"The taboo against talking about incest is stronger than the taboo against doing it." - Maria Sauzier, M.D.
Traits of Families that Tolerate Incest and Child Abuse
Sexual child abuse is just one of a number of abuses taking place in an incest family. There may also be a history of family violence, substance abuse, and other criminal activity.
Duplicity, deceit, collective secrets
The incest family hides its embarrassing secrets.
Rigid and tightly controlled
Incest families have rigid rules to prevent revelation of their secrets.
Demand for blind, absolute loyalty
Incest families usually have a domineering head of household who rules the family through force.
Disrespect for each others' privacy, rights, and individuality is common in incest families.
Parents immature and inexperienced in life
Parents of incest families usually never become fully mature adults.
Conflictual marriage or troubled divorce
In incest families, this may refer to situations where children are pushed into the drama between a conflicted mother and father.
No childhood for the children
Incest families are somber and strict places, where the authority figure (usually one of the parents) dictates behavior for everyone else. Rather than let children run around and play, they force children into a regimented routine.
Chaotic situations, traumatic stress
Incest often takes place in chaotic households, with unstable roots. These families may move often and lack connections to any one community.
Low level of appropriate touch
In the most toxic incest families all touching is considered taboo. Parents do not hug, caress, or cuddle their children, as normal families do. This is perhaps the most telling symptom of incest.
Compensating veneer of religiosity
Incest perpetrators often hide behind an external show of religion.
Traits of Healthy Families
1. Individuality is respected.
2. Differences are tolerated.
3. Boundaries and roles are clearly defined.
4. Problem solving is open and valued.
5. Communication is responsive and accepting.
6. Strong marital bond between parents.
7. Strong ties to extended family, community.
8. Healthy humor, play, fun.
9. Shared spiritual life.
Editor's Note: These lists are based on materials developed by David L. Calof, author of "Multiple Personality and Dissociation: Understanding Incest, Abuse, and Mpd."
This book is out of print, but Amazon.com will search for a used copy and notify you in two weeks. Link to David L. Calof's web site: ClinicalWorkshops.com
Strategies for abuse survivors to cope with enhanced security at the airports - naked body scans or intimate pat-downs:
Tell yourself you will get through it. You are strong in places where you were once weak. This may be a challenge, but you will go through it because you need to travel. If you want to help, donate to a non-profit that works to protect citizens' constitutional rights against unreasonable search.
While you are in the security zone, be polite. Remember, these people did not abuse you in childhood. Chances are good they are not touching you with intent to abuse you. You can be proud of yourself for going through it without a strong emotional reaction.
If anyone does touch you in what you consider an inappropriate way, please report it to airport or airline employees immediately after the incident. Stand up for yourself and do it in a mature and calm way to prevent further emotional drama. Follow up your report with letters to your legislators, the airlines, the airport, and the TSA.
Once you go through security, try to forget about it. You will be sitting on an airplane for hours, so plan ahead. Bring something to read or listen to that will uplift your spirits.
While you are on the plane, respect other travelers' boundaries. The airplane is the wrong place to debrief your experience. The person sitting next to you probably cannot help. Write a letter to your counselor or friend if necessary to get it off your mind. You may never send the letter, but writing down your feelings may help more than talking. Statistics show that your seat mate could be a child abuse victim and you might trigger each other into feeling worse. One in four girls and one in seven boys are raped before the age of eighteen. Even more people suffer rape or trauma as adults. Instead of creating an atmosphere of panic in reaction to the security searches, deal with it later, when you can talk to someone in your support system. If necessary, make a call to a friend after you get off the plane.
Prevent Child Abuse
Parents in any culture can teach children that their bodies are sacred and deserve to be protected. The most effective way to protect children from sexual child abuse is to offer age-appropriate advice. For example, parents may encourage their children to talk to a trusted adult if anybody tries to touch them in the areas covered by their bathing suit. That is non-threatening and easy for a child to understand.
Find out where your family stands in these categories: fun, decisions, pride, values, caring, communication and confidence. Click here.
What Constitutes Child Abuse?
Neglect Failure to provide for a child's basic needs. Ignoring emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse of children. Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking medical care, abandonment, expulsion from home or not allowing a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision. Educational neglect includes permission of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age, inattention to special educational needs, enrolling children in dysfunctional schools that are not licensed and do not give the child an education. Failure to provide the necessities of life: decent clothing (including warm coats and shoes in winter), nourishing and healthy food, play time, time with parents, decent living quarters, including personal belongings, a bed and proper bedding.
