Genie Wiley

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A portrait of Genie Wiley. Genie is the pseudonym for the most extreme case of Susan Wiley, a? feral child kept in an abusive home. She spent the first thirteen years of her life locked inside a bedroom strapped to a potty chair; a victim of one the most severe cases of social isolation ever documented. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Genie

Starved, Tortured, Forgotten

This is the story of a young girl who spent her childhood locked in a bedroom

There have been a number of cases of feral children raised in social isolation with little or no human contact. Few have captured public and scientific attention like that of a young girl called Genie. She spent almost her entire childhood locked in a bedroom, isolated, and abused for over a decade. Genie’s case was one of the first to put the critical period theory to the test. Could a child reared in utter deprivation and isolation develop language?

Raised in isolation, “Genie” was a wild child, uncivilised, barely able to walk or talk. The girl reportedly was still wearing diapers when a social worker discovered her. Genie had a strange bunny walk and other almost inhuman characteristics. Genie constantly spat. She sniffed and clawed. She barely spoke or made any noises. The indications are that she was beaten for making noise and consequently, had learned, basically, not to vocalise. And she really didn’t vocalise very much at all. When first met, she was silent most of the time. One of Genie’s most captivating qualities was the intense way she explored her new environment. Oddly, even strangers who knew nothing about her story seemed to sense her need to do so.

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