«Return to LEAR'S FEBRUARY 1992 By Heidi Vanderbilt A Chilling Report Do you want to know what incest is? What it really is? No ...»
Page 48 of 56 Karney: I think there's a lot of emotional and psychological incest of boys by their mothers. I also want to point out that boys are molested by men in huge numbers. But in our society the family is sacrosanct. In the history of the law the family has been untouchable. That's why so many parents have gotten away with murder; the spotlight has never been on what goes on in the family. I believe that for the victim, incest is a lifelong sentence. And until now the perpetrators have gotten off scot-free.
Lear: Tell me some of the things that you've done for yourself.
Karney: Well, the major thing is that I'm not a victim anymore. I've reclaimed myself personally, economically, and politically. I've reclaimed the damaged parts of myself.
That isn't to say that the healing doesn't continue, but the good news is that you do heal from incest and sexual abuse. I was also a battered child—beaten by my mother, burned, and tortured. So I had a lot to overcome and get through.
Lear: Have you been in any kind of therapy?
Karney: I was in group therapy specifically for incest, with an excellent woman therapist. There were eight people in the group.
Lear: Do you believe that incest therapy is better done in a group?
Karney: Absolutely. One of the problems is that you feel alone, feel that it hasn't happened to anybody but you. You're living in the black. All my life I lived in the black, and now I'm in the light. I didn't think there was any light.
Lear: What's happened in your life with having relationships?
Karney: That has been a tremendously difficult journey—how to have a relationship, and then comes reclaiming one's sexuality. During sex I would get flashbacks, like the Vietnam vets who hear helicopters. I would feel I was being raped.
The hardest part for me is to get the connection between sex and love. I see the two sometimes as separate. So many incest victims are either promiscuous or frigid. To have some balance in terms of healthy sexuality is the hardest journey. When I confronted my mother and told her that my brother had raped me, she said, "God, I just thought he was beating you." I was six and he was twelve; what would have made his beating me be okay?
Lear: What was the matter with him?
Karney: He was abused by my mother. She would hit him, and if he threw up she'd stick his head down the toilet and make him eat his vomit.
Lear: Oh, my God! This subject is almost unbearable.
Karney: But you know what? There's a very high correlation between incest in families and physical abuse in families. And for a long time after I admitted that I was an incest
Lear: Well, it certainly seems clear to me that all of this is going to be hell to change.
Karney: Yes, but we've got to take incest out of the dark space and expose it to the light. Evil doesn't have an easy time growing in the light, so you bring it into the sun.
Then you are able to hold the perpetrators accountable, and you can give the children some law.
Look. Some of us have saved ourselves by hook or by crook, almost by accident. Some die from incest. Some go crazy. Some get into drugs. Some are prostitutes. Did you know that eighty percent of all prostitutes were sexually abused as children? Then you add the physical abuse to it, and you've got the American family that has fallen apart at the seams. I'm going to change this in my lifetime if it kills me.
Lear: Good. I'm with you, and I intend to be around to see the fireworks.
------------A Pioneering New study of Icestuous Fathers David Finkelhor, Ph.D., and Linda Meyer Williams, Ph.D., who are sociologists at the Family Research Laboratory of the University of New Hampshire, have recently completed the most thorough study to date of men who have sexually abused their daughters. The sample consisted of 118 incestuous fathers—55 men in the U.S. Navy and 63 civilians from treatment centers around the country—and a carefully matched control group of non-incestuous fathers.
In this landmark study on the characteristics of incest offenders, Finkelhor and Williams set out to determine whether men are socialized to see all intimacy and dominance as sexual, whether fathers separated from their daughter for long periods soon after birth are more likely to molest her than fathers who have not been absent, and whether incestuous men had themselves been abused as children more than had nonoffenders.
The researchers also sought to learn each man's feelings about his daughter, his outlook on sex, and his attitudes toward incest.
Many theories have been posited about why fathers molest their daughters. Everything from alcoholism to a frigid wife has been blamed. With this study, Finkelhor and Williams have shed new light on the subject and produced much new insight. They have
established, for example, that there are distinct differences in the onset of abuse:
Daughters ranged in age from 4 weeks to 15 years old when the incest began. "Fathers were more likely to start abuse when their daughter was four to six years old or ten to twelve years old," the study reveals, "than to initiate abuse when she was seven, eight, or nine years old." Men reported various behaviors leading up to the abuse. Some of the fathers said they had masturbated while thinking of their daughter, had exposed themselves to her, or had made her touch their genitals before they began touching hers. A substantial percentage of the men—63 percent—had been sexually attracted to Page 50 of 56 their daughter for a period of years before the abuse began. Most significantly, the findings reveal that there are many paths to incestuous behavior and that there is not just one type of man who commits such abuse.
Each man was interviewed for at least six hours and was asked hundreds of questions.
The results—many presented here for the first time—dispel some common myths and prompt the following typology.
Type 1 – Sexually Preoccupied Twenty-six percent of the fathers studied fell into this category. These men had "a clear and conscious (often obsessive) sexual interest in their daughters." When they told what attracted them to their daughter, they talked in detail about her physical qualities—the feel of her skin, for example, or the smell of her body.
Type 1 subcategory: Early sexualizers
Among the sexually preoccupied fathers, many regarded their daughter as a sex object almost from birth. "One father reported that he had been stimulated by the sight of his daughter nursing and that he could never remember a time when he did not have sexual feelings for her.... He began sexually abusing her when she was four weeks old."
Many of the offenders were themselves sexually abused as children.
