This week, Drewby and Yergy cover the tragic story of Sylvia Likens. We draw comparisons to her case and that of Junko Furuta, and discuss the phenomena of bystander apathy, why no one in power stepped in to assist, why neighbors were apathetic despite numerous instances of public child abuse, and why neighborhood kids considered the ordeal to be some sort of funny sideshow or game, despite there being dozens of witnesses to her torture.
The murder of Sylvia Likens was a child murder which occurred in Indianapolis, Indiana in October 1965. Likens, aged 16, was held captive and subjected to increasing levels of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and torture, and neighborhood children were allowed to do the same if they paid an admission fee, which many did. These inhuman crimes were committed over a period of almost three months—by her caregiver, Gertrude Baniszewski, many of Baniszewski’s children, and countless other neighborhood children, before ultimately succumbing to her injuries on October 26.
Despite the ages of some of the perpetrators being in their late teens, none were tried as adults, and all got incredibly light sentences for their crimes, including Gertrude Baniszewski who was paroled after only 14 years in prison, despite receiving a life sentence, overall contributing to the data that women get lighter sentences compared to men for all crimes involving abuse towards children, no matter how heinous.
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