, she had very little endurance. Genie’s characteristic “bunny walk,” in which she held hands in front of her like claws while walking.
While eating, she held anything she could not swallow in her mouth until the saliva broke it down, and if it took too long she spat it out and mashed it with her fingers.
Testing Genie for her cognitive abilities was difficult because she was mute and did not appear to fully understand language. Although, she sometimes responded to her own name. Her assessment revealed that she had the cognitive of a 1-year-old. She was not autistic not did she suffer from any kind of mental or physical disease.
Genie’s Stay At Hospital
Genie was assigned to physician James Kent, Kent initially observed no reactions from Genie but eventually drew a small amount of nonverbal and verbal responsiveness with a small puppet, and soon playing with the puppet became Genie’s favorite hobby.
Soon Genie started learning to dress and began voluntarily using the toilet, Kent tried to form a normal friendship with Genie and decided to accompany her on walks and to all of her appointments.
The results were surprising, Genie quickly began growing and putting on weight and steadily became more confident in her movements, and after some time she had good hand-eye coordination.
When asked what happend to her in her home, Genie spoke in a hesitant manner:
Father hit arm. Big wood. Genie cry. […] Not spit. Father. Hit face – spit […] Father hit big stick. Father angry. Father hit Genie big stick. Father take piece wood hit. Cry. Father make me cry.
More harm than good?
The researchers may have done Genie more harm than good. Some believe that whether the constant tests interfered with her recovery.
One such instance was when Genie was staying with Jean Butler, a researcher. Butler quarantined Genie when there was an outbreak of measles and kept her away from other scientists. Butler was fixated on Genie and had expressed her desire to her colleagues to recognize her as akin to Helen Keller’s renowned teacher, Anne Sullivan. Butler even applied for Genie’s foster custody but the court denied.
Without any conclusive results, the case study lost funding and the state then placed Genie in foster care.
Genie never learned to communicate
It was hard for families to take care of Genie so Genie was transferred from one foster care facility to another. Without constant care, Genie began losing her language skills. Genie once learned to speak some words together but after a while, she had difficulty speaking only one word, and soon she rarely spoke.
The authorities charged Clark and Irene with child negligence and abuse. However, on the day on the trial, Clark shot himself while at the courthouse. He’d left a note, which read: “The world will never understand.”
Genie’s mother claimed that she did not know the extent of the abuse that occurred, even Irene was also abused and tortured by Clark. The court dropped charges against her, and she temporarily regained custody of Genie in 1975.
When Irene found that she was unable to take care of Genie she quickly put her back into foster care, she died in 2003. John, who ran away from home, died in 2011 at the age of 58.
Where is Genie now?
Genie is now confined in a foster home and never speaks to anyone, because once her foster parents punished her for vomiting and after that Genie refused to speak or interact. Genie’s posture was slumped and she avoided eye contact.
After that incident her life has remained private, she lives in a foster care facility somewhere in California. Genie does not have any contact with the doctors she once knew. In foster care, speaking to Genie and contacting her is restricted. Genie never showed any progress for any further development.