Incest is allowed to thrive when people lack the fortitude to accept that it exists. The attitude that it happens in “other” families but couldn’t happen in our own, puts children at risk. It could involve grooming or not, because most often the sense of trust, affection, and love have already been established between the abuser and victim thus, making it easier to violate the child’s trust.
Mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, siblings – it all happens.
One of the most violating aspects of incest is the destruction of trust between the child and their abuser. The construction of a family unit is a child’s most important source for confidence and security, but incest breaks that foundation. If a child cannot trust their own family, they often feel that it is not possible to trust anyone.
When it comes to protecting our children we must:
- Include family members when talking to our children about body safety and what constitutes unacceptable sexual interaction – and talk about it often. This is also why it does not just rest on the shoulders of parents to protect children. Some parents may suspect or know that abuse is occurring, may be participating/enabling the abuse, or choose to enter into a state of denial and block out what they know is happening. Children deserve to have loving aunts/uncles grandparents, teachers, etc. that will help educate children & empower them to know what to look for, and most importantly – to believe and help them.
- Be cognizant of situations where family members/children are in one-on-one situations, and trust our instincts if we suspect a family member may be grooming or engaging in sexual activity with a child. Using family members – older siblings, cousins, or grandparents as babysitters, or allowing sleepovers may seem like the safest choice for protecting children but often parents fail to realize how possible it is for a child to be abused in such situations and can therefore miss warning signals by putting their family members above reproach.
- Be wary of “favorite child” relationships. In some cases of incest a singular child may be manipulated (most often with a father or step-father) that they are the preferred love interest. The abuser may manipulate the child to believe that s/he is superior to her own parent or spouse/partner of their abuser. This could happen before puberty – or during/after puberty when the abuser finds himself sexually aroused by the victim’s developing body.
- Believe a child when they tell and treat family abusers as you would non-family by reporting them. While many families feel they can “handle” the situation, many abusers do not stop, and may also perpetrate outside of the family as well. Therefore, not reporting the abuser puts other children and future generations at risk. More often than we’d expect, parents that were sexually abused by their own parents or extended family believe that the abusers are “too old” to abuse the next generation – only to find out that elderly abusers continue to sexually violate.
- Get help for children that abuse their siblings/extended family. Research shows that the earlier abusive sexual behaviors are addressed and treated, the less likely it is for the child to abuse in the future.
Sections on this page have been adapted from TheMamaBearEffect.