We have heard these stories all too often.
A nine-year-old and her eleven-year-old brother are left in the care of a family friend whom they call ‘Uncle’. ‘Uncle’ separates the two by giving the brother chores outside. Uncle then takes the nine-year-old to the bedroom and asks her for permission to touch her private place. The moment is interrupted when her brother goes inside to ask ‘Uncle’ a question and for some reason, her brother takes her outside with him. She is inadvertently saved. Her friends are not as lucky as ‘Uncle’ has been perpetrating this criminal act on young girls in the neighbourhood for quite some time.
In another instance, a twelve-year-old boy is sitting watching television when his older male cousin starts rubbing his shoulders and stroking his genitals. His twelve-year-old brain cannot comprehend what is happening even when his cousin performs fellatio on him and takes him anally.
In each case, even when another adult discovers the abuse of responsibility, trust and power, that adult rarely speaks to the child about the event and hides it from family, friends and neighbours.
This silence preserves the secret and allows incest - a taboo subject- to remain the least talked about crime in our country.
The fact is that every child deserves a normal childhood and incestuous relationships are denying them that opportunity. Once the victims are left untreated they develop psychological issues that destroy their lives. Is it the lure of young flesh, the freshness of youth, or just simply their vulnerability that attracts these sexual predators who may be relatives or family friends?
Incest, rape or sexual abuse, no matter what it is called, is a criminal act perpetrated against innocent children taking away their childhood forever and scarring them for life. C. Dinsmore and T. Thomas are just two of the authors who have dared to write about the impact of incest and the recovery process for victims.
In many cases, not even the victims speak of the atrocity and the actions remain concealed due to feelings of shame, guilt or fear. This concealment may also be due to social and familial pressure or even coercion resulting in non-reporting of sexual attacks to the police.
Sadly, in some instances, the victim may come to view incest as a normal part of their existence, particularly when the same abuser commits the act against multiple siblings.
Where the perpetrator is a family member the horrific act disrupts the child’s primary support system—the family. Familial incest becomes even more disturbing when a non-abusing family member or parent refuses to stop or report the sexual attacks for various reasons.
Regardless, of the ‘reason’ there is no justification for letting a child experience living in hell from persons whom the child views as caregivers.
There is no difference if a family friend commits the criminal act. The harmful effects on the child are still the same. Victims live in mistrust and if untreated, may exhibit harmful behavioural issues in school and at home. Oftentimes later on in life, they have difficulty in forming and maintaining intimate relationships.
In addition, a vicious cycle can result with the abused becoming the abuser of their own children or those of someone else’s.
To nurture victims back to health so they move past the trauma requires a multidisciplinary professional approach. Incest recovery is an unhurried essential process and is somewhat different for males and females but the need for familial and societal support is the same.
Let’s speak out and protect our children.
Dr N. Carrington is a successful parent, educator and sociologist