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Illicit and Unnatural PracticesThe Law, Sex and Society in Scotland since 1900$
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Roger Davidson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474441193

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474441193.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

‘This Pernicious Delusion’: Law, Medicine and Child Sexual Abuse1

‘This Pernicious Delusion’: Law, Medicine and Child Sexual Abuse1

(p.30) 3 ‘This Pernicious Delusion’: Law, Medicine and Child Sexual Abuse1
Illicit and Unnatural Practices

Roger Davidson

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 3 examines child sexual abuse in early twentieth-century Scotland and the competing discourses surrounding its prosecution. At the heart of the study is a set of High Court cases of sexual assault upon children involving the aggravated offence of communicating VD, and the role played by the enduring superstition that ‘having connection with a virgin’ was a cure for the affliction. The chapter traces how this ‘pernicious delusion’ figured in medical testimony to legal proceedings and government enquiries throughout the period. It explores the impulses and constraints shaping the response of the law to ‘child outrage’. The impact of these cases on the campaign by feminists, rescue workers, and purity activists to amend the criminal law and the conduct of investigation and trial in respect to sexual offences against women is documented, as is the growing importance of forensic medicine in securing convictions. Continuing resistance is revealed within the medical profession and judiciary, as well as within the family and local community, to recognising child sexual abuse. The chapter illustrates the many layers of denial that operated to deny the child victims justice and the extent to which the legal process stigmatised them as sexual dangers to be institutionalised..

Keywords:   ‘Child Outrage’, Child sexual abuse, Scottish High Court, Venereal Disease, Forensic medicine, ‘sleeping with a virgin’, Early 20th century Scotland, Purity Movement

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