"These men are so sexualized that they may simply project their sexual needs onto everybody and everything.... The children may be those who are most easily manipulated to satisfy the preoccupations."
Type 2 – Adolescent Regressives About a third of the fathers—33 percent—became sexually interested in their daughter when she entered puberty. They said they were "transfixed" by her body's changes.
For some the attraction began when the daughter started to act more grown up, before her body changed. Some of the fathers in this group became aroused by a daughter after having been away from her for a long time. Her new maturity and developing body caught them by surprise. Sometimes the fathers let the attraction build for years, masturbating to fantasies of the daughter, before they acted.
These men acted and sounded like young adolescents themselves when they talked about their daughter. One said, "I started to wonder what it would be like to touch her breasts and touch between her legs and wondered how she would react if I did."
"The father-adult in me shut down," said another offender, "and I was like a kid again."
Type 3 – Instrumental Self-Gratifiers These fathers accounted for 20 percent of the sample. They described their daughter in terms that were nonerotic. When they abused her, they thought about someone else— their wife, even their daughter as an adult.
Page 51 of 56 In contrast to the sexually preoccupied and adolescent-regressive fathers who focused on their daughter, the instrumental self-gratifiers blocked what they were doing from their mind: "They used their daughter's body as a receptacle." The fact that they were abusing a daughter or that a daughter was so young was actually "a distracting element" that these fathers had to work to ignore. While one man was giving his sevenyear-old a bath, she rubbed against his penis. "I realized that I could take advantage of the situation," he said. "She wasn't a person to me." Another man said, "I abused her from behind so I wouldn't see her face."
Instrumental self-gratifiers abused sporadically, worried about the harm they were causing, and felt great guilt. To alleviate the guilt, some convinced themselves that their daughter was aroused.
Type 4 – Emotionally Dependent Just over 10 percent of the sample fit this category. These fathers were emotionally needy, lonely, depressed. They thought of themselves as failures and looked to their daughter for "close, exclusive, emotionally dependent relationships," including sexual gratification, which they linked to intimacy and not to their daughter's real or imagined sexual qualities.
One man, separated from his wife, saw his five-year-old daughter only on weekends. "It was companionship," he said. "I had been alone for six months. We slept together and would fondle each other. The closeness was very good and loving. Then oral sex began."
The average age of the daughter when the incest began was six to seven years. But it happened with older daughters as well. The fathers of older daughters described the girls as their "best friends," and the relationships had a more romantic quality: The men described their daughter as they might have described an adult lover.
Type 5 – Angry Retaliators About 10 percent of the men were in this category. These fathers were the most likely to have criminal histories of assault and rape. They abused a daughter out of anger at her or. More often, at her mother for neglecting or deserting them. Some denied any sexual feelings for the daughter. One father of a three-year-old said, "My daughter has no sex appeal for me at all. What I did was just an opportunity to get back at my daughter for being the center of my wife's life. There was no room for me."
Sometimes the daughter was abused because she resembled her mother, sometimes because of the father's desire to desecrate her or to possess her out of an angry sense of entitlement. Some angry retaliators tied up, gagged, beat, and raped their daughter and were aroused by the violence.
OTHER FINDINGS Alcohol and drugs: While 33 percent of the men reported being under the influence of alcohol when the abuse occurred, and 10 percent reported that they were using drugs, only 9 percent held alcohol or drugs responsible. "Preliminary analysis indicates that the incestuous fathers are not more likely than the comparison fathers to have drug or alcohol abuse problems, although they may use alcohol or drugs to lower their inhibitions to abuse."
Page 52 of 56 Marital discord: Forty-three percent of the men felt that their relationship with their wife was part of the reason for the incest. "However, the wife was rarely the only factor mentioned.... Different men probably come to incestuous acts as a result of different needs, motives, and impairments."
Sexual abuse of the offender as a child: Significantly, 70 percent of the men said they themselves had been sexually abused in childhood. Half were physically abused by their father and almost half—44 percent—had been physically abused by their mother.
"Although not all who are abused go on to become perpetrators, it is critical that we learn more about how child sexual victimization affects male sexual development and male sexual socialization."
RECOMMENDATIONS Finkelhor and Williams suggest, considering the "intergenerational transmission of sexual abuse," men be given improved opportunities for positive fathering—including paternity leave and more liberal visitations in cases of divorce or separation. Also that they be encouraged to be intimate in nonsexual ways, beginning in boyhood. The study argues that, based on the evidence, it's very likely that people can become more aware of the precursory signs of incest. "It is conceivable," Finkelhor and Williams conclude, "that the sequence of events that leads to abuse can be interrupted."
-------------------------------------INCEST LAWS Criminal Prosecution The narrow legal definitions of incest, together with the stringent requirements for proof, the meager punishments generally handed down, and the trauma for victims who must testify, tend to make the criminal prosecution of incest a doubtful and sometimes impossible enterprise.
In most cases criminal prosecution for incest can be undertaken only if the victim is a minor at the time the abuse is discovered. To complicate the issue, however, most incest does not come to light until the victim reaches adulthood and begins to remember what happened. By then, the statute of limitations on criminal offenses has usually long since expired.
Incest statutes: The states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia have no incest statutes. Incest cases in these states are prosecuted under other sexual-abuse statutes, which often carry a higher penalty.
Blood-relatedness: In California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and North Dakota, blood relationship is a requisite to prosecute for incest. In all other states it is not.
Vaginal penetration: The states that deem vaginal penetration necessary in order for incest to have occurred are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Page 53 of 56 the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia.