The discovery that detonated Cleveland is one of Britain’s great contributions to awareness of child abuse. In 1986 and 1987 the Leeds paediatricians Dr Jane Wynne and Dr Christopher Hobbs reported in the Lancetthat they were seeing more children who were being buggered than battered. About 300 cases were corroborated. The children were young – two-thirds were pre-school children – and anal abuse was more common than vaginal penetration. They also noted that ‘boys and girls seem to be at similar risk’. Almost half of the children who suffered anal abuse also showed a sign written up in the forensic textbooks as ‘anal dilation’, an anus opening when it was supposed to stay shut; opening and expecting entry. What the paediatricians were observing was not an acute sign, the effect of a single intrusion – a spasm or seizure – but a sign that was telling a story about everyday life; the anatomy of adaption. Anal dilation seemed to describe the architecture of abuse: it allowed the body to receive an incoming object, regularly.
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