I was going through a volume of The Illustrated Police News (August 29, 1896) and I found this rather ridiculous illustration:
The illustration is so absurd, I figured I’d have to blog about it, regardless of what the story was. I mean, look how short her skirt is! Look at the evil glint of his mustache! Look at that woman in the background who appears to be pleased with the abduction, or is too dim to understand what’s happening. Look at the sexy pantaloon slap-fight they appear to be having in the inset!
Now, of course, my assumption had been that The Illustrated Police News had sexied up and sensationalised the actual story through the way they chose to illustrate it, as they sometimes tend to do. The article got a lot less fun to read, though, when I realised it actually was as horrifying and Gothic as it appears.
Triggers for abduction, abuse, and rape
The article reads:
“A great sensation has been caused in society circles at Bucharest by the abduction of a young lady belonging to one of the leading families in the capital. The young lady, whose name is Mlle Joanid [sp? illegible in the scan of the article], was recently betrothed to a well-known engineer; but the fact that she had a dowry of £20,000 excited the cupidity of a Frenchman named M. Fourgeon, who conceived the idea of carrying her off, and either persuading her to marry him or else forcing her parents to consent to the match in order to avoid scandal.
“M. Fourgeon’s family approved of the scheme, and his sister, who was an intimate friend of Mlle Joanid, undertook to aid him. Mlle Fourgeon accordingly persuaded Mlle Joanid to go for a walk with her in [illegible] near the city, and there the unfortunate young lady was seized by Fourgeon, and in spite of her cries of distress, harried into a carriage and driven off to the Fourgeon estate in [illegible].
“Mlle Joanid’s disappearance, of course, attracted attention, and suspicion at once fell upon Fourgeon. The house . . . was surrounded by the police, who forced an entrance, and in one of the rooms found the young lady, nearly mad with terror. Her face was covered with blood, and her clothes had been nearly torn off her back in her desperate struggles to resist her abductor’s advances.
“Fourgeon was arrested in an adjoining wood, and along with his sister and other members of his family, has been lodged in prison in Bucharest.”
What’s horrifying in the way the article is written (in addition to the whole situation) is that it names the victim while simultaneously suggesting that she’s no longer ‘virtuous’ after her attack. It underlines that she’s a victim and then shames her for it. The article makes a point of mentioning that a potential outcome could have been her parents forcing her to marry her rapist to avoid scandal. It then goes on to discuss how she was beaten and stripped in an attempt to resist Fourgeon’s sexual assault (the implication being that she was unable to fight him off). The article then leaves you hanging, allowing prurient curiosity to fill in the blanks about if she was actually sexually assaulted and what this means for her upcoming marriage and for the rest of her life in society, since the story is now in the public eye.