Emotional Abuse Humiliating or frightening punishments, verbal abuse, exposing children to violence such as spousal abuse in the household, witnessing torture or sexual abuse of other children, allowing children to use drugs or alcohol, refusing to care for a child's psychological needs.
Physical Abuse Inflicting physical injury by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, hitting with an object, or any physical punishment besides a light spank on the bottom. In some countries, even conventional spanking is against the law. Click here to read Ten Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids, by Jan Hunt, M.Sc., Director of The Natural Child Project.
Sexual Abuse Sexual touching, fondling, rape or attempted rape, exposing children to adult sexual materials or activity, peeping into bathrooms or bedrooms to spy on children, having children pose, undress or perform in a sexual fashion, pressuring children for sex, exhibitionism around children, or creating an atmosphere of sexual intimidation.
Spiritual Abuse Using religious practices to punish children, forcing children to participate in rituals against their will, using God or religious ideas to persecute children.
Flashbacks are one of the long lasting and most devastating symptoms of child abuse. A flashback occurs when you look back on an old event with new eyes. the event was extremely painful abuse. When you look back on it you see something you never saw before. Perhaps you see for the first time that this was abuse and you did not deserve it. Perhaps you see for the first time how it hurt you.
Flashbacks are a sign of progress. They happen when you experience new ways of interpreting your past. However, the work of going through the flashbacks can be difficult. If you feel overwhelmed by a flashback it can hit you like an ocean wave. the emotions can come out so violently that it can cause psychosis, depression, or panic attacks.
It's good to have an experienced abuse recovery counselor to guide you through the flashback stage, because it is just a stage. If you go through it the right way, you will heal and learn to live with the memories. If you start to experience flashbacks, get a therapist, especially if you feel suicidal, if you have a psychological diagnosis (or suspect that you might), or if you are prone to self-pity. If you don't feel you need a therapist, at least get a good book to read on the subject. I recommend any book by Alice Miller or one of the books listed at my abuse recovery page (click here to see books).
The danger is that you might get into a rut of continuously experiencing flashbacks and that you might find yourself complaining about your child abuse history to people who can't help you. It is possible to get stuck in the victim mode and this will hurt your chances for a full recovery. It is possible to settle the matter once and for all, but you might need help. Try to see your flashbacks as a sign that your psyche is trying to heal.
Frequent Issues and Problems Faced by Incest Survivors
from Betrayal of Innocence
by Susan Forward & Craig Buck
Not every incest survivor experiences all of these. And this list is not exhaustive, but includes many of the problems most commonly reported by male survivors:
Anxiety and/or confusion; panic attacks; fears and phobias
Depression--often including suicidal thoughts or attempts
Low self-esteem--a feeling of being flawed or bad
Shame and guilt--over acts of commission and/or omission
Inability to trust themselves or others
Fear of feelings--a need to control feelings and behavior (their own and others'); compulsive caretaking
Nightmares and flashbacks--intensely arousing recollections
Insomnia--and other sleep disorders
Amnesia--memory loss, forgetting pieces of childhood
Violence--or fear of violence
Discomfort with being touched
Compulsive sexual activity
Hypervigilance--extreme startle response
Social alienation--feeling isolated and alone
Inability to sustain intimacy in relationships and/or entering abusive relationships in which they are revictimized
Overachievement and/or underachievement/underemployment--feeling like an impostor professionally
As adults, becoming abusers and/or protectors
As adults, becoming victims of other abuse
Having split or multiple personalities--or feeling as though they do
Substance abuse--drugs, alcohol, and so on
Unrealistic and negative body image--feeling distant from their own bodies
Feeling like a frightened child
Hyperconscious of body and appearance
A note to young people who are currently victims of sexual abuse
You have a right to be free from unwanted touching. If someone tries to violate your privacy, tell your parents, a teacher, a school counselor or someone you trust. Note however, that all child abuse must be reported. On one hand you may fear the consequences of exposing an abuser, but you need to realize that this is abuse and you are a victim. You are enduring treatment that will haunt you the rest of your life unless you do something to stop it.
