Lessons Learned From The Story Of Mary Ellen Wilson

1104 words - 4 pages

What would you do if you were a witness to child abuse today? Would you turn your head as if it were not your business, would you intervene immediately, or would you report the abuser to the authorities? It was approximately 1869 - 1870 when a woman named Charlotte Fiehling "cringed at the sound of the child's beating. She had heard it before, but had never laid eyes the child. The little girl was no more than five or six if she was a day, judging by her size, and her poor legs were striped with the welts of a whip, her body bruised from blows. Her hair matted and infested with vermin, no doubt, and she did not appear to have had a bath of any kind for many days, if not weeks" (qtd. In Shelman 187). This little girls name was Mary Ellen Wilson. Prior to 1874, the United States did not have any laws to protect children from abuse. Though society is still learning, we have come along way. There are still many cases of child abuse, but as a society we now have ways to intervene, and prevent this abuse and neglect. It was in 1874 when the first court case of child abuse was argued. It was the case of, Mary Ellen Wilson. Mary Ellen as a young girl was severely beaten with whips, burned with the iron, cut with scissors, not to mention the sexual, and emotional abuse. It was in 1874 that a major change in our legal system took place in society. The change was a realization to our legal system that we have to do something about children like Mary Ellen. We have learned many lessons from this alarming event. Now we have choices, now we can help, and now we have child protection services. This case has delivered us, as a society, many messages. I am going to point out two major lessons I found are crucial to how we do things today. We have learned to handle situations, where if a family is in need of help there are avenues that can help provide an environment free of abuse and neglect. We also have learned how to identify signs, symptoms, and characteristics connected with each type of neglect, domestic violence, and abuse.

Fanny Wilson, Mary Ellen's maternal mother, needed a lot of help but there was not any type of legalized protection available for her. She was in a position where there were no other options, but to allow someone else care for her baby. Fanny needed money to take care of both her baby and herself, and as a result she was forced to go out and work. Mary Ellen was lost, and handed over to the incompetent hands of a child abuser, because of "no system" set aside for families suffering from poverty and extremely needy conditions. Today we have assistance for families and single parents so they can have the necessities in life (i.e. shelter, food, lights, heat, child care assistance, and medical treatment). If there were a system in place that Fanny could have turned to for assistance, for families in need of financial, and/or emotional support, this probably could have been a preventive measure toward helping...

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