Taboo Sibling Incest / Sibling Sexual Abuse (non-consensual)

Sibling Incest is also known as Sibling Sexual Abuse and is a form of non-consensual intrafamilial sexual abuse.  Intrafamilial sexual abuse is another term used to describe incest or child sexual abuse that occurs within the family.  According to the WHO (World Health Organization), Incest/intrafamilial abuse accounts for about one third of all child sexual abuse cases.
Sibling sex abuse is now recognized as the most common form of intrafamilial sexual abuse.
In times of great sorrow people tend to go to the comfort of family and friends. But what do you do if the source of your sorrow is a life changing event that is considered taboo? What if this life changing event is sexual abuse committed by an aggressor in our own immediate family? How do we relate to our family, friends, and others when the topic is considered “forbidden”?  Do you risk telling anyone?  Sibling Sexual Abuse is an unfortunate truth that is many times ignored and/or not discussed since most people avoid this taboo like a skeleton(s) in the closet. However, people still pretend and choose to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.
skeletons-in-closet“Skeletons in the closet” is an idiom used to describe an undisclosed fact about someone which, if revealed, would have a negative impact on that person.
I remember, at 13, the first time I learned the meaning of the word “taboo”. The definition in the dictionary gave a few examples of what taboo is and of course incest was listed. The small voice inside me agreed “yes … this happened to me but I can’t talk about it … now what?”  13 is when the nightmares started and flashbacks were almost a constant companion.  My eyes opened and my reality altered. This whole facade of my “hero” “brother” came crashing in. I was able for the first time to see what he did to me was sexual abuse.  I remember looking up the word incest in the dictionary numerous times because I realized that this definition fit me and the “brother” I loved so much, and I now felt hatred.  The paradox of loving and hating the same person at the same time began.
crime_victimTaboo signifies that a truth or something is forbidden, perverse, unclean, or cursed.   A topic so taboo tends to leave the survivor of sibling sexual abuse many times without a voice. 
Incest is frequently referred to as taboo however; incest can refer to consensual and non-consensual sex acts between close blood relations. Sibling sexual abuse is a term sometimes referred to as sibling incest, but for the purpose of this blog, both terms are referring to non-consensual Intrafamilial sexual violence. Non-consensual sibling incest is the result (not the cause) of family dysfunction with the parent’s failure to pay attention to the trust that they have placed in one of their children over another child, such as, baby-sitting. My own family had troubles way before either of my brothers started “grooming” me.
thicker“The taboo against talking about incest is stronger than the taboo against doing it” – Maria Sauzier, M.D1
My visit to the ER at 7 years old in 1974 with blood coming from tares inside my vagina was a major red flag of physical signs of being raped (by my older “brother”).  This was an obvious truth that was being ignored and remained unaddressed.  The doctor treated the wounds but not the cause.  I was very afraid and could not remember how this happen.  The doctor was more concerned for my mother’s overt hysteria and calming her down than for the silent little girl bleeding on the examination table. I was sent home.  The cause, my “brother”, continued to rape me for several more years.
tumblr_m0g693qcKM1r4m87ko1_500Visible signs of child sexual abuse are rare but when physical signs are demonstrated and ignored, then an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed similar to the account of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” or the metaphor of an “elephant in the room”. 
An “elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; however, people still pretend the elephant is not in the room and choose to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.
imagesCASF71OS“Yeah, I see him too … But nobody wants to talk about it!”
It is easier to discount signs of sexual abuse when the victim and the aggressor are both your own children. Another layer of denial and complexity is added to an already troubled home. The parents may find it easier to accept lies (not even very good lies) than have to deal with an unthinkable taboo involving their own children yet the parents are still accountable to protect and help both children.  “Sibling sexual abuse is a gross abuse of trust.  Survivors often reveal feeling betrayed  …”2
new baby sisterFigure 13-1 The new baby sister.  The moment when life’s longest relationship begins.
 In the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, you would think it would be impossible to overlook a naked King; however, people still pretend the King was wearing clothes and choose to avoid dealing with the looming big issue. It took a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, to blurt out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all.  the emperor's new clothes
My 2nd oldest “brother” was my baby-sitter. No one could see the signs in me or what signs they saw were dismissed. It is difficult for people to draw conclusions that a little girl is being raped by her big “brother”. My parents failed to pay attention to the trust that they placed in one of their children to be in charge of me. Maintaining family secrecy and saving the dream of the “ideal family” is placed before the welfare of their victimized child in order to protect themselves and their aggressor child from any outside legal/social advocacy, intervention, interference, and most of all embarrassment.
big_brother_is_watching_you_propaganda_poster-re04eeda43f6c4d049e38e774389b109e_aiked_400“… fear, along with shame surrounding the ‘incest taboo’, can mean the victim’s silence extends over the years of childhood, and for some, continuing into adulthood.” 2

