In this article published in Women’s History Review in 2020, Joanna Bourke traces the sexual abuse of girls and women with learning difficulties in Britain between the 1830s and the 1910s. Bourke shows how over the course of the nineteenth century, attitudes to girls and women with learning difficulties who claimed to have been raped became significantly harsher. This culminated in the view that rather than needing protection from rapacious men, these sexually precocious girls and women possessed ‘animal instincts’ and needed to be institutionalised in order to prevent them from seducing the men with whom they came into contact.
‘”Animal instincts”: the sexual abuse of women with learning difficulties, 1830s-1910s’
Women’s History Review
Published: 20 August 2020