It comes as no surprise that incest survivors go through a lot of trauma. Unlike other types of sexual trauma, where the victim may not have a personal relationship to the attacker, incest hits so close to home–literally.
Imagine our disgust when we read that Oklahoma state Representative George Faught said “god can bring beauty from the ashes” of pregnancy from rape or incest.
Where’s the beauty?
Faught was defending controversial anti-abortion legislature. When he was asked to explain his comments, and clarify if he thinks rape is the will of god, he said:
“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there’s actually a couple of circumstances where that happened. And the Lord uses all circumstances. I mean, you can get on that path, but you know it’s a reality, unfortunately.”
Faught added that rape and incest have nothing to do with his abortion legislation.
We’d like to inform Faught how terrible incest is and explain it’s a trauma that lasts a life time.
Incest is rape… and a lot more
Incest is far more complex than just rape or molestation. According to Psychology Today, incest also includes inappropriate acts—prolonged kissing, bathing a child after an inappropriate age, watching a child undress, and commenting on a child’s looks excessively, are just a few types of incestuous behavior. Some of these actions are called “covert incest” and can also be signs that more direct physical sexual abuse may be in the near future.
Covert incest describes a relationship between a parent and child in which the child feels more like a romantic partner, Dr. Kenneth Adams explains.
“Typically the parent is motivated by the loneliness and emptiness of a troubled marriage, so she (or he) turns the child into a surrogate partner. There is not necessarily any kind of overt sexual touching, but the relationship feels too close for comfort to the child. The boundaries are such that there is an incestuous feeling. The child feels used and trapped, the same as with overt incest.”
Incest also may be perpetrated by people who are in power positions—not just parents–older siblings, stepparents, cousins, grandparents, etc, and can begin at such a young age, a child may not know that it’s inappropriate or even have the words to define it.
Incest is so hard to treat because young children often do not have the words or the “power” to report these acts.
Also, sometimes incest acts aren’t violent in the way we often frame sexual abuse. There may be no physical signs of abuse.
People who have experienced incest typically blame themselves for acts done to them. And the shame a victim feels can be more traumatic because the sex act or abuse was done by a family member. Other family members could also pressure a child to not say anything as to not “upset” the family dynamic.
PTSD stemming from incest often shows itself via self-injury, substance abuse, eating disorders, issues with disassociation, and promiscuity. An adult who suspects that a child is experiencing incest should contact Child Protective Services. And when discussing the abuse with the child, always offer your belief in their account of the situation.
Although treating incest is often painful and difficult for the patient, resolution can occur. “If approached circumspectly, gently, and with patience, the vast majority of those who have experienced incest can experience considerable improvement and enjoy an enhanced quality of life without succumbing to repeated victimization,” Richard P. Kluft, MD and PhD, says.
If you’re an adult who has experienced incest, consider going to one on one therapy, and attending group therapy. Also: Visit Rainn.org for other ideas and options.