 

The referenced pamphlet is an excellent resource for survivors:

  1. Goulburn Valley Centre Against Sexual Assault Sibling Sexual Abuse Pamphlet: http://www.gvcasa.com.au/documents/sibling_sexual_abuse.pdf
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Desire and Defense: Survivors of Sibling Abuse challenged by Intimacy (Amy Meyers, PhD, LCSW February 19, 2014)

Our primary motivation is to feel a sense of connection to others (Fairbairn, 1952). The root of all connectedness begins with mother-infant, yet siblings soon become a key source of emotional connection (Winnicott, 1971). When children lack nurturing relationships in their home, they search for that connection throughout their life. Families set a precedent for how its members understand closeness with another person; how they think about connectedness; and how they experience intimacy. Because victims of sibling abuse do not have a model for a “healthy” and satisfying connection, there is a tendency in adulthood to seek out relationships that repeat aspects of their previous experiences.

Survivors of sibling abuse endure feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and inferiority that erodes self-esteem. This ultimately influences the nature and quality of relationships to others. When one’s most trusted peer—the sibling—betrays the sanctity of that relationship, the idea of closeness—and of intimacy—becomes fraught with danger. As a result, survivors develop defenses against and within intimate relationships as an attempt to self-protect from re-traumatization.

See more of the article at: Desire and Defense: Survivors of Sibling Abuse challenged by Intimacy

Also see her latest journal article:

Meyers, Amy. (2014): “A call to child welfare: Protect children from sibling abuse” Qualitative Social Work March 12, 2014http://qsw.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/03/09/1473325014527332.abstract

Abstract

Sibling abuse is extremely common, yet child welfare does not provide statutes for its identification and workers are not trained to identify its occurrence. This retrospective study explored adults survivors’ experiences of childhood and adolescent sibling abuse and the family environment that engendered hostile sibling relationships. The varying parental responses from punitive to neglect to collusion with the perpetrator resulted in feelings of helplessness and worthlessness in the victim. Personal narratives of survivors highlight the sibling abusive experience and underscore its devastating repercussions. Recommendations are presented for child welfare to establish sibling abuse as a phenomenon in need of recognition and include siblings in risk assessment.

p7_selfesteem

 


Forgiveness and Survivors

All_Graphic500x437Forgiveness of the abuser is not a requirement for healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).  The most important step in healing for CSA survivors is SAFETY.  Do you feel like hurting yourself or someone else?   What will you do when you feel suicidal or doing self-harm?   Create a safety plan first (create one even if it feels silly).  There are many hotlines available 24 hours a day to listen.  Have the hotline numbers and/or the numbers of friends or family that you trust will listen.  The downward spiral of harmful negative thoughts can be overwhelming for survivors and having someone to talk to can be beneficial in turning around that type of thinking.  Be prepared to take yourself to the emergency room or seek medical help if a phone call or talking to someone does not provide help and you still want to hurt yourself or others.  Safety First and then all the rest can follow …

In the USA: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  or call 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK

Worldwide Hotlines: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

Worldwide Hotlines: http://www.befrienders.org/

The next important step would be admitting and accepting the sexual abuse did happen, has had an impact on your life, and then make a decision to heal.  Acceptance, like healing, is an evolving process and can take a life time for some survivors as significant life events bring new understands of memories.

I don’t think that forgiveness of the abuser is a requirement for healing.  Some survivors have found forgiving the abuser helpful.  This is a common topic I think most survivors struggle with because it seems like society expects us to forgive our abusers.  But are we forgiving just to make others feel more comfortable?

for·give  1. to cease to blame or hold anger/resentment against (someone or something)  2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc)  3. (tr) to free or pardon (someone) from penalty  4. (tr) to free from the obligation of (a debt, payment, etc)

In general, for me, forgiveness is coming to a place of peace and compassion with myself and others.   It is not the same as condoning.

