The warning signs of incest: What parents can do to stop sexual abuse in the family

By Rosemary Black

September 24, 2009 / Daily News

With Mackenzie Phillips' bombshell allegations of a 10-year affair with her father, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, the sensitive subject of incest is back in the news. It’s estimated that 20 million Americans have been the victims of parent incest as children, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, and an estimated 16,000 cases occur annually.

Such figures could be low, though, according to the center, since pressure from family members, plus threats from the abuser, often make the victim reluctant to reveal the incest.

While it can be very difficult for a family member to know if incest is occurring in the household, there are certain warning signs, said Keith Fadelici, licensed clinical social worker and the assistant director of Victims Assistance Services.

“There are no definite signs and anything on the list as an indicator is always potentially explainable in another way,” he explained. “But some of the noteworthy signs are that a child will either avoid or be very attached to that parent, that the child may act more sexual, and that a child may have either extreme fearlessness or fearfulness.”

Often, he said, young victims will respond to incest with self-injurious behavior such as drug abuse, cutting themselves or acquiring an eating disorder. These are ways that kids try to adapt to what’s happening to them, Fadelici said. Incest victims are in deep emotional pain because it is an authority figure in their life, upon whom they depend, who is victimizing them, he explained.

Incest is more likely to occur in a family where at least one parent is a stepparent, said Alan Davis, head of the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence, and it shows up far more often in homes where both parents are not the natural parents.

Incest marks its victims with traumatic and long-lasting effects, Davis said.

“They grow up not trusting, and it can be pretty devastating,” he explained. “And if the incest becomes a criminal matter, then it can be even more traumatic as the child must be interviewed by nonfamily members.”

Children younger than age 3 when they were victimized are less likely to suffer long-term effects, Davis said. In all cases, counseling and therapy should be provided.

“It’s possible to recover,” Davis said, “if you get help.”

If a parent is at all suspicious that incest is going on, it’s important to discuss concerns with the other parent.

“In homes where there is incest, there are usually a lot of secrets and a tendency to push one parent out of the picture,” Fadelici said. “We always advise people to pay attention to their gut feeling and to honor those feelings. As parents, give each other feedback and communicate openly. If there is anything that makes you uncomfortable about the other parent’s behavior, you should discuss it.”

Anyone suspicious of incest can call the 24-hour rape crisis hotline at (800) 726-4041. There is also an information and referral helpline at the National Center for Victims of Crime at (800) FYI-CALL. And there’s a sexual abuse hotline at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network at (800) 656-HOPE.


Surprise, surprise, surprise discovery

Incest is more likely to occur in a family where at least one parent is a stepparent, said Alan Davis, head of the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence, and it shows up far more often in homes where both parents are not the natural parents.

Is it any surprise so many abused adoptees within our collected case pages include sexual abuse/incest between adopted/fostered child and so called parents and so-called siblings?

In addition, is it any surprise sexual abuse will and does take place in care-settings, like residential schools/children's homestreatment centers,  and orphanages?

Maybe such information comes as a surprise to many -- (many expecting incest to exist between bio-families, only).  In my case, such information comes as no real surprise.

being pushed out...

"In homes where there is incest, there are usually a lot of secrets and a tendency to push one parent out of the picture..."
I'm sure a lot of you here know about a "lot of secrets."  But how many here, where it was a ?parent? look back and see that SOMEONE was pushed out?
In my bio home, it was ME!  I WAS PUSHED OUT!  I was made to feel the change in our ?family? once I told of the abuse by my father.  For years I was made to feel like I OWED my mother SOMETHING!  and I paid dearly...
In this adoptive home, looking back, I can see how this is exactly what happened to me again:  father owned daughter, and therefore the secret life was totally secret while the mom was pushed to the side: NO communication, NO sex, NO love, No importance.  I was the mom and did my job, but as the wife, I was non-existent.
I know most of you see it from a different point, but this description works all the way around incest.  Someone is pushed out so the incest can live.  And it does live... it takes on a life of its own.  Even the adopted child who is abused by a sibling feels the shutting out because he/she is FORCED to live a different life than the rest of the family.  The secrets hide within the incestuous relationships. 
I shuddered when I read this...

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Finding replacement pieces

In many cases, (expressed to me by other adoptees who were sexually abused within their new families), the daughters who were sexually abused by the fathers saw themselves as wifely-duty replacement parts.  In other words, the dads did not want sex with their wives (for a variety of reasons).  Instead, they (the sexually frustrated men) wanted something more exotic... erotic... "different".  What did they choose to do?  They went to the exotic looking females living under their roof -- it was easy, it was convenient and it's disturbing to think there are people who think any of that is a good excuse or reason to have sex with a child.  [ANY child!]

As far as sibling-sex is concerned... it's only my guess jealousy, hate and a need to "pay-back" are the dynamics behind an act that basically forces one to feel as if he/she is in control/dominates over the other.  In this sense, just like rape is not always about the want for sex, incest is not always about experiencing love.  From what gets shared with me by other victims, I believe, sex between siblings (related or not) has more to do with resentment and rage than anything that resembles "mutual love and pleasure".   [It's kinda like a "Who's the top-dog?  Who's the servant and who's the master, and what are you going to do about it?" sorta thing.  This "understanding" of course, is best-kept hidden and secret between siblings, because if it gets out, all hell could break loose.]

All of this gets even more disturbing and tricky, because as we learn from articles that feature The Stockholm Syndrome, we discover the victims learn to love and protect their abusers because they don't want more trouble for themselves.


In my case, I have a 19 year

In my case, I have a 19 year old step daughter and 23 years old step son. When I first noticed that something was strange about them it was when my daughter was fourteen and my son was 18. I cam home oneday from work to find them both in the bathroom with my son in the shower and my daughter using the toilet both at the same time. The curtains were drawn to the side so there was nothing between them. I scolded them especially my son because he is older and hsould have known better.

I thought nothing of it until I woke up one night to return to my room, when I saw my son wrappen only in a towel, and coming out of his sister's room. Because he had his back to me, quickly pushed him before he shut the door and opened my daughter's door. Flipping the switch, I saw my daughter laying on the bed naked and smiling, probably thinking that it was her brother returning. I said nothing but closed the door and returned to my room. During breakfast, I told my wife about both incidences. My wife did not take it very well, and in fact started telling me things like, delirious and dreaming, and what's worse was, she flat out told me that maybe it was me that wanted to sexually abuse our daughter. No matter how much I tried to tell her what I saw with my own eyes, she kept telling me that no one in her family is incestuous, and therefore, she does not believe that both our children are capable of that.

At this, I decided to work alone and secretly to try to prove what I saw to her. A few years later, she over heard our daughter asking our son if he still had condoms, and that they should rent a room as her room was too risky. At the time she heard them, they were already 18 and 22. So yes, I was in a way left out of the picture as my kids saw their best chnace to hide their secret, and it was the fact that no matter what I said, Their mother (my wife) did not believe me....

They are both now in relationships, but sometimes, when we get home from work, their mannerism and gulty gazes suggests that they might have been at it but I'm tired and frustrated so I have been ignoring the situation for some time now.....

Pound Pup Legacy