The rape of Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter?

So after I post that in Harry Potter #5, female characters move closer to center, I get this comment from Emily:

One quick note that I didn’t realize when I read the 5th book, but was pointed out to me later. As for what the centaurs do to Dolores Umbridge–take a look at what centaurs were known for in Greek mythology and what Umbridge’s reaction is after her experience.

I know that this was J.K. Rowling’s very subtle wink to readers with a similar education/background in classics (which would be very very very very few, and would include NONE of the children reading her books, I am certain), but it is still a little off-putting to realize what exactly Hermione (because I suspect she would have known) and Rowling herself (who certainly did know) were willing to put even such an evil character through.

Not to ruin your enjoyment of the books! I love J.K. Rowling, and I am incredibly awed at her ability to include such subtle layers into her story. I love the stories and I love the realness of her world. I just wish Umbridge could have gotten her comeuppance in the (relatively gentle) way I’d originally read it, rather than in the brutal way it must have gone.

After reading Emily’s comment, I did a Google search and found several posts about the rape of Dolores Umbridge. Here’s one from Dollymix:

It is surprising that Rowling, known for the intense research of things she puts into her books, would use centaurs to “punish” Umbridge. Some evidence provided by Rowling helps to point us in the direction of discovering Umbridge’s true punishment. Umbridge’s usually neat appearance is changed in her hospital bed: her “mousy hair was very untidy and there were bits of twig and leaf in it, but otherwise she seemed to be quite unscathed” (2, p849). Despite lack of physical evidence, the students know something terrible has happened to her because of her physical and apparent mental states. When Ron jokingly makes the sound of hoof beats, Umbridge frantically sits up in her bed and looks for the source of the noise. Her reaction to this sound and her shock like state are symptoms commonly experienced by rape victims (RAINN). Why Rowling chose to punish Umbridge this way when she could have used many other means is unknown. The rape of Professor Umbridge is perhaps one of the most horrifying instances of violence against women in the entire series.

It is fascinating to me that the very illustration I picked for my post to show how strong the female characters are becoming in Harry Potter #5, could be a scene of Hermione leading Umbridge to her rape.


The fact that Harry is not in the lead, looking down while Hermione strides ahead, is surrounded by females, and has no idea where he is going– all of which I noted as unusual in this image and also the text– now seems to be constructed just in this way to absolve him. How disappointing that I noticed the narrative shifted here but could have missed the real significance as to why: one female goes against another in a vicious way, the other female is raped, and Harry is in the clear.

Imagine if Harry were the one to lead Umbridge into the forest to give her up to the sinister centaurs. Imagine if a male writer came up with rape as a punishment for an evil female character. I’m reeling from this analysis. What are your thoughts?

Update: On Reel Girl’s Facebook page, I’m getting lots of comments defending Hermione and J.K. Rowling, writing that this is not a rape scene. I want to believe that, but I cannot get over the fact that I picked this exact scene in my previous post because I noted something was different about it. That seems too strange to be a coincidence. If Rowling did not intend this scene to imply rape, I am feeling annoyed with her for sending an evil female off, at the hands of another female, to mythological creatures known for rape.