In the USA child abuse is legally defined as ‘an act, or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child, or which places the child in an imminent risk of serious harm.’ Infant killing as a religious sacrificial ritual has been common to various cultures. The Egyptians used to offer the sacrifice of infants to the River Nile, to bring fertility to their lands. Hindus, too, had similar rituals. According to CPS, Child Protective Services, a statistical data analysis revealed the occurrence of child abuse in different categories as ‘neglect 78.3%, physical abuse 17.6%, sexual abuse 9.2%, and psychological maltreatment 8.1%.’
1. Mary Ellen Wilson
Mary Ellen Wilson was born to Francis and Thomas Wilson in 1864 in New York City and died in 1956 at the age of 92 years. She is best known as the American whose case of child abuse prompted the establishment of New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. After the death of her father she was handed over to Francis Connolly, who mistreated her. Henry Berg, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, came to help and brought the case to the notice of the Supreme Court. According to the child’s statement in court, she was mistreated by regular severe beatings, hunger, sleeping on the floor, being deprived of warm clothing, being left alone in a dark and locked room and prohibition to go outdoors. Mrs. Connolly was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded in that year.
2. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Gail Winfrey is the famous media mogul, renowned philanthropist and the wealthiest African American woman. She was born to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, U.S. and she was raised in poverty. She is one of the most famous persons who suffered child abuse. According to herself, she was raped at the age of nine years. At the age of 14 years, she was pregnant and her son died in infancy. She has contributed to various anti child abuse programs and has not only enhanced the awareness about it, but also has donated generously to many charities for the cause.
3. Marilyn Monroe
Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known by her stage name Marilyn Monroe, was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, United States. She died on August 5, 1962 at the age of 36 years in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, United States. During her career extending over half a century, she won numerous awards, including four Golden Globe awards and two BAFTA awards. In 1960, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and ranked by the American Film Institute as the sixth greatest female star of all time, on the list AFI’s 100 greatest female stars of all time. She spent most of her childhood in foster homes and was subjected to child abuse many times. In Grace and Doc Goddard’s house, Doc attempted sexual assaults. When living with her great-aunt Oliver Brunings, she was assaulted by her son. She was even mistreated by her mentally unstable mother.
4. Michael Jackson
Michael Joseph Jackson, commonly known as Michael Jackson and King of Pop, was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana, U.S. and died on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50 years in Los Angeles, California, U.S. He was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won 13 Grammy Awards and many other awards during his career. His mother was a religious woman, but his father was not so, and as a child Jackson not only got corporal punishment from him, but also was exposed to the sex industry at an early age by his father. He was subjected to child abuse by his relatives and it was probably on account of his own sufferings that in his later life he was himself accused of child abuse.
5. Queen Latifah
Dana Elaine Owens, better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, was born on March 18, 1970 in Newark, New Jersey and was raised in East Orange, New Jersey. Descending from African American and Native American ancestry, she is a famous singer and actress. In July 2009, she recited Maya Angelou’s poem at the memorial service of Michael Jackson. Telling about her being abused as a child by a babysitter, she spoke that, ‘He violated me, I never told anybody. I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm’s length … I was a kid, and I had no power or control over the situation. I really wish I’d had the strength and the knowledge to say something sooner …’
6. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis and, after the separation of her parents, moved to Stamps to live with her grandmother. She returned to St. Louis in or around 1935. It was here that she was subjected to child abuse. A boyfriend of her mother’s raped her at the age of eight years and, suffering from the trauma, she became mute for years and was unable to speak. After the death of her grandmother, she moved to New York in 1950s and participated in the activities of Harlem Writer’s Guild. Here she met great literary people like James Baldwin, who encouraged her to tell her story through her great work, the Caged Bird. Both Maya Angelou and Opera Winfrey are bold women who shared their trauma and served as a beacon of light for others.
7. Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Stephen, better known as Virginia Woolf, was born to Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth, on January 25, 1882 at Hyde Park Gate, London. She died on March 28, 1941 at the age of 59 years in near Lewes, East Sussex, in England. She was an English writer of high renown. Her famous works include To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando (1928) and the A Room of One’s Own, known for its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ As she described in A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate, her half brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth, sexually assaulted her and her sister in their childhood.
8. Christina Aguilera
Christina MarÃƒa Aguilera, commonly known as Christina Aguilera, was born to Fausto Xavier Aguilera and Shelly Loraine on December 18, 1980 in Staten Island, New York, U.S. She is an American actress, singer and song writer. She is also known as princess of pop. Next only to Madonna, she is the best-selling artist. In 2013, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In a two-hour documentary she recapped what she suffered at the hands of her abusive father. She said, ‘I witnessed a lot of unpleasant things ‘ a lot of pushing and shoving and fighting and quarreling. Growing up I did not feel safe. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling in the world.’
9. Fran Drescher
Fran Drescher was born on September 30, 1957. She is an American actress, producer and an activist. Comparing her own experience of being raped by a black man with that of a caller, she said, ‘I have nothing against black men …’ She told Larry King that she and her girlfriend were raped at her home during a robbery. She is one of the famous people who were subjected to child abuse and who effectively acted against it and contributed toward its prevention.
10. Sinead O’Connor
Sinead Marie Bernadette O’Connor, commonly known as Sinead O’Connor, was born on December 8, 1966. She is a famous singer and song writer of the 1980s and is known for her activism for women’s rights and against child abuse. Of her own experience as a Magdalene survivor she said, ‘As I looked back on all the years I had suffered within the dark halls and stone hearts that were called a Magdalene Laundry, I felt a warmth on my cheeks as a lifetime of pain rushed in and I struggled to free my tortured soul and finally escape the veil of tears.‘
In spite of the enhanced awareness and legislation, the child abuse continues. In July 1989 a cruel step father, Thomas E. Coe of Lakeland, Florida plunged two-year-old Bradley McGee headlong into water repeatedly until her death. Magicians in India are still found involved in the heinous crime of infant killing. Spanking was explicitly prohibited in Sweden only as late as in 1996. Neighbors can play a pivotal role in the preventive action against child abuse.