It has been almost a decade since Julian and Thal Wendrow were arrested and charged with Rape of a Minor and Child Abuse. According to court records, it all began when their autistic daughter, Aislinn, typed up a statement using facilitated communication, describing how her father sexually assaulted her.
In the 2007 statement made by their daughter, it was said that Julian had been raping her for years while Thal, her mother, did nothing to stop it or to protect her. Because Aislinn is nonverbal, her parents had championed her use of facilitated communication. Unfortunately it was this very thing that ended up tearing their family apart and causing years of heartbreak.
Despite the fact that facilitated communication is not approved for courtroom use, Julian spent 80 days in jail, and the family was severely damaged by the allegations and arrests. Parents of two special needs children, the Wendrows faced enormous obstacles in a case that a judge later described as “a runaway train.”
The case soon fell apart due to a lack of evidence. The biggest issue was the fact that 14-year-old Aislinn was completely unable to answer any questions when her facilitator was out of the room. This lead attorneys to believe that the facilitator and not the girl had been the originator of the message to begin with.
The charges were eventually dropped, but the Wendrows suffered significantly during and after that period.
Their children were removed from their care. They spent thousands in attorneys fees defending themselves, and they both spent time in jail. They were labelled rapists and child abusers in their community. All in all, the impact was far-reaching and devastating.
In October 2008, they sued for malicious prosecution, wrongful imprisonment, invasion of privacy and defamation. Named in the suit were the West Bloomfield Police Department, Walled Lake Schools where Aislinn had been a student, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Former Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, and the Michigan Department of Human Services.
Although both the Police and DHS settled out of court for substantial fees, the Wendrows still took the issue to trial. In the end a federal jury awarded them $2 million. In addition, Oakland County spent a total of $891,897 defending the charges. In the end, these false allegations cost one family their reputation, tens of thousands of dollars, and a decade of their lives. The cost to taxpayers was astronomical.
The Wendrow’s case garnered them national attention, and caused a nationwide battle over the issue of facilitated communication. They have since moved away from Bloomfield Hills, where the family made their home for many years. But the scars of this tragedy will live with them for the rest of their lives. If there is to be any silver lining to this tragedy, perhaps it can be the fact that facilitators assisting with facilitated communication will now be watched more closely in future when allegations of sexual assault and abuse are made.
Join us next time, as we take a look at the history of facilitated communication, and why it received so much attention worldwide. Until then, if you or a loved one have been falsely accused of child abuse, whether sexual, physical or psychological, contact The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We have dedicated our careers to defending the parents and caregivers of Michigan against allegations of abuse. We can help you too.