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Teenage survivors of sexual abuse, incest must address long kept secrets

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
2/25/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Road to recovery must remove levels of secrecy and shame, psychologists say

"I was only two years old when my father began molesting me," author Deborah King, an adult survivor of incest recalls. "At nine, he raped me, and continued to do so until I was thirteen. My mother ignored what was happening as my father abused me. As a child, this seemed like an even larger betrayal than what my father was doing to me. Having been betrayed by both parents is a devastating experience for any child." The road to recovery for any incest survivor, then, is an especially difficult one, as it must forcefully uncover long kept secrets and confront members of the survivor's family.

Speaking out on abuse by a relative is one of the most terrifying and most liberating things incest survivors can do.

Speaking out on abuse by a relative is one of the most terrifying and most liberating things incest survivors can do.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
2/25/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: Incest, sexual abuse, children, disclosure


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Incest has been around since ancient times and continues into the present day. Therefore, there are many popular misconceptions about this mostly secret crime.

One of the more common myths is that kids invent incest experiences. In fact, children don't invent experiences they've not had and most are afraid to talk about it when it is happening to them.

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Another hateful misconception is that children "come on" to adults. In reality, incest is initiated by the abuser, usually accompanied by bribes or coercion and force.

Another myth is that the majority of child sexual abuse is done by strangers. The offender however is usually someone they know and trust - a father, stepfather, the mom's boyfriend, grandfather, brother, or uncle. Child abuse statistics show that 46 percent of childhood victims are raped by someone in their family. Boys are molested and experience adolescent sexual abuse too, but the great majority of incest is a male with the first or only daughter.

Another misconception is that children who are molested by a sibling are just exploring their sexuality. In truth, if the sibling is older and stronger and more in control, its incest and it's just as damaging as incest with a parent.

Deborah King, that author of the book, "Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You," says speaking out on abuse by a relative is "one of the most terrifying and most liberating things incest survivors can do. It helps to heal not only the victim, but also lifts the burden of secrecy by breaking the wall of silence that incest and family abuse hide behind for the countless numbers of us who have lived through this devastating experience.

"Silence is a major part of the problem of abuse," King said in a column in the Huffington Pose. "It takes a brave soul to break the code of silence: "This is our secret; DON'T TELL!" With an implied or direct threat of consequences - OR ELSE - if we do tell. It's the secret nature of incest that keeps its victims tied up in knots of guilt and shame, feeling 'dirty' and fearing the way they will be judged by others should they dare to speak their truth."

King notes that "more people are daring to speak out. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization, there was a big surge in people coming forward with their stories of adolescent sexual abuse after Mackenzie Phillips revealed her [incestuous] 'relationship' with her father."

She also says that calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, or 1-800-656-HOPE increased by 26 percent and traffic to the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline increased by 83 percent following these revelations. "As incest survivors know, we have to tell our story in order to start healing from abuse. Someone has to listen to us and believe us. The truth of our lives needs to be validated."

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