Dobbing, C and Tomkins, A (2021) Sexual abuse by superintending staff in the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum: medical practice, complaint, and risk. History of Psychiatry, 32 (1). pp. 69-84. ISSN 0957-154X

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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.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sexual misconduct, Lunatic Asylum, patient complaint, medical practice, trust.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2020 10:41
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2021 13:35

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