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Sylvia Likens was a sweet sixteen year old girl that was a victim of torture, abuse, and starvation. Sylvia’s parents Lester and Betty were very poor and worked for a traveling carnival.  They made an arrangement with Gertrude Baniszewski, a single mother of seven children, for their  daughters to be boarded with her for twenty dollars a week.
This would prove to be a grave mistake that would eventually destroy their entire family. Gertrude began instructing her children and their friends to beat, burn, and torture Sylvia. She died on October 26, 1965 after three months of abuse.

It is unknown why this group of children led by Gertrude used Sylvia as a scapegoat for their anger and poverty.  It seems like a case of “mob mentality”.  Sylvia’s  body was in terrible condition when she died.  The poor girl had over one hundred cigarette burns all over her body.  The words, “I am a prostitute and proud of it”  were tattooed in her stomach.  Sylvia had a “3”  burned into her chest.  She was malnourished, her lips had been shredded from her biting them while being tortured.  Her sister Jenny suffered abuse too, but nowhere near the amount Sylvia suffered.  It is strange that none of the children, including Jenny and Sylvia, tried to get help.  A few of the children told their parents, but the parents wrote it off.  They felt sorry for the haggard sick woman, because she was raising her family with no man and little support.

In writing this page, I hope to spread awareness for child abuse and bullying.  As I update this page, I will add pages with other child abuse cases, but few are as horrific as Sylvia’s.  I hope that the people that read this page, and they will feel for Sylvia enough to report any child abuse they suspect.  I hope the children that read this page will think of Sylvia when they see others being bullied.

The information on this page has been found from various news paper articles, the trial transcripts, books, and people close to the case.  I have organized it and made it easier to read for everyone.  I have taken careful consideration to make sure everything I posted on this page is accurate and current.  If you have a questions about anything on this page please email me.