Was the Muggle attack on Ariana Dumbledore sexual in nature? When I read this, I noticed a lot of "hand-waving language", typical in situations when the author wants to keep the book family suitable but is alluding to something sexual.

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    @calccrypto I don't see the relevance? – Celeritas Jul 10 '14 at 20:12
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    @calccrypto -- Canon uses the word "attack" to describe what happened to Ariana, which is a step up from typical bullying (although, sure, bullying can of course be physical and not just verbal or psychological). "Attack" to me implies physical harm and/or sexual assault. Yes, Ron had a cruel streak and Hermione was the recipient of most (?) of his barbs; he didn't physically or sexually assault her. Hermione stayed perfectly competent while enduring Ron's BS; after being attacked, Ariana was left non-fuctional, in a perpetual state of hopeless PTSD (or the like). :) – Slytherincess Jul 10 '14 at 20:45
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    @calccrypto -- Bullying is never "innocent". Many people have had their lives devastated by the effects of bullying. I would gently suggest that you indeed re-evaluate your definition of bullying and learn more about it before you stray into "willful ignorance" territory. I don't say this to be rude or condescending -- I find this genuinely concerning. :/ – Slytherincess Jul 10 '14 at 22:38
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    @Izkata: DVK’s answer there skims over Ariana’s story, but doesn’t really go into detail on her attack, which is what this question is about. Not a dupe imo. – alexwlchan Jul 10 '14 at 22:57
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    I'm with @alexwlchan on this one. Not dupe IMO. – Möoz Jul 10 '14 at 23:09

First I would like to correct that it was not Dumbledore who informed the trio about Arianas fate, but Aberforth at the Hog's Head after saving them from the trap in Hogsmeade.

I disagree with Slytherincess. Aberforth said "trying to stop the little freak doing it.", not punishing her for it and sexually assaulting her is not directly linked to stop her magic. While the exact age of the attackers is not given I presume they were still before puberty so this is again unlikely to be a sexual assault.

J.K.Rowling did not state the exact reason because it seems to be horrible enough and leave the imagination to the readers. My logical conclusion was


given the historical background (which Rowling used extensively in the books), that Ariana was undoubtly a witch, and that the boys got carried away to stop her: They tried to burn her alive. Ariana survived because we know wizards and witches are much more resilient to normal damage than muggles and magical cures are much more powerful.But naturally it broke her completely and was a sufficient reason for the father to hunt down the boys.

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    @Kevin unfortunately 6 year olds are capable of more than you might like to imagine. – DeveloperInDevelopment Jul 11 '14 at 5:08
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    well, it isn't necessary that her attackers were her age. there are lots of stories where older kids rape way younger kids... But that aside, I don't believe that it was a sexual attack simply because they were frightened of her power. They wanted to stop her using magic. Maybe they tried setting her on fire. Maybe they 'just' tried beating her to death... – Armin Jul 11 '14 at 7:17
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    @Kevin: J.K.Rowling is UK resident and I think she knew the case of James Bulger which put the UK in a state of shock and horror in 1993. You may rethink your "wouldn't be capable of" after reading the incident. – Thorsten S. Jul 11 '14 at 11:03
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    @ThorstenS. -- Heck, I'm American and even I know about the Bulger case -- terrible, just terrible. There are many, many juvenile sex offenders in the US; I can't speak to the UK. I'm sorry, but juveniles do perpetrate sexual crimes. If they didn't, or if it were rare, here in the US we wouldn't have need for sex offender management boards to oversee what must be a great number of juvenile sex offenders. Some of these kids are terribly violent. My point is merely that it can happen. It does happen. :) – Slytherincess Jul 11 '14 at 21:37
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    'Aberforth said "trying to stop the little freak doing it.", not punishing her for it and sexually assaulting her is not directly linked to stop her magic.' But isn't harsh punishment often how people try to force others to change their behavior? "Don't do it again or we'll be back to hurt you again like we just did" might have been their intention. But it's also possible they just wanted to kill her to make sure she wouldn't do it again. – Hypnosifl Jul 12 '14 at 18:14

It's obviously not explicitly stated, as you note, and J.K. Rowling has not addressed this specific question in any interview I'm aware of (perhaps someone else knows of one?). I will say that the impression I came away with after reading about the attack on Ariana was that she may indeed have been sexually assaulted, or that at the very least the attack might have involved some improper language and/or perhaps touching.

Ariana was so traumatized that sexual assault seems possible; of course, that level of trauma can certainly result from a purely physical attack. I would say that it would seem more likely that a little girl's father would actually attack the juvenile offenders if sexual assault were involved.

ETA: I stand corrected. Thanks to Anthony Grist, I went back and re-read parts of Deathly Hallows and discovered that Dumbledore's father attacked the boys who attacked Ariana; there is no indication he killed them:

‘And my father went after the bastards that did it,’ said Aberforth, ‘and attacked them. And they locked him up in Azkaban for it. He never said why he’d done it, because if the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she’d have been locked up in St Mungo’s for good. They’d have seen her as a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy, unbalanced like she was, with magic exploding out of her at moments when she couldn’t keep it in any longer.

