Incest and Perpetrators Defined

April is Child Abuse Prevention month and the blue ribbon is their symbol. If you have a Facebook page, please put the blue ribbon as your icon for the month of April. It will go a long way towards heightening the awareness of child abuse. And…….please wear a blue ribbon. Our children are our most precious commodity. Every ten seconds a report of child abuse is made; more than five children die every day as a result of child abuse. Think of how many unreported cases are below the tip of that iceberg?

Despite thousands of websites, Facebook and Twitter pages (to mention only a few) confusion still reigns supreme among people who were sexually abused as children. Two of the primary areas of confusion are, exactly what constitutes child sexual abuse, and confusion regarding the perpetrator. For example, I had a friend whose grandfather lived with her family when she was a teenager and used to chase her around the house, then pull up her blouse and play with her breasts. She told me that wasn’t child sexual abuse because when she complained to her mom she was told, “He’s just a dirty old man; don’t pay any attention to him.” The majority of the “dirty old men” I’ve known in my life have turned out to be pedophiles. I’ve heard comments from people who are highly intelligent such as, “This only happened one time didn’t it?” or “I wasn’t penetrated so it doesn’t count.” Picture your daughter telling you about a sexual offense that happened to her. Would you treat it with that much nonchalance?

The other primary confusion is in regards to the perpetrator and what his/her relationship is to the victim. For example, some people feel that if it was a sibling it doesn’t count as incest, probably doesn’t count as sexual abuse at all. Let me reiterate what I say in my book, REPAIR Your Life:

“Webster defines incest as “sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry legally.”  It is a simple, almost clinical description that does not in any way imply trauma or abuse.  The all-encompassing and often unspoken reality is much broader.  Anyone in a position of power, who coerces a person of lesser power into any sort of boundary violation dealing with their sexuality, either emotionally, mentally, or physically, is a sexual abuse perpetrator.  This includes a grandfather who pins his granddaughter down while he fondles her breasts; a father who insists on watching his daughter, against her wishes, while she bathes; an older brother who forces his sister to do oral sex; and any other such boundary violation from the most minor to actual forcible entry and rape.  It does not have to be a family member to have the same resultant despair. That despair, whether by a family member or an outsider, can be a life sentence of pain.”

I hope this clarifies for all my readers exactly what child sexual abuse is and who are the perpetrators.

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