I am finally free to write about Wendi G.’s case, after months during which I have been asked not to do so by the attorneys. Wendi has been released after serving two months in jail. I know many of you have been deeply curious about what took place. In order to make a great deal of information comprehensible for people, I am going to move somewhat chronologically through the story, and it will take me a number of blog entries to describe even the key points of what occurred.
I have carefully reviewed Judge Hulsing’s most recent findings and rulings on the case following the January 2012 hearing. The crux if this ruling is Judge Hulsing’s determination that Wendi G. pressured her children to make sexual abuse allegations against their father that were entirely false. I will have a great deal to say about what he wrote, but what people first need to understand is that his order makes no reference to the original Forensic Interview Report, done by a specialized team of four professionals a year ago. I don’t understand how he can make a ruling on this case without addressing the Forensic Interview Report; and I believe that after you read it you will feel the same. Furthermore, Judge Hulsing barred the transcript of this report from being introduced as evidence!
As you read the sections below from the Forensic Interview Report, ask yourself the following questions: Would it be possible for a mother to rehearse this performance with her ten-year old daughter? Could a ten year old possibly remember all these facts, keep them straight in the interview, and respond to questions from the interviewer without knowing ahead of time what those questions would be? And if she could, somehow, memorize this much material, would it come out sounding anything like the statements below? Why would the judge bar the transcript of these interviews from the evidence at the January, 2012 hearing, and then rule that the mother caused it all?
(As soon as possible I will make the full Forensic Interview Report, with the names of the children altered, available on my website, LundyBancroft.com.)
The report is entitled “CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTER OF OTTAWA COUNTY FORENSIC INTERVIEW REPORT,” and is dated June 28, 2011. The interviewer is listed as Bresh Groen, and the “team members involved” are listed as Detective Derek Christensen of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, Jennifer Hnilca of Ottawa County Child Protective Services, and Rachael DeWitt of the Children’s Advocacy Center, all of whom are listed as having observed Mr. Groen’s interviews of the children (presumably through a one-way window).
Here are various excerpts from Mr. Groen’s interview with Wendi’s daughter, whom I will call “Caleigh”.
Caleigh was ten years old at the time of the interview:
“When asked how come she is here today, Caleigh stated her dad sexually abused her. When asked to tell me about that, Caleigh explained it all started one year ago when he made her put lotion on his back and she didn’t feel comfortable with it. Caleigh added a ‘child support lady’ came out and asked Caleigh some questions about if she is comfortable putting lotion on her dad and she told the lady she wasn’t. Caleigh stated the lady told her dad not to make Caleigh do that anymore but he did it again and he made her put lotion on his bottom and said it was because his wrist was hurting from playing basketball. Caleigh stated she felt like she had no choice…
“When asked to tell me about putting lotion on his bottom, Caleigh stated one day he asked her if he [sic – apparently meant to write “she”] could put lotion on his bottom because he couldn’t reach that part. Caleigh stated she told him she was uncomfortable but felt like she had no choice. Caleigh stated her dad’s clothes were off and they were in the bathroom in his bedroom. Caleigh stated he was standing and she was standing with her clothes on for school. Caleigh clarified bottom is the butt area. Caleigh pointed to her butt to clarify... Caleigh stated she has only put lotion on his bottom one time but has put lotion on his back many times. Caleigh stated he kept asking her to do it and she didn’t want anything else to happen so she just did it. Caleigh added after she put lotion on his bottom he said thinks [sic], she left, and asked him if she could never do that again but he told her she might have to if it hurts him again.
“When asked if there are any other times he doesn’t have clothes on, Caleigh stated when she was in 4th grade he laid with her in bed without his clothes on. Caleigh explained it was in the morning and they were getting ready for school and she said that she missed her mom. Caleigh stated he came into her bedroom and said, ‘Sweetie, why don’t you get ready for school?’ Caleigh stated she told him she missed her mom. Caleigh stated he climbed up her ladder to the top bunk and she didn’t notice he had no clothes on until he hugged her. Caleigh stated she felt his private touching her but she still had her jammies on. Caleigh clarified she was at first lying on her back when he was on the ladder. Caleigh stated she saw him at the top of the ladder and she saw his chest and his private part. Caleigh stated then he got in bed and was lying on his side and his ‘thing’ was touching on the side of her stomach and when she turned away from him his ‘thing’ rubbed against her body and touched her butt. Caleigh clarified that this was on top of her pajamas. When asked how she knows she felt his private, Caleigh stated it was pushing against her and she knew it was his private because she saw him naked. Caleigh added his arms were around her arms. Caleigh stated he told her to get ready for school. Caleigh denied he hugged her like that before. Caleigh stated she felt really weird because she never hugged anyone naked in bed before. When asked what his private looked like, Caleigh stated ‘dangling’ and ‘hairy’. Caleigh stated after she turned away from him she scooched away and he get [sic] down. Caleigh stated then she got ready for school. Caleigh clarified she had seen her dad’s private before when he would be naked and ask her to put lotion on him. Caleigh clarified he climbed in bed with her in March of her 4th grade year. Caleigh stated Monte was already at school. Caleigh added it was a little awkward to be around her dad after it happened but then she just got used to being around him again…
[Now describing a different event]
“…Caleigh stated she went to the bathroom and had blood in her stool and asked if her dad could come into the bathroom. Caleigh stated she had her pants up but she asked her dad to look at her poop because there was blood. Caleigh stated her dad then asked if he could check her bottom and she told him she did not feel comfortable with that. Caleigh stated she told him she only felt comfortable with a doctor checking her bottom. Caleigh added he told her he needed to check it for her safety and if she didn’t let him check it he would spank her… When asked how he checked her, Caleigh stated he checked the inside of her bottom and was poking around there so she told him to stop and then he told her she looked okay… Caleigh explained he was pushing her butt cheeks, spreading them out, poking around and feeling stuff. Caleigh explained he checked inside of her butt by touching the butthole and feeling around the hole. Caleigh stated then he checked ‘under.’ At this time Caleigh grabbed her vaginal area to clarify how he went ‘under’ with his hand from behind her. Caleigh stated he poked the inside and around of that area too. Caleigh stated it didn’t feel good and she didn’t like him doing that. Caleigh stated she told him to stop and he did. Caleigh denied he has ever checked her bottom before. Caleigh denied he ever checked her bottom again. Caleigh clarified this happened during her 4th grade year before summer started. When asked if she talked to anyone about it, Caleigh stated she felt scared and didn’t want to tell anyone. Caleigh added she was scared something really bad would happen if she told someone…
“When asked if anyone talked to her about coming today, Caleigh stated her mom told her to be strong, trust in her heart, and say the truth. Caleigh denied anyone told her what to say today… When asked how she knows the word sexual abuse, Caleigh stated her mom told her that it is wrong and parents shouldn’t do that to a kid. Caleigh stated her mom told her that after Caleigh told her mom about what happened with her dad.”
Does this sound to you like a rehearsed or coerced set of statements? After reading this wouldn't you, at the very least, believe that this case needed a careful, thorough, unbiased investigation? Yet the reality is that no further investigation or evaluation was ever performed concerning Caleigh's disclosures -- with the exception of her testimony at the January trial, which I will discuss in detail soon.
In my next post we’ll look at what the Forensic Interview Report had to say about Mr. Groen’s interview with Caleigh’s brother Monte, and then continue on from there. Please stay with us. In the mean time, I encourage you to write your reactions to the above excerpts in the Comments.