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What is Incest?

Incest is sexual activity, ranging from fondling to intercourse, between family members who aren't married to one another. State laws vary regarding the type of sexual activity and also on what constitutes the type of kinship that indicates incest rather than just sexual abuse.

Some definitions include teachers, neighbors, step families, baby sitters, ministers/priests and others who are in the circle of influence of a child and have established an emotional bond. That is why it is so hard to get substantiated statistics, because referring to the same thing by different names and different things by the same name often creates confusion.

Incest has been cited as the most common form of child abuse and yet it is an extremely under-reported crime. This type of abuse and betrayal of trust has the most potential for psychological and emotional harm to children. Incest has been called a violation of the child where he or she lives by a person who has trust and authority over them. A child molested by a stranger can run home for help and comfort. A victim of incest cannot. Who commits incest?

Generally it is considered incest if the child has been used in a sexual manner by: fathers, or step-fathers, mothers, or step-mothers, brothers, sisters or cousins as well as members of their extended family such as grandparents, aunts and uncles.

? In cases of incest, is there just one child abused?

Sometimes the oldest child, or the girl, or one who is handicapped, or the one with long hair or it could be all of the children. There is no way to determine what the pattern of fantasy an offender has. If a grandfather is found to be abusing a ten year old granddaughter, it would be wise to err on the side of caution and protect all the children. He should be held accountable for his acts, whether it was one child or a multi-generational cycle of abuse.

Incest can happen in any family and can happen one time or be an on-going problem. People who were themselves victims of physical and sexual abuse may not know any other way to relate to their children. Boundaries are crossed and sacred trusts are broken. Sometimes there is confusion in family roles and if the parent is absent, either physically or emotionally, the child is forced into that role. Sometimes an adult will rationalize what they are doing is a "service" to the child to teach them about sex and prepare them for adulthood.

Whatever the reason or the excuse the offender uses, it is wrong! Adults are responsible for protecting, loving and nurturing children, not traumatizing and hurting them.

Incest becomes very confusing for the child involved. Many times the perpetrator really does love and value the child, but chooses an inappropriate way of expressing that love.

? Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator, www.ArtichokePress.com

This article was written by Judy Wright, parent educator and author. Feel free to use it in your newsletter or publication, but please give full credit to the author and mention the contact information of JudyWright@ArtichokePress.com, 406-549-9813.

You will find a full listing of books, tapes, newsletters and workshops available on finding the heart of the story in the journey of life by going to www.ArtichokePress.com

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