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    Children, sexual abuse and the emotions of the Community Health Practitioner in England and Wales (1970-2000)

    Beecher, Ruth (2023) Children, sexual abuse and the emotions of the Community Health Practitioner in England and Wales (1970-2000). Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences , ISSN ISSN 0022-504.

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    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 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 practitioner of engagement with sexual abuse, and their need for spaces of reflexivity and structures of support, were ignored.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): child sexual abuse, emotions, community health practitioners, early recognition, doctors, nurses
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Ruth Beecher
    Date Deposited: 16 May 2023 10:43
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:15


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