In 2002, with the life of young Mary Ellen McCormick's tragic life in 1873 as a motivation, the Special Victims Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, established the Mary Ellen McCormick Award to recognize those individuals who have made a difference in the life of a child.

Sheriff Lee Baca and Special Victims detectives honored these fine people at Sheriff's Headquarters on April 26, 2013 for their great efforts in making a difference in the lives of children with the 2013 Mary Ellen McCormick Award:

Denise Bertone, Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office

Gail Abarbanel, Rape Treatment Center at UCLA Medical Center

Deputy District Attorney Diana Martinez, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office

Sabina Alvarez; Inter-Agency Council on Abuse and Neglect

R. Edward Geiselman; Psychology Department at University of California, Los Angeles


Award Background:
In 1873 a humanitarian by the name of Mrs. Etta Angell Wheeler discovered the abuse of a young girl in New York City. Through her persistence and hard work, Mrs. Wheeler uncovered the sad and unacceptable treatment of Mary Ellen McCormick. Mary Ellen was found pale, thin, barefoot and wearing a tattered dress. She was tiny; the size of a five-year-old, although she was nine-years-old. Across the table lay a brutal whip of twisted leather strands and the child's arms and legs bore many marks of its use. Although there were laws protecting animals from abusive treatment, there were no laws to protect children from abuse. Children were considered the property of their parents or their guardian and intervention was not acceptable. Desperate to help, Mrs. Wheeler turned to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Believing she would be turned away with such an absurd idea, she proceeded to plead her case to Mr. Henry Bergh, Director of the SPCA. The case interested Mr. Bergh, who agreed to bring the facts to a court of law. Mary Ellen was brought to court wrapped in a carriage blanket. She was bruised, her face disfigured by a gash through the left eye brow and down the cheek from scissors at the hands of her caretaker. The child's appearance was testimony enough. On Thursday, April 9, 1874, her rescue was accomplished and her assailant was convicted of cruelty to an animal. After Mary Ellen’s story was heard, other cases began to come forward, prompting Mr. Bergh to form the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

To report child abuse, call your local sheriff's or police.

Or to report child abuse in Los Angeles County, contact the Child Protection Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

■ Toll-free within California, phone (800) 540-4000
■ If calling from outside of California, phone (213) 639-4500
■ TDD [Hearing Impaired] (800) 272-6699

Para reportar abuso de niños en el Condado de Los Angeles, California, llame a la Linea de Proteccion de Niños 24 horas al día, 7 días a la semana

■ Gratis dentro de California, llame al (800) 540-4000
■ Si llama fuera de California, llame al (213) 639-4500
■ TDD [Problemas de Oido] (800) 272-6699

Or if you wish to remain Anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website 

LA County Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse & Neglect Release 2012 Annual Reports: Prevent child abuse & neglect of children 


How can I help prevent child abuse? (Website of the Los Angeles County Dept. of Children and Family Services) 


Child Abuse Prevention Handbook and Intervention Guide (California Attorney General) 


Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services) 


LASD - Special Victims Bureau

The investigation of child sexual and physical abuse is one of the missions of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Special Victims Bureau. The Bureau also provides extensive legislative analysis on child abuse bills and participates in a Federal task force on child exploitation. As a Detective Division unit, the Special Victims Bureau serves all L.A. County Sheriff´s Station areas and has the exclusive responsibility for these investigations. The investigation of child abuse cases is highly specialized. Investigators assigned to this bureau are recognized experts in the interviewing of child victims, as well as juvenile and adult suspects. Child abuse detectives participate in multi-disciplinary child abuse centers located throughout Los Angeles County. Special Victims Bureau personnel conduct training of new deputies just prior to patrol assignment, and in-service training to patrol personnel to enable deputies to best carry out their responsibilit as first responders in cases of suspected child abuse. Child abuse investigators also provide training to mandated reporters of child abuse, as well as community groups desirous of child abuse information.

Public Information Officer Nicole Nishida


Captain Mike Parker
Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau - Newsroom
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
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Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

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