I tend to go back and forth with the topic of forgiveness when it comes to my own past childhood sexual abuse.  There are many things to consider in the realm of forgiveness and child sexual abuse.  Anger and fear are not good things for anyone to hold on to.  However, forgiveness needs to be defined because forgiveness means different things to different people.   How can you forgive your abuser if you still blame yourself for the abuse?  Does forgiving your abuser mean that your relationship is restored to how things were before you were abused? Most likely not, the abuse changed your relationship and the abuser is still not safe to have around children.

If the topic of forgiveness is that important to the individual survivor then I think the following prerequisites should be considered. The following is a list I came up with …

Forgiveness prerequisites for Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) survivors:

  • The survivor no longer feels shame, guilt, and/or blame surrounding the past CSA.
  • The survivor feels some sense of justice surrounding the past CSA.
  • The survivor feels self-forgiveness.
  • The survivor redefines forgiveness in a way that is healthy and realistic for the survivor’s healing.
  • The survivor has allowed themselves time to grieve their losses due to the abuse and each relationship surrounding the abuse.   Grief has no time limit.
  • The survivor is NOT confusing forgiveness with minimizing trauma.
  • The survivor is NOT using forgiveness as a shortcut to emotional healing or as a guarantee against further abuse or to gain family support.

Other questions to consider when considering forgiveness:

What are your motives surrounding forgiveness?

Who is the focus of your forgiveness?

Yourself:  You are innocent!  Always start with yourself because you did nothing wrong.  You should not feel guilty for the abuse done to you.  It was not your fault.  Self-forgiveness is more important than forgiving others involved in the abuse … It is your choice alone if you choice to forgive others involved and to what extent.  For me, forgiveness of the primary abuser/s of sexual assault is not a requirement for healing.  But if you choose to go there then make sure you have forgiven yourself first and considered the other prerequisites.

Secondary Abuser:  Those who did not abuse you directly but did not believe you or defended or protected the abuser from consequences or justice.  This could be a parent or guardian, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or other relative or friend of the family.   Again follow the prerequisites and check your motives.

Forgiveness should not be an overwhelming burdensome process that brings you to a point of despair.  If it feels forced or if you feel like you are doing it to please someone else then maybe this is not the right time and should be revisited later.  You may still need to grieve more for this relationship or express anger.  Expressing anger is part of the grieving process.  It is okay to be angry with someone that should have protected you and failed to help you or protected the abuser from justice.  These topics can be overwhelming so remember safety for yourself and others comes first.  Things to remember about grief and mourning …

The following are myths about grief and mourning:

  • Grief and mourning decline in a steadily decreasing fashion over time.
  • All losses prompt the same type of mourning.
  • Bereaved individuals need only express their feelings in order to resolve their mourning.
  • To be healthy after the death of a loved one, the mourner must put that person out of mind.
  • Grief will affect the mourner psychologically but will not interfere in other ways.
  • Intensity and length of mourning are a testimony to love for the deceased.
  • When one mourns a death, one mourns only the loss of that person and nothing else.
  • Losing someone to a sudden, unexpected death is the same as losing someone to an anticipated death.
  • Mourning is over in a year.
  • Time heals all wounds.

From Therese A. Rando, Treatment of Complicated Mourning (1993), Research Press, Champaign, IL, p. 27–28.

Common Misconceptions about Healing –  by Dee Ann Miller, RN, BS

http://healingfromabuse.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/4341677-common-misconceptions-about-healing

The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief  By JULIE AXELROD

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief

When it comes to the stages of grief, for CSA survivors, the process is often evolving and repeats.

Abusers/Perpetrators/Sexual Predators:  Call them what you like but they are guilty of sexual crimes against a child. Weather this person is a hands-on or hands-off abuser, either type is a crime and harms the victim and leaves a lifelong impact.  Forgiveness is a choice and not a requirement to heal.

Often family, friends, community, and society in general pressure CSA survivors to forgive the abuser without allowing the survivor time to grieve or heal and many times when no justice has been dealt to the abuser.  They also expect if the survivor has forgiven then the survivor will never bring up the topic again.  Do they want us to forgive because the topic is too uncomfortable to listen to?  “You should be over this by now!”  “If you forgave him/her (the abuser) then you would not be having all these problems” Insisting a survivor forgive someone just so you can feel more comfortable does not help the survivor.  The survivor’s memories are not erased because they choose to forgive.  There may still be PTSD triggers that bring back unpleasant events surrounding the abuse.  Insisting the survivor forgives places guilt and shame back on the survivor for crimes that were committed against them.  Somehow it is now the survivor’s fault because if they just forgave the abuser then there would be no problem.  Why don’t our families, friends, community, society ask the question/s:

  • Did our abusers accept responsibility for their crimes?
  • Did the abuser seek help to prevent future abuse?
  • Did our abusers show remorse and offer financial amends to the survivor/s?
  • Did our abusers respect our boundaries and expect NOTHING in return regardless of whether we choose to grant forgiveness or not?
  • How many other children were abused by this person?
  • Is our abuser currently abusing a child?  Does our abuser have access to other children that he/she may be abusing?

