Marilyn received funding toward her graduate degree because of her work with Genie. Rigler said, "Someone had to meet the demands of research, and someone had to meet Genie's therapeutic needs, and I had both roles."One physician familiar with the situation said that the Riglers, in providing for Genie, almost sacrificed their own family life.
Genie became the subject of a psychology doctoral dissertation. There was pressure on me to be much more scientific in my approach. Not that I didn't want to make measurements, but I didn't want to do so in ways that would be intrusive to the wellbeing of the kid.
When Genie emerged from her prison of silence, she was, ironically, thrust into the center of a war about words.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, linguists, and others had, over the years, posed a tangle of questions about how people learn to speak, how they build their vocabularies, and how they create meaningful sentences to communicate with others.
Butler charged that Genie was taken from her because, in trying to provide Genie with a reasonable home life, she had alienated the researchers, who were exploiting Genie and turning her into a human guinea pig through daily testing.
Genie lived with the Riglers and their three children for four years. At first, she misbehaved, using the whole house as her bathroom, and she had many self-destructive tantrums.
The three had come into the Social Welfare office in Temple City, California, to learn about resources for the blind. The social worker noticed that the "small withered girl" had "a halting gait" and "hands held up as though resting on an invisible rail," which gave her a curious, unnaturally stooped posture.
The girl was so tiny that the social worker estimated she might be six or seven years old. But Genie was actually thirteen and had been in solitary confinement since she was two years old. In the next few weeks, Genie's story came to light, and, shortly after it did, Genie's father killed himself.
Genie ate baby food, cereals, and soft-boiled eggs, all of which were fed to her. He rarely permitted them to speak or to go outside.
Her 'toys' were cottage cheese containers, two plastic raincoats, threadless spools of thread, and copies of stripped of illustrations. Sometimes, he sat all day with a loaded shotgun in his lap.