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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

November 4, 1970

Okay, this is the fourth day in the month I like to call "YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET".  However, today is Tuesday, which means that it will be business as usual for one day of the week.

Yes, this is the Tuesday Timeline portion of the week - also known as the day that will not change this month.  Part of the reason is because I like writing the Tuesday Timeline entry.  Part of the reason is because I do not want to do the same date twice at this point in time.  And, well...part of the reason is because Tuesday Timeline entries take up the most time to write, and my theory is that keeping the Tuesday Timeline date will allow me to budget enough time to write it.

Okay, so with that, let us take a look at some of the happenings of November the fourth, shall we?

1783 - Mozart's "Symphony No. 36" is performed for the first time in Linz, Austria

1847 - British physician Sir James Young Simpson discovers the anaesthetic properties of cholorform

1864 - Confederate troops bombard a Union supply base destroying millions of dollars worth of materials and supplies during the American Civil War

1916 - Journalist Walter Kronkite (d. 2009) is born in Saint Joseph, Missouri

1918 - Actor Art Carney (d. 2003) is born in Mount Vernon, New York

1921 - The Prime Minister of Japan - Hara Takashi - is assassinated in Tokyo

1922 - British archaeologist Howard Carter and his men discover the entrance to Pharoah Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt's "Valley of the Kings".

1924 - Wyoming's Nellie Tayloe Ross becomes the first female governor in the United States

1939 - United States Customs is ordered by President Roosevelt to implement the Neutrality Act of 1939

1952 - The National Security Agency (NSA) is established by the United States government

1960 - Dr. Jane Goodall observes chimpanzees creating tools at the Kasakela Chimpanzee Community in Tanzania, Africa

1966 - The Arno River floods, destroying millions of paintings, art pieces, and rare books in Florence, Italy

1973 - Car Free Sunday takes place in The Netherlands due to the energy crisis of 1973, leaving cyclists and roller skaters to use the highways

1979 - The Iran Hostage Crisis sees a mob of Iranians storming the American embassy in Tehran, taking a total of ninety hostages within

1982 - Actress Dominique Dunne passes away in hospital less than a week after being attacked by her ex-boyfriend at the age of just 22

1995 - Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated

2008 - Barack Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States - the first person of African-American descent to hold the title

2011 - "60 Minutes" correspondent Andy Rooney dies at the age of 92

And, let us have a look at all the lovely people celebrating a birthday today.  If it is your birthday today, have a great one!  You share yours with Doris Roberts, Loretta Swit, Scherrie Payne, Laura Bush, Markie Post, Jacques Villeneuve, Ken Kirzinger, Kathy Griffin, Ralph Macchio, Jeff Probst, Nigel Worthington, Malandra Burrows, Kiersten Warren, Matthew Tobin Anderson, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Matthew McConaughey, Bethenny Frankel, Orlando Pace, Curtis Stone, Heather Tom, Jesse Camp, Trishelle Canatella, Emme Marcy Rylan, Travis Van Winkle, and Alexz Johnson.

Okay, now we are going to be looking at today's date.  And today's date is one that shocked and angered the world.  It was a tragic case of the effects of long-term abuse at the hands of a parent - abuse that no child should have ever gone through.  Really, it was probably one of the most high-profile cases of child abuse and neglect of its time, and decades after the child was finally rescued, the psychological effects still remain.

Today's Tuesday Timeline date is November 4, 1970 - the date that the secret life of "Genie" was finally exposed.

NOTE:  Genie's real name has never been published, nor have the names of any of Genie's immediate family members, as a measure of protecting her identity.

Now, those of you who were around in 1970 might remember the story of "Genie".  In November 1970, Genie was thirteen years old and a resident of California.  And looking at the photo above, you might believe that Genie looked like a typical thirteen year old girl.  But looking deeper into her eyes, you might see that there is a world of sadness and hurt in full display. 

That's because for almost her entire life, "Genie" was trapped inside of her bedroom without any way of getting out.  She was the victim of extreme abuse and neglect orchestrated by her father, and from the age of 20 months until she was nearly fourteen, she was kept locked inside of her room strapped to either a child's toilet or kept inside of a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized. 

It is an unimaginable situation for any child to go through.  In fact, what happened to Genie should have never happened to any child.

So, why did it happen?

Well, in order to explain how Genie got to that point, we must explain what kind of a household she was born into.  An extremely dysfunctional household at that.

You see, Genie was the fourth of four children, and one of only two to survive past infancy.  In addition to her parents, she also had an older brother.  And to say that Genie's parents had issues would be the biggest understatement of the millennium.