If the abuser wants forgiveness then they should accept being held accountable for their crimes and accepting they could still be a threat to other children.

To report abuse happening to a child (17 and under) call:

In the USA: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) http://www.childhelp.org/pages/hotline-home or https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=5&rate_chno=11-11172

Child helpline international: http://www.childhelplineinternational.org/where-we-work/

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different, it’s accepting the past for what it was, and using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.”-Oprah Winfrey

One Survivor’s quote: “I don’t care about my abuser. It is not my job to forgive him. He can ask for his own forgiveness when he is in prayer. I don’t have the power to forgive him. But I do deserve to forgive myself and create a life for myself.”

Forgiving an abuser or secondary abuser is second to forgiving ourselves. Until we heal, until we live a life worth living, how do we have the energy to forgive another? For me forgiveness is about accepting the past and forgiving ourselves. It is pointless to forgive another human being when we cannot forgive ourselves.

Other things to consider that forgiveness does not automatically change:

  • Forgiveness is not a cure all for the survivor.  Forgiveness does not delete or erase memories or remove aftereffects such as PTSD.  The survivor will still have to process and continue in their cycle of healing.  Forgiveness, like healing, is an evolutionary process when it comes to child sexual abuse. The survivor has the right to change their mind if they choice to forgive the abuser one day and not forgive the next day.
  • Forgiveness does not delete or erase the guilt, shame, accountability, consequences of the crimes committed by the abuser.  The shame and the guilt should be sitting squarely on the shoulders of the abuser NOT the victim even if the victim choices not to forgive the abuser.
  • Forgiveness does not restore broken relationships.  Forgiveness is not the same as reunification.  Reunification is typically unhealthy with a child sex offender or with a family that does not support the survivor in their recovery.
  • Forgiveness does not restore the abuser to a status where they should be trusted around children.  Boundaries and safety should still be maintained for the victim if they choice to be around their abuser.  Children should never be left alone with a child predator and it would be best to avoid taking children around a child predator regardless of family connection or how special the family occasion (ie weddings, funerals, holidays, etc).
  • Forgiveness does not protect the abuser from being exposed as sexual predator to family, friends, and the community.  Forgiveness does not mean that you keep this person in the shadows and the sexual abuse a secret for the rest of your life.  This is how more children get hurt … this is how denial continues.  No more secrets.  Other children need to be protected from this person.

For some survivors, forgiveness lightens their conscience, while for other survivors it places an unnecessary burden on them.  Forgiveness should not be a burden, it is a choice.  The burden should be on the abuser not the victim.  If a survivor is struggling with the need to forgive their abuser and are considering suicide or self-harm as the only alternative if they are unable to forgive then this is not the right time to work on forgiveness of the abuser (if ever).  If a survivor is even entertaining thoughts of self-harm or suicide then they need to return to a safety plan and focus on forgiving and being gentle with themselves.  The shame and the guilt of what happen should be squarely on the shoulders of the abuser not the victim.  Forgive yourself before all others.  You are innocent!


Non-linear healing …

Venn2

Non-linear healing … “Healing is not linear; the cycle is often repeated.” Judith Herman.

My impressions about healing with a past that includes childhood sexual abuse are expressed in the attached diagram.  I designed the illustration to help convey concepts that I am still coming to understand.  I am not an expert in childhood sexual abuse healing.  I am just another survivor trying to make my way through life.

The “Nonlinear Stages of Healing” diagram was a combination of several different resources that I have noted in my resources below. I choose a “Venn diagram” because I liked the way the circular healing stages continuously overlapped.  I placed a heart in the center of the diagram so I would never forget that I am the most important part of healing. The tools are just floating freely about the stages where they might be most useful. Of course, the tools I have listed are not the only ones available so feel free to add on or move them around as needed. Make it YOUR healing journey!

