Susan: The Feral Child

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1970 in Temple City, California.

1957- When Susan Wiley (publicity the girl was known by the pseudonym of Genie) was born, her father, Clark Wiley, decided she was “retarded” (his term, not mine) and that it would be better if she was kept isolated. Her mother and brother were forbidden from having any contact with the child; mom was half blind from cataracts, and Clark was so physically abusive that his family didn’t dare defy him. Inside the child’s bedroom the shades were always drawn tight so neighbors could not see in; there were absolutely no toys, not even a television to keep her company, and no pretty dresses like the ones my little girl adores. Susan never even walked outside, never once.

Growing up, Susan didn’t even own clothing, she wore only a diaper. During the day this child was kept in a chicken wire cage inside her bedroom; her arms and legs were tied to a potty all day every day, she did not have enough room to even move her limbs. At night Susan’s father chained her to a crib. She was so rarely fed that she actually suffered several vitamin deficiencies and did not know how to chew correctly as she’d survived on only baby food all her life.

When Genie was 13, her mother’s conscience finally got the better of her. When Father went to the grocery, Mom ran to police; this little girl was saved. Authorities could not believe their eyes, this teenager was the size of a 6 year old! She had absolutely no social or verbal skills, still wore a diaper, spoke only in infantile grunts and cries, and could barely walk; Susan was wild.

The girl was taken to the hospital for treatment, but instead of focusing solely on the child’s therapy, scientists saw a grand opportunity to learn about what happens when a child has been raised in this type of situation; to learn about first language skills and how severe neglect and abuse affects the brain. After all she’d been through, now Susan was a science experiment.

Susan’s parents

Therapists worked with the girl night and day, she even lived with a couple of them. Susan did begin to improve, she learned many different words and every once in a while she’d actually string a few together! Those who worked closely with the girl said that in no way was she mentally incompetent at birth, that her father had been wrong. But it would also be impossible for Susan to fully catch up, she’d missed too much – not just with language, but social skills. The girl had no sense of shame; Genie would mess herself in front of everyone, even masturbate whenever and wherever the mood struck her. Sometimes she would try and molest men who happened to be around her. (This is concerning. Was she sexually assaulted at one of her various foster homes, or had this been another motive for her father to keep her locked up all of those years?)

One of the studies which scientists conducted was a scan of the girl’s brain. They noticed that the left part of Susan’s brain was shrunken; because it was not stimulated when she was very young, it had shut down. She could make progress, but only so much. It was very difficult for her to learn the basics which come natural to the rest of us.

Susan’s father, Clark Wiley, was charged with child abuse, but he took the easy way out. Before he could be tried, the man committed suicide; Clark shot himself. When Susan turned 18, she was sent back to live with her mother, sent right back to live in the home in which she’d been held captive for 13 years. This reunion was a brief one, Susan was too difficult for mother to handle; within weeks the girl was given back to the state. Sadly the damage was already done, she had regressed, has lost much of the progress which she had gained. To try and reverse the regression, Susan was sent to live with her favorite therapist, but it only lasted a week. When mother learned how close her daughter had become to her therapist, she demanded that all contact between the two be halted, that the experiment be ceased.

This is said to be Susan and her mother

From there, we only know Genie was sent to an institution. Though it has been said she is doing okay, the public knows very little of what has happened to her since then. There was one update with semi-recent pictures, and it said Susan has learned to communicate through sign language, and she is still living in an adult care center in California.

*Sorry I’ve been so inactive, y’all. I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life. Always feel guilty when I’m not posting often enough. Hoping you’re well!

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