To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Child Abuse

Categories: To Kill A Mockingbird
About this essay

In 2009 an investigation was filed into Penn State for an athletics coach Jerry Sandusky, coming to find out that he had been sexually abusing underdeveloped boys for the past fifteen years of his career (‘Child Abuse”). There are many varieties of child abuse but the main specific types are neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The child may experience this mistreatment at any given age and time, from varied places like within a household or in a community. The offender may be someone known to the child as their parent, guardian or relative in most cases or just an individual stranger.

Throughout the years, the number of the victims has raised of those who have gone through the emotional trauma of this experience. Child abuse in the United States has grown worse since the 1900s affecting a vast amount of children.

Even though in the 1900s child abuse wasn’t illegal, many parents or guardians would abuse their child in many different ways such as beating them or making them do an extended amount of laborious work.

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In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, there were many forms of abuse that had taken place in various settings.

Take Charles Baker Harris also known as Dill for example, through the novel he had to face being neglected by his parents causing him to run away from home. In the text it states, “‘That wasn’t it, he-they just wasn’t interested in it me.’ This was the weirdest reason for flight I had ever heard.

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‘How come?’ ‘Well, they stayed gone all the time, and when they were home, even, they’d get off in a room by themselves.’ ‘What’d they do in there?’ ‘Nothin’, just sittin’ and readin’-but they didn’t want me with ’em.’ (Lee 190). He felt as he was nonexistent to them and they were not involved more with him as parents should be. His parents were doing there own thing while Dill was feeling all alone and left out; nobody really seemed to care about him. Many emotions could be formed if a child is to be neglected such as feeling unwanted or being rejected.

A quote spoken by Dill was, “ – they do get on a lot better without me, I can’t help them any” (Lee 191). This explains that he felt he was to no use to them and was just there to be there. He felt as he couldn’t help them even if he wanted to because he didn’t really matter. Around the United States, a great deal of children feel that way, statistics show that nearly 800,000 or 10% of children are neglected or abused every year. Out of at 800,000, kids about 1,600 die from the causes of abuse and neglect (Miller).

Another type of abuse shown throughout the novel would be physical abuse and Mayella Ewell was a victim of it which was being provoked by her father, Bob Ewell. Physical abuse could cause severe damage to the body of the child and breakage of the bones. It was told that she rarely ever went out of her house and had any friends of her age or any at that matter. In the book it has been suggested and evidence has displayed that Bob Ewell was the one beating her up, “Well, she was beaten around the head. There was already bruises comin’ on her arms, and it happened about thirty minutes before-” (Lee 224). This shows how bad the abuse could be towards others when it wasn’t illegal. Keeping in mind that was wasn’t the only child that this happened to. It was also stated, “…her arms were bruised, and she showed me her neck. There were definie marks her gullet -” (Lee 226). The marks on her gullet shows signs of choking and being strangled possibly leading to death. In the 1900s, it wasn’t as bad as it is right now but it shows how bad it could have gotten.

Throughout the years from the 1900s to the 2000s, child abuse in the united states has risen. Young teenage boys and girls have been taken advantage of with all kinds of abuse in the 20th century. A organized study of 1962 for child abuse began in the United States. A paper titled “The Battered Child Syndrome” that was written was about how injuries like head and bone fractures throughout children led to a wide range of studies containing child abuse in the U.S. (‘Child Abuse”). Throughout the time that followed in between increasing, more and more injuries occurred. An act that had caught the attention of the government in 1985 to 1989 were the 31 major offenders of abuse both men and women written in a report. They mostly worked normal jobs as volunteers in a community or businesses. These offenders ended up abusing about 2,099 children in 21 different communities. (‘Onus for protection returning to parents CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE).

In the years coming into the 20th century, the number most certainly do increase, rising upwards. Normally the offender has come to be the child’s mother or father, it states that, “Parents are the primary perpetrators of child abuse. They are responsible for 74 percent of reported cases of abuse. Mothers are the most likely perpetrators of child abuse, though in many case children are abused by both parents”(Miller). It makes a lot of sense since many mothers have been by their child all there life though it also depends on how they were brought up or risen. Considering the offenders could be either women or men this often showing in research showed that it could also lead to other sexual activities amongst themselves. Normally, when a child is abused in such a young age, they display an inappropriate sexual behavior. This results in them growing up and becoming an abuser to other children (Clark). This is one of the many stated outcomes of child abuse to young children in the United State.

In this present generation, child abuse still occurs and increases immensely, rapidly growing in due time. Many cases have occured recently in the past years of ruthless and harsh beatings, emotionally mistreated and sexual harassment through the United States. For example, in an article it was set forth that, “In 2003, a total of 906,000 children were abused and of this number, about 10% of the children were sexually abused. About 60% were neglected, while about 20% were physically abused and 5% were emotionally maltreated. About 17% of the children had a finding of ‘other,’ such as abandonment or such” (Clark). Comparing the numbers from the 1900s to now the 20th century have changed so much from the numbers to behavior wise.In the modern world, many children get abused more than they did before considering that it is now illegal though it is done more now than ever. Another example would be a case in 2014 about Adrian Peterson who had finally pleaded guilty of felony charges for hitting his four-year-old son with a switch (‘Child Abuse”).

The cases will never stop to surprise you from the age number to what had happened. The child abuse doesn’t just stop in one state at stated above, it travels fast and a human beings mind can’t be control from where it goes. One last example of how child abuse has stayed constant and gradual throughout the United States is because a service called the The Children’s Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 have invested more than 3 million children. About 683,000 children were found to be neglected or victims and 1,670 children who died from maltreatment. (‘Child Abuse”). Overall, 683,000 children getting abused is a number way higher than the numbers in the 1900s. Compared to the 1900s, the abuse in the 200s has definitely increased even if it by just a little; in due it’ll just keep growing higher.

In conclusion, child abuse in the United States has grown worse since the 1900s affecting a vast amount of children. From the 1900s to the 20th century the numbers have only increased and nothing less. Throughout the years, physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect has harmed and caused many deaths more and more each year.

Cite this page

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Child Abuse. (2022, Jun 04). Retrieved from

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