BLOG - G. DOLMAN
That day, an elderly lady was dozing in a nearby chair in the lounge. All of a sudden she stood and screamed out, begging some uncle to stop; crying that he was hurting her, that she was only little, and sobbing for her mother. It was truly harrowing to hear her and even more so to image what kind of childhood torments she must have been reliving.
I saw the beginnings of a novel and so that evening I began to research the history of child sexual abuse. Which was when I stumbled across the work of WT Stead, and the holocaust that was the Victorian Defloration Mania.
As a direct result of the public outrage generated by Stead’s series the somewhat reluctant government of the day was forced to implement the Criminal Law Amendment Act. This raised the age of consent for girls from thirteen to sixteen years, thereby eliminating both the usual defence of one-word-against-another and the use of deceptions or inducements.
It is widely believed that his conviction was politically driven by a government incensed by his tactics. Richard Webster, the 1st Viscount Alverstone, the Attorney-General of the day himself acted as prosecutor in the case and the Conservative MP George Bentinck was particularly vehement. Stead however used his imprisonment to advantage and wrote a threepenny pamphlet of his experiences. Thereafter, every November 10th, (the anniversary of his conviction), Stead would dress in his prison uniform as a reminder of his, ‘triumph.’