Healing is a nonlinear on-going daily process. There is no magical or methodical scientific formula.   It is also definitely not a race where you are competing with other survivors.  My healing journey is still an evolving process and my views about healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse are definitely not a definitive source.  There is not one definitive way to heal, however; there are some similar approaches that have helped most survivors.  I think it helps to talk to a counselor or therapist about your past, find the problem causing patterns or themes that keep repeating in your life, and work on finding solutions to current life issues.

There are tools that can be used to help this healing such as, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) where you monitor your thoughts and record your “stuck point” and use a challenging thought worksheet.  PTSD is a typical outcome for most people with a history of child sexual abuse and CPT is an excellent tool for anyone with a trauma history.   Of course, CPT is just one of many tools to help and there are many other recovery tools.  Healing from childhood sexual abuse is nothing like following a recipe or marking off a check list.  The healing process will most likely be repeated numerous times with new revelations or deeper understandings each time they are approached.  Just when you think you are done, something else creeps up.

Healing is also a cumulative process where the new growth is added to the old growth.  The process is often repeated but we do not lose what we have already gained from past experience.  Even if we repeat a mistake, many times we gained something different from this mistake that we did not get the last time.  We don’t start from “scratch” each time we go through the healing process. So the healing cycle is often repeated but this healing cycle is also cumulative.

Another tool I and others have used is from the book The Courage to Heal … The following is a quick few word summary of the Healing Stages for childhood sexual abuse based on the Stages of Healing from The Courage to Heal, Bass and Davis, pp. 56-57 c2008.  I have named a few of them a little different based on my own experiences.

Healing Stage Review

  • Decision to Heal
  • Safety First
  • Remembering
  • Believing/Self-Trust
  • Breaking Silence
  • Innocent
  • Life Skills (Inner Child)
  • Grieving
  • Anger
  • Disclosure
  • Forgiveness
  • Spirituality
  • Resolution

Attached is a PDF of the 2008 version of “The Stages” from the Courage to Heal.THE STAGE1

The following link is a list from the 1988 version of the Courage to Heal.  Notice the 1988 version differs from the 2008 version of the Courage to Heal.

http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/stages-of-healing.pdf

Another excellent website resource includes a different summary of the Healing Stages from the 2008 version of the Courage to Heal.  The website includes some additional healing tips too.

http://www.crisiscentre.org.za/after_effects_healing_journey.html

Resources:

There are several resources and guidelines available regarding healing with a history of childhood sexual abuse. Please feel free to check into the resources that I offered and into resources of your own to draw your own conclusions.

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis (1988 & 2008)

Wounded Boys Heroic Men: A Man’s Guide to Recovering from Child Abuse by Daniel Jay Sonkin and Lenore E. A. Walker (1998)

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror.  New York: Basic Books. Herman, JL. (1992) (This book may not be considered a book about healing from childhood sexual abuse, however, for me; it helped me to get in touch with my anger for the first time.  This book helped me to realize just how wrong everything that was done to me like no other book could.)

Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA)  www.siawso.org .  They offer a large variety of literature you may purchase through their website at http://siawso.flyingcart.com/

Reclaiming Myself After Child Sex Abuse – FREE PDF BOOK http://www.catherinehouse.org.au/Portals/0/pdf/research_projects/WomensResource_FINAL_Oct05.pdf

Therapy Guidelines: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Wellington: ACC Healthwise. McGregor, K. (2001).  http://www.nzfvc.org.nz/sites/nzfvc.org.nz/files/acc-therapy-guidelines-pdf-wcm2-020341.pdf

CPTWeb, the site for web-based learning of Cognitive Processing Therapy.  https://cpt.musc.edu/

Numerous other books on Amazon – Be sure to read the reviews and pick one that you relate to the best.  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Achildhood+sexual+abuse&keywords=childhood+sexual+abuse&ie=UTF8&qid=1386969315

If you cannot afford these books remember to check out your local library.  I have also found that if you Google the title of the book sometimes you will find a free chapter or excerpts from your book of interest


America Has an Incest Problem

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/america-has-an-incest-problem/272459/

Must Read Article posted in The Atlantic:

People are rightly horrified by abuse scandals at Penn State and in the Catholic church. But what about children who are molested by their own family members?

