Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
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Indianapolis: I'm a Prostitute and Proud of It!
Indianapolis: I'm a Prostitute and Proud of It!
The person at the center of Indiana's strangest prostitution-related story wasn't a sex worker at all, just a bullied young girl who endured insult after insult. In 1965, police answered a call about a dead girl. They found the body of Sylvia Likens (pictured, top right). She was emaciated, naked, covered with bruises and sores — and the words "I'm a Prostitute and Proud of It!" were burned on her chest. 37-year-old Gertrude Baniszewski (pictured, bottom right) and a group of teenagers bad been psychologically and physically torturing Likens and her polio-stricken sister Jenny for months. They'd started a rumor that the innocent girls were prostitutes. Baniszewski, who ran a boarding house (pictured) at which the sisters stayed while their parents traveled as carnival workers, had even forced Sylvia to write a letter to her parents saying she'd agreed to have sex with a group of boys for money. She showed the letter to police when they questioned her, but young Jenny set things straight. The story inspired a number of books and movies — and it wasn't the first or last time someone called a girl or woman they didn't like a whore.

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