Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters (SHaME) was a Wellcome Trust-funded research project running from 2018-2024 that explored the role of medicine and psychiatry in sexual violence. We aimed to move beyond shame to address this global health crisis.


Sexual violence is one of the most serious problems in the contemporary world. Our interdisciplinary project sought to understand the role played by medical professionals, including psychiatrists, in understanding and dealing with sexual harms. Instead of shame, we advocated for empowerment and knowledge. This website is an archive of our work, including resources and a blog.

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Our research began with the experiences of victims/survivors of sexual harms both in terms of the medical examination and emotional aftermaths of harm, followed by the role of medical experts in legal settings and in developing knowledge about the perpetrators of sexual harms.

GPs, Police Surgeons, Forensic Medical Examiners

How do medical professionals respond when a person reports being a victim of sexual violence? The medical examination is crucial for future outcomes, including the healing of physical and psychological injuries and the outcome in any subsequent court case.

Medicine and Law

What role does the law play in the way medical and psychiatric aspects of sexual violence are defined, assessed, and judged? Legal texts instruct medical students and practitioners how to present evidence in formal legal settings, as well as how to examine victims.

From Psychopathia Sexualis to the DSM/ICD

How do psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners explain why some people seek to sexually harm others? Their views about perpetrators of sexual violence have changed dramatically over time, as well as in different geographical contexts.

Psychiatric Aftermaths

Sexual violence can lead to longer-term emotional and psychological harms. How have these effects been understood? What help has been offered to victims?


Our research team organised regular seminars, conferences, film-evenings, and other public events.

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Featured Event

Book Launch: Global conversations about a rape-free world

On October 7th 2022, SHaME celebrated the release of Professor Joanna Bourke’s new book, Disgrace: Global Reflections on Sexual Violence, published by Reaktion Books. Joanna was joined by Jude Kelly CBE, Marai Larasi, Dr Rhea Sookdeosingh, and Maisha Sumah in a conversation between artists, activists and academics on boundary-crossing global approaches to creating a rape free world.

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Featured Event

Film Screening: SHaME: Stories of Survival

On Wednesday 29 November 2023, SHaME: Stories of Survival premiered at Rich Mix Cinema in east London. The screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring SHaME’s Principal Investigator Professor Emerita Joanna Bourke, Filmmaker Sophie MacCorquodale, Survivor and Contributor of Music Maddy Brodrick, award-winning speaker Maisha Sumah, and Founder of London Trans Pride Lucia Blayke.

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We were committed to making our research open and accessible, including sharing resources that helped inform our project.


Members of SHaME and invited guests reflected on current events, their research, recent conferences, ethical dilemmas, and other items of interest.

Affected by sexual violence?

If you have been affected by issues relating to sexual violence, we can recommend some support services.

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