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Sexual abuse by superintending staff in the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum: medical practice, complaint, and risk


The nineteenth century witnessed a great shift in how insanity was regarded and treated. Well documented is the emergence of psychiatry as a distinct area of medicine and the role played by county lunatic asylums. What remains unclear are the relationships between those who headed up the institutions and the individuals treated within them. This article uses two cases at either end of the nineteenth century to demonstrate sexual misdeamours in sites of mental health care, and particularly how they were dealt with, both in the press and by the law. They illustrate issues around cultures of complaint and the consequences of these cultures for medical careers. Far from being representative, these cases highlight the need for further research into the doctor-patient relationship within asylums, and what happened when the boundaries were blurred.

Acceptance Date Jun 10, 2020
Publication Date Mar 1, 2021
Journal History of Psychiatry
Print ISSN 0957-154X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Pages 69-84
Keywords Sexual misconduct, Lunatic Asylum, patient complaint, medical practice, trust.
Publisher URL