Another area of sexual abuse is harassment. If someone makes sexual comments to you, shows you pornography or exposes themselves, or if someone forces you to watch sexual acts, then you have been sexually abused. Please talk these things over with an adult you trust. If they do nothing to help you, talk to another adult who will do something to stop the abuse.
Also, you may tell the abuser directly that you will not stand for this treatment anymore. Be careful. Standing up to an abuser may result in physical abuse. If your situation is that serious, please get help. If there's no one you can talk to, call a hospital or church from the phone book and tell them where you are and what's going on. Keep trying until you get attention for your problem. Also, get professional counseling. That is the best way to stop blaming yourself for the abuse (or the aftermath of exposing abuse).
Ninety percent of people in the world are against child abuse, but most lack the skills to recognize it or do anything to stop it. If a qualified person finds out what is going on, they will help you.
Nine Reasons Why Suicide is Wrong
Dear Ann Landers: I just sat through another incredible meeting of Suicide Survivors, a mutual support group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. This letter is for the benefit of those who feel their life isn't worth living.
If you think the following, it just isn't so:
1. They'd Be Better Off Without Me. Just one night at one of these meetings will convince you that you are mistaken. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Those who love you want you around, problems and all.
2. They'll Get Over It. Not true. Family and friends who are left suffer terribly. Their lives are changed forever. The realization that someone they cared deeply about felt life wasn't worth living is hard to accept. They ask themselves, Why wasn't I enough?"
3. I'll Leave a Note and Explain Everything. Wrong again. Those notes invariably create more confusion. They also raise questions for which there are no answers.
4. I Have No Friends. Not true. In today's world when everyone seems to be rushing, friends have a tendency to be less attentive, but that doesn't mean they don't care. True friends understand periods of silence (no letters, no calls). When they get together again, they pick up exactly where they left off.
5. I Have a Drug or Alcohol Problem That I Can't Beat. False. People beat those raps all the time. It takes guts and work, counseling and sometimes institutional care, but millions have done it and you can, too. Call a hotline that will put you in touch with someone who can help.
6. My Money Problems Are Impossible to Resolve. So how will suicide help? Killing yourself will leave the problems on the doorsteps of those you love.
7. I've embarrassed and hurt my Family. So what? They'll get over the embarrassment and hurt, but they will never get over losing you.
8. I'm Mad, I'll Show Them. Anger doesn't last forever. Where will you be when you're not angry anymore?
9. The Special Person in My Life Doesn't Love Me. He (or she) Walked Out on Me. If they were really special, they'd be around insisting you get help. Keep looking. You'll find someone else. And, when you do, you'll wonder how you could have been so foolish.
Suicide has never solved a problem. It only creates others. Granted, there are times when you feel so worthless that you don't want to be a burden. But, don't run off to be alone. Run to a phone and get some help. The one line that is repeated most often by all of us who attend meetings of Suicide Survivors is this: "If they had only known what their death would do to us, they never would have done it." If you know anyone who should read this column, cut it out and send it to him or her. It could be the wisest, most constructive thing you've ever done. You don't even need to sign your name. I'm not signing mine. - K.G. In Reston, VA.
[This article was taken from Ann Landers column. Ann wrote from Chicago for Los Angeles Times Syndicate and Creators Syndicate.]
Children: There is Danger on the Internet
Parents, teachers, and guardians can teach children about the miracles - and dangers - of the Internet. While a child can investigate anything from British royal history to the history of British rock bands, they must also learn to protect themselves. For one thing, beware of people who want to meet children in person after chatting on the Internet. The only reasons for adults to set up meetings with minors is to kidnap, abuse, or murder them.
There is also an abundance of porn and adult information freely available on the Internet. To pre-empt the child's discovery of these materials, parents need to speak frankly with their children about the mysteries of life, beginning with sex. Parents can explain how porn exploits the models and perpetuates abuse. Parents may explain that it is legal for adults to look at porn, but that parents are there to protect their children from the porn industry.
In addition to opening up a dialogue with their children, parents can encourage their children to use their laptops and wireless devices in the family room and share their adventures in cyberspace. Parents can join their children's social networking groups and send messages, tweets, and texts to be part of their children's online experience. Visit the Steamboats.com Parenting Workshop for more information on how to talk to teenagers, along with relevant books and links. Click here to go to the Steamboats Parenting Workshop.