In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, how was Henrietta Lacks sexually abused?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The text nowhere makes any mention of Henrietta Lacks being sexually abused. However, through Deborah's experience in Clover and with her uncle Galen, who molests her and tries to sleep with her, it is clear that abuse and rape were commonplace, even amongst cousins, and that this is something that Henrietta would probably have seen, if not experienced herself, when she was growing up. As regards her own sexual experience, Chapter Two gives the reader some background to Henrietta's life that shows how this part of her life started much earlier than the reader might imagine:

But Henrietta and Day had been sharing a bedroom since she was four, so what happened next didn't surprise anyone: they started having children together. Their son Lawrence was born just months after Henrietta's fourteenth birthday; his sister Lucile Elsie Pleasant came along four years later.

Thus, although the text makes no direct reference to Henrietta being raped or abused, it is clear that this was very much a part of the upbringing she would have experienced at Clover. She grew up at a time when women had very few rights and very little protection, and were seen as sexual targets by even men who were related to them.


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