‘We had to keep her safe, and quiet. We moved house, put it about she was ill, and my mother looked after her, and tried to keep her calm and happy.'

Deathly Hallows - page 455 - Bloomsbury - chapter twenty-eight, The Missing Mirror

So I've tweaked this answer accordingly, to reflect an attack on Ariana's abusers, rather than their being murdered. If you want to see the differences between the two answers, just check the edit history. Basically, I've reversed my stance on the attack "obviously" having been sexual in nature to possibly having been sexual in nature. For it is possibly. But from the canon we have, a definitive conclusion can't be drawn.

As well, Dumbledore, at one point in his life, advocated wizarding subjugation of Muggles, a decidedly anti-Muggle stance. Perhaps his father had anti-Muggle leanings as well -- and planted the seed in Dumbledore's mind that Muggles were inferior to wizards -- and this made it easier for him to attack the Muggle boys. A total guess on my part, because Mr. Dumbledore never made a confession.

So, there is no absolute canon answer to this question, but this is what I have concluded.

Feel free to retract your vote if you feel uncomfortable with my reassessment.

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  • Since, given the lack of Word of God, this is largely the way readers have inferred the passage, I'll state I agree with @Slytherincess. – Mac Cooper Jul 10 '14 at 20:06
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    @MacCooper - I agree with this interpretation. The quote is "It destroyed her, what they did: she was never right again". That doesn't suggest to me a purely physical attack – Valorum Jul 10 '14 at 20:09
  • Another voice of agreement here. In fact, I’m not aware of any interview mentioning Ariana, except as part of the complete family Dumbledore would see in the mirror of Erised. – alexwlchan Jul 10 '14 at 20:11
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    @Richard. A purely physical attack could certainly have that effect. I've heard near identical phrases used to describe war veterans. There is a popular perception that sexual assault is somehow on another level than a purely physical or psychological trauma, but the evidence doesn't necessarily support this. The linked table shows that, while rape is clearly traumatic, combat, physical assault and threat with a weapon are all in a similar ballpark with respect to incidence of PTSD. TL;DR: you can't infer a sexual component from severity alone. – DeveloperInDevelopment Jul 11 '14 at 4:55
  • @imsotiredicantsleep -- Just wanted to point out that I did note that physical trauma can result in deep PTSD (for lack of a better term): "Ariana was so traumatized that sexual assault seems obvious; of course, that level of trauma can certainly result from a purely physical attack." I agree that severity alone doesn't prove sexual assault, but if you go on to read my answer, you'll note I based my supposition on Ariana's father actually killing the Muggle boys in retaliation. I thought perhaps that indicated a sexual assault, as sexual impropriety is often the basis for violence. – Slytherincess Jul 11 '14 at 21:28

My theory is that the muggle boys tried to burn her alive. This was the late 1800's, and im sure the boys had heard tales of wicked witches and black magic in story books, and decided to get rid of the witch in that way. Perhaps they tied her up, and tried to burn her alive like the witch in Hansel and Gretel? After all, they were obviously wicked childen, and also young and impressionable.

I can imagine being treated like a wicked animal from a muggle fairy tale would be incredible humiliating and traumatic to a Witch or Wizard, especially at 6 years of age. perhaps on par with something like sexual assault.

Now whether or not the boys tried to KILL Ariana is anyone's guess.

EDIT: but then there is the matter of Ron's. Reaction to the story, once Aberforth finished telling it. I forget how it's worded, but I remember reading the Ron was sickened and felt almost ill by the actions of the three boys. So take away from that what you will.

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  • We aren't looking for guesswork, we're looking for referenced, authoritative statements based on evidence or at least qualified supposition. – Valorum Jun 24 '17 at 17:38

Sexual stimulation or assault, wouldn't stop "the little freak from doing it". They must have psychologically scarred her and perhaps, tried to put the magic back inside her. E.x. If she conjured flames they would put the fire on her hands, if she opened a flower, they would press the flower in her hands, and close it with her own hands.

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  • Nothing would stop Ariana from being magical. The way your answer is worded, though, suggests you don't believe sexual assault can be psychologically scarring. Is that what you're saying? – Slytherincess Jul 12 '14 at 17:35
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    @Slytherincess - I thought Donmax's idea was that her muggle attackers wouldn't understand magic well enough to realize they couldn't "put the magic back inside her", and that this is what they were trying to do rather than trying to psychologically scar her (but if their efforts to 'put the magic back' involved something painful like forcing fire in her hands, it could well end up scarring her psychologically even if this wasn't her attacker's main goal). I don't think there's any evidence in the text for this idea though. – Hypnosifl Jul 12 '14 at 18:16
  • @Hypnosifl -- I have to agree with you that I don't get this interpretation from the text. I don't have the book in front of me, but I thought Aberforth said the boys wanted to "stop the little freak [from doing magic]". I can't quite make the leap from wanting to stop Ariana bursts of inadvertent magic to wanting to physically stuff her magic back inside her. That's like trying to force someone to not breathe. :) – Slytherincess Jul 15 '14 at 5:38

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