Genie's father worked as a flight mechanic during World War II, and when he married Genie's mother, he was a good two decades older than her.  Genie's father also had a slew of anger issues, brought upon by the fact that his mother gave him what he called a "girly name", and the fact that he grew up in a series of orphanages.  Genie's mother, meanwhile, had sustained a childhood injury that caused her to gradually lose the vision in her eyes.

So you have a father who had a violent temper, and a mother who had vision problems and had to rely on her husband for everything.  That would be stressful enough for anyone to have to endure.  Imagine bringing in a couple of children to complicate things.  Especially in a marriage in which the father never wanted children to begin with because he found them too noisy.

Genie's father was a real class act to his wife, beating her while she was pregnant, and it is rumoured that it was his actions that caused the death of his first two children.  His last two children, Genie and Genie's older brother, survived.  But because Genie's father hated noise, he basically prevented his whole family from having basic conversations.  He reportedly didn't even have a working radio or television inside the house because he didn't like noise that much.

It is hard to explain what triggered Genie's father to keep Genie locked up, but some speculate that the death of Genie's grandmother in a road accident that made Genie's father snap. 

Poor Genie was trapped in her room, with no way out, and as time passed, the abuse got worse, especially as Genie's mother's eyesight continued to fade.  Genie was not allowed to make any noise.  If she did, her father would beat her.  She lived on a diet of soft foods and liquids, causing her to be extremely malnourished.  Even Genie's brother was abused, with the only freedom he received was when he was sent to school.  Genie's brother would eventually run away from home when he was a teenager, but poor Genie didn't have a way out.

At least, not until November 4, 1970.

By that point, Genie's mother had had enough of the abuse that she and Genie were undergoing, and she and Genie fled their home to live with Genie's mother's parents in Monterey Park, California.  On the fourth of November, Genie's mother brought Genie with her to the nearby community of Temple Park, California to apply for disability benefits where she could hopefully get approved so she could support herself and Genie. 

But because Genie's mother was nearly blind, she ended up walking right into the wrong building.  She found herself inside a social services building where the social worker inside immediately deduced that something was wrong.  Police were called, both Genie's father and mother were arrested, and Genie became a ward of the court of California.  Genie's case was later handed off to David Rigler - a therapist and professor of psychology - Howard Hansen - the head of the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles' psychiatry division, where they had deduced that Genie was one of the worse cases of child abuse that they had ever seen.

By mid-November 1970, Genie's face was all over the evening news, and the subsequent news reports proved to be too much for Genie's father to face.  He committed suicide on November 20, 1970 - nearly three weeks since Genie was rescued.  The charges against Genie's mother were eventually dropped, as it had been confirmed that Genie's mother had been abused as well.

Still, with Genie in the care of the hospital, it became time to assess her.  Certainly when Genie was first discovered, she was severely malnourished, and she had poor motor skills.  And as far as any verbal activity goes, she had none whatsoever - brought upon by the fact that she had never been around anybody who spoke to her.  Remember, anyone who tried to speak to Genie was abused by her father.

Interestingly enough though, Genie did show signs of exploring environmental stimuli, and she did seem to show some cognitive thinking despite being imprisoned in a dark room for a dozen years.  This caused the people looking over Genie's case at the hospital to wonder if she could be rehabilitated and whether it was possible to learn how to speak at thirteen years of age.

The first thing the researchers wanted to do was determine if Genie was autistic, or if she had some sort of mental disability preventing her from learning how to talk.  Observations ruled out both options.

And while many of the doctors and experts who worked with Genie over the years could not agree on the root cause of Genie's condition, one thing they could agree on was that the trauma that Genie endured played a huge part.

I mean, consider this.  If you were locked away in a dark room for twelve years of your life without any human contact, how do you think you would function?  Not very well, I'd bet.

Now, fortunately in Genie's case, this story has somewhat of a satisfactory ending.  While Genie's mother eventually developed more of a bond with her daughter, she was still considered unable to take care of Genie, so she was moved from facility to facility.  Some places she was abused, but some places she felt comfortable with.  At some point, she did eventually learn how to speak a few words, and was taught how to communicate through sign language.

As of 2014, it is unknown where Genie is now, but a report from 2008 states that Genie is living in a private facility for mentally undeveloped adults and appeared to be doing well. 

And any of the research that was done with Genie certainly sparked a lot of research on verbal communication, and people are still fascinated with Genie's story because it answered some questions about brain development, but caused more questions to be asked - some of which still don't have a definitive answer.

Genie's life was one tragic event after another, and she spent the first few years of her life in a hellish existence that she did not ask for, nor did she deserve.  But on November 4, 1970, she discovered that there was a whole new world out there.  A world that was cruelly kept from her during her formative years.

Let us hope that wherever Genie is now, she is happy and at peace.  Heaven knows she deserves it now.

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