Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4 - Genie

Arcadia, Ca. Sure it's in the Valley, but that does not forgive the parents of the girl who came to be known as "Genie" for their actions.

On this day in 1970, Genie's mom finally got the gumption to leave her abusive husband and take her daughter with her. Genie was 13 and had spent most of life tied to a potty chair, while enduring beatings from her father she if attempted to make any sound. He communicated with her by growling or barking, and would beat her with a wooden spoon if she vocalized at all. Sometimes, when she was not simply forgotten, he would place her into a crib with a metal sheet secured to the top so that she was completely captured. Finally free, she developed what came to be known as a "bunny walk", and communicated by sniffing and spitting.

Psychologists were fascinated by her and she came to be tended to by Jean Butler, her teacher at the Children's Hospital. Butler found the child to be highly communicative even though she used few words.  She knew about 20 words, but was generally utterly silent. Butler's push to become Genie's legal foster parent was denied and after a brief stint with her mother, who decided that caring for her was too difficult, the child found herself flying through various foster homes. She was abused, and in one instance severely beaten for vomiting. The momentum gained by working with Butler was all but lost as Genie feared opening her mouth in case it would lead to another beating.

At age 51, Genie was in a home for patients with mental illness. She is again mute. Who knows what they could have helped her to become if they had just found her a stable home. However, those who tended to her cared more for the scientific breakthroughs she could inspire than the child within and she fell through the system. She was horribly exploited and then left to dangle in the wind. Imagine her life...

So, when your family is pissing you off, think of Genie.


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