Last year offered plenty of moments to have a sustained national conversation about child sexual abuse: the Jerry Sandusky verdict, the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, Horace Mann’s faculty members, and a slew of slightly less publicized incidents. President Obama missed the opportunity to put this issue on his second-term agenda in his inaugural speech.

Child sexual abuse impacts more Americans annually than cancer, AIDS, gun violence, LGBT inequality, and the mortgage crisis combined—subjects that Obama did cover.

Had he mentioned this issue, he would have been the first president to acknowledge the abuse that occurs in the institution that predates all others: the family. Incest was the first form of institutional abuse, and it remains by far the most widespread.

Here are some statistics that should be familiar to us all, but aren’t, either because they’re too mind-boggling to be absorbed easily, or because they’re not publicized enough. One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, “and this is a notoriously underreported crime.”

Incest is a subject that makes people recoil. The word alone causes many to squirm, and it’s telling that of all of the individual and groups of perpetrators who’ve made national headlines to date, virtually none have been related to their victims. They’ve been trusted or fatherly figures (some in a more literal sense than others) from institutions close to home, but not actual fathers, step-fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, or cousins (or mothers and female relatives, for that matter). While all abuse is traumatizing, people outside of a child’s home and family—the Sanduskys, the teachers and the priests—account for far fewer cases of child sexual abuse.

To answer the questions always following such scandals—why did the victims remain silent for so long, how and why were the offending adults protected, why weren’t the police involved, how could a whole community be in such denial?—one need only realize that these institutions are mirroring the long-established patterns and responses to sexual abuse within the family. Which are: Deal with it internally instead of seeking legal justice and protection; keep kids quiet while adults remain protected and free to abuse again.

Intentionally or not, children are protecting adults, many for their entire lives. Millions of Americans, of both sexes, choke down food at family dinners, year after year, while seated at the same table as the people who violated them. Mothers and other family members are often complicit, grown-ups playing pretend because they’re more invested in the preservation of the family (and, often, the family’s finances) than the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of the abused.

So why is incest still relegated to the hushed, shadowy outskirts of public and personal discussion, particularly given how few subjects today remain too controversial or taboo to discuss? Perhaps it’s because however devastating sexual molestation by a trusted figure is, it’s still more palatable than the thought of being raped by one’s own flesh and blood. Or is it?

Consider how the clergy abuse shook Catholics to their core, causing internal division and international disenchantment with a religion that was once the bedrock of entire nations. Consider the fallout from Sandusky’s actions and Penn State’s cover-up, both for students and football. Consider how distressing it is for Brits to now come to terms with the fact that the man they watched every night on TV in their living rooms was routinely raping kids just before going on air.

Given the prevalence of incest, and that the family is the basic unit upon which society rests, imagine what would happen if every kid currently being abused—and every adult who was abused but stayed silent—came out of the woodwork, insisted on justice, and saw that justice meted out. The very fabric of society would be torn. Everyone would be affected, personally and professionally, as family members, friends, colleagues, and public officials suddenly found themselves on trial, removed from their homes, in jail, on probation, or unable to live and work in proximity to children; society would be fundamentally changed, certainly halted for a time, on federal, state, local, and family levels. Consciously and unconsciously, collectively and individually, accepting and dealing with the full depth and scope of incest is not something society is prepared to do.

In fact society has already unraveled; the general public just hasn’t realized it yet. Ninety-five percent of teen prostitutes and at least one-third of female prisoners were abused as kids. Sexually abused youth are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as adults, are at twice the risk for lifelong mental health issues, and are twice as likely to attempt or commit teen suicide. The list goes on. Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders. Abused youths don’t go quietly into the night. They grow up—and 18 isn’t a restart button.

How can the United States possibly realize its full potential when close to a third of the population has experienced psychic and/or physical trauma during the years they’re developing neurologically and emotionally—forming their very identity, beliefs, and social patterns? Incest is a national nightmare, yet it doesn’t have people outraged, horrified, and mobilized as they were following Katrina, Columbine, or 9/11.

A combination of willed ignorance, unconscious fears, and naivete have resulted in our failure to acknowledge this situation’s full scope, but we can only claim ignorance for so long. Please reread the statistics in this post, share them with people you know, and realize that each and every one of us needs to pressure the government, schools, and other systems to prioritize this issue. Let’s make this the last inaugural address in which incest and child sexual abuse are omitted, because the way things are now, adults are living in a fantasy land while children are forced to slay the real-life demons.

Click the following link to read more:  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/america-has-an-incest-problem/272459/