Sexual Violence in History: A Bibliography

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First published: June 1, 2023 – Last updated: June 1, 2023


Author: Ruth Beecher

Title: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Emotions of the Community Health Practitioner in England and Wales, 1970-2000


Journal: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

Volume: (Published online before print)


Year: 2023 (Published online: May 9, 2023)

Pages: 1-16

pISSN: 0022-5045 – Find a Library: WorldCat | eISSN: 1468-4373 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | European History: English History, Welsh History | Types: Child Sexual Abuse; Research: Disciplines / Medicine


Oxford Academic (Free Access)

ResearchGate (Free Access)


Ruth Beecher, Department of History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of LondonORCID, ResearchGate

Abstract: »A survivor of child sexual abuse felt that doctors missed opportunities to notice her distress when, at fourteen, she had an unexplained illness that lasted for a year. The cause, she wrote, was “explained by Doctors as psychological, but nobody questioned further. WHY??? … If adults don’t listen[,] then we have no one to turn to.” For decades, community health practitioners have been identified as an important group in protecting children from maltreatment, but survivor testimony and agency statistics demonstrate that they rarely receive verbal disclosures or recognize the physical or behavioural warning signs of sexual abuse. The accounts we have of the 1980s tell of swiftly heightening professional awareness, followed by a visceral backlash in the latter part of the decade that discouraged practitioners from acting on their concerns. This article uses trade and professional journals, training materials, textbooks, and new oral histories to consider why community-based doctors and nurses have struggled to notice and respond to the sexually abused child. It will argue that the conceptual model of child sexual abuse that community health practitioners encountered in the workplace encouraged a mechanical and procedural response to suspicions of abuse. In a highly gendered and contested workplace, practitioners’ feelings about how survivors, non-abusing family members, and perpetrators should be understood were rarely debated in training or in practice. The emotional cost to the practitioners of engagement with sexual abuse, and their need for spaces of reflexivity and structures of support, were ignored.« (Source: Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences)

  Abstract (p. 1)
  “Not a Single Mention of Child Abuse”: Professional Silences in the 1970s (p. 5)
  Feminism and Medicine: Clashing Concepts of Child Sexual Abuse in the 1980s(p. 6)
  Awakening CHPS to Tackle the “Last Taboo” (p. 8)
  Training in the 1980s: “Almost Too Difficult for Us to Do in Any Meaningful Way” (p. 10)
  Mistakes and Rivalries in the late 1980s (p. 12)
  Conclusion (p. 14)
  Acknowledgements (p. 16)

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of England, History of Wales | Medicine: Health professional | Sex and the law: Child sexual abuse / Child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom