Incest

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WEDNESDAY’S Chapter 3

Published September 28, 2021 by Nan Mykel
I’ve lived a long life… I won’t be home Wednesday so had to post this today (9/28/2021)

HOW COULD I DO IT!   FALLOUT — A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders

3
HOW COULD I DO IT?
“How can they do it?” is a question in the minds of most non-offenders confronted with a case of incest.
Even after we understand why some men molest children, the question of how they can do it remains unanswered. How can they bring
themselves to destroy a child’s trusting innocence? (For some offenders, being innocent is the major attraction.) This question really should be directed at the first time rather than the most recent
time, which may be the one that brought a man to prison. Too many
offenders maintain that “this” time is the first time, and so that distinction is a lost opportunity for insight.
The incest offender has developed the ability to break taboos
through the use of contorted thoughts and beliefs variously called
thinking errors, cognitive distortions, deviant thinking or just stinking thinking, as discussed below. Core beliefs about self, others,
and the world have been found to underlie behavior patterns and
instances of thinking errors, and are known as schemas.
Most men who commit incest, especially those who were abused
themselves as children, continue in denial of its effects. Neither
survivors nor victims-turned-perpetrators let themselves realize
how destructive their own molestation is likely to have been. One
imprisoned incest offender in our program, when told during treatment that incest was destructive for the victim, denied it, saying,
“What about me? I was molested and I turned out okay.”
Initially I had trouble understanding how anyone, especially any
victim of child sexual abuse, could grow up to become a perpetrator himself, much less deny that it is harmful. As if the situation
were not sufficiently complex, an exploration of mindreading in
sex offenders has raised questions about their capacity for empathy. (Mindreading in this sense is a “theory of mind” and refers to
how well an individual can understand the motivations and feelings
of others.) Castellino et al. (2011, 1621) concluded that their findings supported the hypothesis that “sexual offenders suffer from a
deficit in their ability to understand and attribute mental states both
to themselves and to others.” As a group, the sexual offenders performed worse than non-offenders on each of four scales assessing
aspects of empathy. Moreover, the findings indicated that “the
worse is the score on the theory of mind task, the higher the risk of
reoffending” (ibid.).

THINKING ERRORS
Since behavior is largely a product of thinking, the deviant
thoughts of sex offenders are of utmost importance. Incest offenders in one study were found to possess deviant attitudes in three
domains: sexual entitlement; perceiving children to be sexually attractive and sexually motivated; and minimizing the harm caused
by sexual abuse of children (Hanson, Gizzarelli, and Scott 1994).

My father had deviant thinking errors in all three domains.
Pollock and Hashmall analyzed over 250 justificatory statements
from 86 child molesters and divided them into an “excuse syntax”
useful in the formalization of judgments about the extent to which
an individual accepts or denies responsibility for his actions, his
degree of defensiveness, and the logical consistency of his justifications.
1. Denial of fact (“Nothing happened.”)
2. Denial of responsibility (“Something happened
but it wasn’t my idea.”)
3. Denial of sexual intent (“Something happened and
it was my idea but it wasn’t sexual.”)
4. Denial of wrongfulness (“Something happened
and it was my idea, and it was sexual but it wasn’t
wrong.”)
5. Denial of self-determination (“Something happened and it was my idea and it was sexual and it
was wrong, but there were extenuating factors.”)  (Pollock and Hashmall 1991, 57).
Their study was conducted to aid clinicians who routinely determine the probability of reoffending based on the perpetrator’s excuses.
I see that the only statement that would apply to my father is the
denial of wrongfulness, as evidenced by his statement when my sister was stricken with polio, described later in this chapter.

As Maltz and Holman (1987, 18) observed,
It is this distorted thinking that encourages an offender
to victimize the most vulnerable person available—a
child who depends on him.

Perpetrators make their behavior acceptable in their own eyes by
their twisted thinking. As Salter (1988, 124) has pointed out, “Their
motivated self-deception acts as a ‘releaser’ which allows the offender’s destructive urges to be acted on. Without such rationalizations the offender may have some capacity to resist his deviant
attraction and to seek help when his own coping mechanisms fail.”

The victim may not say “no.” Many child molesters interpret silence as permission, oblivious to the unreality of the incestuous situation for the child. Mistaking the physical response for the ego’s
response appears to be a common error. (Just because the body responds does not mean the child understands what is happening and
consents to it.)
I recall several years ago when a man brought suit against some
women who had raped him. There were disbelieving jokes about
the incident, but our bodies are built so that stimulation of the genitals, even forced, can be pleasurable in the genitals. But we are
more than our genitals, and much of mankind’s anguish and nightmares reflect the struggle between right and wrong. What could be
more hauntingly “wrong” to a child than “doing the nasty with
Daddy” and coming back for more?

The defense mechanism of projection is involved when individuals
block their own urges, behaviors or feelings from awareness and
instead imagine that they exist in another person or persons. A not
uncommon thinking error in our society, that women “really want
it” even though they say “no,” is an example. This thinking error
may even trace back to the influence of genetic differences between males and females (Buss 1985, 314). How easy, then, for sex
offenders to convince themselves that their victim “wanted it” and
therefore wasn’t damaged by the abuse.

A sexual offender needs to internalize the information on correcting thinking errors and apply it to himself. In our prison program
one man retained glaring thinking errors but made a perfect score
on a lengthy True and False test of these errors. We had him take
the test a second time, by himself, because we could not believe he
had such a good intellectual comprehension of thinking errors, yet
failed to see how they applied to him.

EXAMPLES OF THINKING ERRORS

BLAMING THE VICTIM
Devaluing and attributing blame to the victim covers dehumanization (“she was a whore, anyway”) and attribution of blame (“most
women want to be raped.”)

CHILDREN CAN BENEFIT FROM INCEST
She loves special attention, she’ll really love this;

I have to show my grandson how to masturbate—how else would he find out?

I’m in love with her—this is a way to show it;

she needs sex education by a loving partner;

she looks sad—I’ll make her feel good.

“I was only teaching her what she should keep her boy friends from doing” (reported by Frisbie 1969, 168).

BLAMING AND MISATTRIBUTIONS
She runs around in her nighties so she must want it;

she’s seven going on seventeen;

she dances sexy, like on MTV;

she likes to sit in my lap, so she must want it.

CHANCES OF BEING APPREHENDED
Nobody will believe her if she tells; she wouldn’t turn me in—she
loves me too much.

SPECIAL JUSTIFICATIONS
My wife has been unfaithful—I’ll get even;

my wife cut me off—I’ll show her I don’t need her;

I didn’t want to go outside the family
for sex; it’s not like I’m committing adultery.

SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
I’m oversexed and have to have it—my wife isn’t interested;

I’m her father so I’m entitled to check on how she’s developing physically;

I’m just breaking her in for her husband;

I brought her into the world, so I own her body.

CHILDREN AREN’T HURT BY INCEST
It isn’t harmful—

Errol Flynn did it;

she can’t get pregnant yet, so there can be no harm;

it happened to me and it didn’t hurt me.

MINIMIZATION
It’s not like it was really sex;

it’s not like it was her first time;

we were only playing around; we were just playing the tickling game.

WARPED LOGIC
The judge proved I didn’t touch her;

the doctor proved I didn’t touch her;

when I woke up she was unzipping my fly—what could
I do?  Groth’s response to the latter, as widely quoted, is “What would he
do if she had been going through his wallet when he woke up?” He
suggests that if the child is behaving in a sexually explicit fashion,
“a responsible adult will not encourage or promote such behavior,
but instead will correct it and try to determine why the child is behaving in this manner” (Groth 1982, 234).

When my sister had been taken to the emergency room with what
turned out to be polio, my father started touching me sexually and
I said, “How can you do that at a time like this?” He said: “If it’s
not wrong other times, why is it wrong now?”
I should have said, “It is wrong, all the time!” (Why didn’t I say
that? But I was speechless.) Besides, I was afraid he would punish
me if I admitted engaging in something I knew was wrong.

I received the following letter from my father after he had molested
me for some time. I had succeeded in escaping from the home, and
my mother had succeeded in separating from him due to his longterm abusive alcoholismk
June 2, 1953
Dear Nancy,
I hope that you get to go to Berea, or otherwise get to go to college. But, whether you go to college, or work, or get married, or
all three, you are still, in a very real sense, about to go out into
the world, and whether, as I say, your world is to be the business
or social or college world, I do not think that you are prepared
for it; to wit, you do not have a personal code of ethics that will
permit you to fit into it. It has appeared to me that your code
consists of doing whatever seems to suit your convenience, comfort or pleasure, then trying to justify it by appealing, when possible, to someone else’s code, failing which you justify it with “I
don’t consider it wrong.” The only fly in the ointment is that I
am not sure that you consider anything wrong, because you
have no code to govern yourself by. You scorn both religious
teachings and parental counsel, and you consider one’s conscience not only unreliable, but an imposter.
For instance, here is how your code will run counter with the
normal code that you will come in contact with in the near future. Your mother tells me that you and Carole came to her
apartment fuming. “I have always behaved myself,” said you.
“And I am not going to stay home and sleep.” By the normal
code of ethics, you were not behaving yourself when you made
that statement. For one thing, you were expressing an intention
to disobey your mother’s injunction to sleep at home. You were
not violating your code there, of course, because there is nothing
in your code that suggests that you should obey your parents.
But what is your code? …
Here, I think, is where your lack of a code of ethics may have
done, or may yet do, irreparable harm. No matter how much you
felt constrained to justify yourself to your mother—no matter
how much you felt constrained to defend Carole—you knew that
I am fighting with my life to save my tottering home, the destruction of which will mean the culmination of a twenty-year
romance that, incidentally, brought you into the world. If you
had a code of ethics worth a tinker’s dam, you would never have
brought Carole into your mother’s apartment. Here is what you
would have told Carole: “Carole, you know that I am your
friend. But you know, too, that my father is trying right now,
with might and main, to win back my mother for his wife. You
know that you want him to lose in that attempt. You know that
you have an antipathy for my father, and your mother knows
that you have an antipathy for my father. If you come into our
apartment at this time, the antipathy that you have for my father might affect my mother subconsciously, and my father
might therefore lose his fight to restore his home.”
Nancy, ten years from now I do not believe that you will be
happy that your mother and father are divorced. And I do not
believe that you will be happy that you gave Carole aid and comfort in her efforts to bring it about. If she divorces me, I forgive
you for your part in bringing it about, or in not doing more to
discourage it. And, since you don’t believe in God, I suppose it
doesn’t much matter to you whether He forgives you or not. But
I have a feeling that, just a few years from now, you will be finding it difficult to forgive yourself. At any rate, however you may
regard me, I remain with truly best wishes for your greatest happiness,
Your Old Pop.

What was most surprising was the fact that he seemed to forget
who he was writing to. He must have known that I knew about his
own ethical limitations, and yet he was so successful in projecting
and compartmentalizing them that he could write the above “with
a straight face.”

I remember that about this time he asked me if I had ever “told”
my mother, whereupon I replied in the negative. According to him,
my mother had said, “I know what you’ve been up to.” He didn’t
know what she was referring to, and I presume was too afraid to
ask.

It is just now, only a few weeks before submitting this book for publication, that I remember having told Carole about the incest. I’m
sure elsewhere in this book I have stated that I never told anyone
until years later, but I forgot. Did my father not guess why Carole
had such antipathy for him? How did he explain her antipathy to
himself? At the time all this was going on, Carole and I were not even “girlfriends.”

 

INCEST – Chapter 2

Published September 22, 2021 by Nan Mykel

New Chapter Wednesdays…

Fallout…A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders

WHY DID I DO IT?
The late Dr. William Glasser (1965) often began his lectures on
Reality Therapy with the following scenario: “The phone rings.
You answer it. Why do you answer it?”
None of the replies volunteered by the audience offers the response
he is looking for. “You answer it because you want to.” It is true
that the machinations of choice are at work. But why do you want
to?
After the abuse began I puzzled over why my father was different
from the fathers of my cousins.
Groth states that the sexual offender is not committing his crimes
to achieve sexual pleasure “any more than the alcoholic is drinking
to quench a thirst” (1982, 227). He suggests that other needs being
met include but are not limited to loneliness, a sense of power, and
attention. At best, treatment can only reduce the risk of reoffending. Gaining or re-gaining control of the behavior is the goal, as
with treatment for alcoholism. Groth is aware of the perpetrator’s
emotional over-investment in his victim and refers to “the sense of
pleasure, comfort and safety he experiences in the relationship with
her” (230).
Sgroi, Blick, and Porter refer to incest offenders as “me-first” individuals for whom the sexual relationship with a child feels “safer,
less threatening, less demanding, less problematic than a relationship with an adult” (1982, 27).
A study of the childhood experiences of child sexual abuse perpetrators (Thomas et al. 2012, 195) revealed that
many participants never had an opportunity to grasp
the meaning of the concept of love, nor to differentiate
it from sex. Thus, they never evolved to more adult
sexual behavior but continued to seek the kind of sexual activity to which they were first introduced and
which, in some cases, had filled their early longings for
meaningful contact with another human being.
Other professionals warn against the tendency to view the offender’s behavior as a longing for human intimacy. Herman (1990, 183) suggests that reformulating the offending in this manner is to
detoxify it, to make it more acceptable. Aye, there’s the twist. Some
therapists, like surgeons who feel a need to keep their emotional
distance from patients, often struggle against the tendency to pity
the man who molests. I was aware of the fuzzy cognitive state I slid
into when experiencing empathy for the men in our program. Herman cautions, “In attempting to establish an empathic connection
with the offender, the would-be-therapist runs the risk of credulously accepting the offender’s rationalizations for his crimes” (ibid.).
Having the ability to corrupt a child, having the ability to steal her
innocence, having the ability to show her something about life she
didn’t know—all these are powerful rewards for the man whose
life is so unsatisfactory that it contains little more than a sexual
preference that may not even be sexual.
Four major factors that contribute to molestation have been proposed and widely accepted (Finkelhor 1984). They are sexual
arousal, preferring children emotionally, being blocked from an
adult relationship, and failure of the offender’s inhibitions. A reliable assessment of the offender’s dynamics is often difficult. Information is provided to the offender in treatment, however, and he is
invited to consider the information and share with his group which
dynamics he thinks apply to him. Similarly, this book can help any
unapprehended molester ferret out his own patterns. Survivors may
also use the material to make some sense of their experience.
In the prison program we utilized Finkelhor’s Four Factor conceptualization (Finkelhor, 1984), fitting it into a mnemonic device
(BEDS) in order to aid overlearning the material. (We re-arranged
his factors to enable the device):
B – Blockage
E – Emotional Congruence
D – Disinhibition
S – Sexual Arousal
BLOCKAGE
A man can be blocked from consorting with another adult due to
internal or situational factors. A shy, socially awkward and insecure man may find sex with another adult too anxiety- producing.
Occasionally a man experiencing the breakup of a relationship or
separation from his partner may turn to a child instead of another
adult because in his mind molesting a child is not being unfaithful,
whereas he may consider sex with another adult to be adultery. It
is true that thinking errors are rampant in this population, and many
child molesters are overly moralistic. Some deny themselves the
sexual release of masturbation and maintain that molesting a child
is less sinful than masturbation or adultery. One of the men in our
program realized with surprise that he had felt molesting his niece
was morally preferable to having sex with another adult.
In Mrazek’s experience (1981, 105), “Of all the contributing factors mentioned in the literature, the most predictive are likely to be
the absence of a strong satisfying marital bond and prior incestuous
behavior somewhere in the family.”
Some men erroneously believe that there are limited alternatives
available to them if the penis is no longer functional. A man who
is unable to perform with women may turn to children, since children are less likely to criticize his performance or make unfavorable comparisons of his genitals. Becker and Coleman (1988, 200)
refer to the “sexual myth that an erect penis is necessary to satisfy
a sexual partner. The unfortunate equating of sex with penile-vaginal intercourse can result in considerable performance anxiety, a
major cause of sexual dysfunction.” In rare cases men with misshapen or micro-penises turn to children instead of other adults capable of making comparisons. Some offenders admit that they
chose children because they were easier to deal with than women.
Gaddini (1983, 358) sees incest as an early developmental failure.
She writes, “In no way is incest close to mature adult sexuality.”
She sees it as a very primitive sort of sensuality … a continuous
acting-out on the basis of needs.” The following letter from my father years ago would appear to illustrate such an early developmental failure:
MY FATHER’S STORY  (by my father):
The Two Three Four Three Bears
Once upon a time, there were two bears, Mama Bear and Cubby
Bear. Now, Cubby Bear loved Mama Bear dearly, and Mama
Bear thought there just wasn’t anybody in the whole, wide
world like her Little Cubby Bear.
Cubby Bear would climb up on Mama Bear, and put his little
paws around her, and Mama Bear would say “M-mmmmmmm!”
and would squeeze little Cubby Bear real tight. And Mama Bear
would say, “What does Mama’s little Cubby Bear think he is doing up there?” And the little Cubby Bear would chortle with
glee, because he loved Mama Bear just like Mama Bear loved
him.
One day, a package came down from heaven—or somewhere—
addressed to Mama Bear and the Cub Bear. They opened the
package, and found little Nancy Bear! And the three bears lived
happily ever after—or at least until—
One day, another package arrived—and, you guessed it—there
was little Mary Bear! “Uh-oh!” said Mama Bear, who had read
all the latest books. “The book says that ‘Once upon a time there
were three bears, and here we are with four. This will never do,”
and Mama Bear wouldn’t play any more with Cubby Bear. And
she would tell him, “You are not Cubby Bear. You are Grumpy
Bear. But the Cub Bear either could not, or would not, take the
hint and he kept on loving Mama Bear right on, and Mama Bear
didn’t know what to do!
Now, Nancy Bear, when she got older, began to read all the latest books. And she, too, found out that once there were three
bears, and she talked the matter over with Mama Bear. But, try
though they would, they could not make the Cub Bear understand that he was not the Cub Bear any longer, but that just
made him want to be the Cub Bear all the more, so Nancy Bear
and Mama Bear didn’t know what to do!
Then, one day Mama Bear and Nancy Bear saw Grumpy Bear
(because—let’s face it—he wasn’t a Cub Bear any longer, he was
Grumpy Bear) skipping rope. Nancy Bear said to Mama Bear,
“I know, Mama Bear! Let’s give Grumpy Bear more and more
rope, and maybe Grumpy Bear will hang himself!”
So they gave Grumpy Bear more and more rope, and still more
rope, and—sure enough—Grumpy Bear hung himself. Now,
when Grumpy Bear found out that he had hung himself, he
weeped and wailed, and begged for them all to let him get unhung again. And Mama Bear said, “No, Grumpy Bear. You
hung yourself, you can get unhung yourself.” And Grumpy Bear
said, “I am not Grumpy Bear, I am the Cub Bear.” But Mama
Bear had forgotten that there had ever been a Cub Bear, and
Nancy Bear didn’t care if there had ever been a Cub Bear. And
Mary Bear didn’t know what was a Cub Bear, so Grumpy Bear
hanged, and hanged, and hanged. And thereby hangs a tale, but
not like in the old days, when—
The tale itself was passing fair,
And it all belonged to the Cubby Bear.
The End

Men for whom the blockage factor is significant may be more
likely to prefer and fantasize their victims as young versions of
adults. The growing tendency of parents to dress their young children in provocatively-cut “swinger” garb makes it easier for these
men to transfer their sexual desires onto children.
SEXUAL AROUSAL
Sexual arousal is another of Finkelhor’s factors. A history of the
offender’s own sexual abuse as a child—possible imprinting—may
make the child a primary sexual object in the eyes of the offender,
in addition to the fact that he may have observed the adult-child
paradigm within the family. Developmental antecedents are a continuing area of research in this field. In rare cases a hormonal imbalance or neurological anomaly may tip the scales. Child pornography may also be a culprit, with the potential for sexual arousal in
predisposed individuals. Regarding the juryman discussed earlier,
perhaps he had been victimized as a child, either within or out of
memory, and viewing the child pornography was sufficient to
breach the dam of longstanding inhibitions. Sleeping in the same
bed with a child has also been known to precipitate sexual arousal
in some cases, leading to abuse. For information on treatment of
deviant sexual arousal see Chapter 4.
EMOTIONAL ATTRACTION
A third factor which can contribute to molestation of children has
been termed “emotional congruence,” which refers to the degree of
comfort with, emotional attraction to, or identification with, children among men who molest. Those who deny their culpability will
say without batting an eye, “I would never molest a child; I love
children!” And they often do, demonstrating by their statement the
presence of marked thinking errors. Children can also be seen as
attractive because they are passive, enabling the offender to experience a degree of dominance that he lacks with other adults.
Groth (1982, 230) speaks of the incest offender’s
emotional overinvestment in his victim; his monopolization of her time; his restriction of her outside interests, activities and relationships; his sexual preoccupation with her; the role-reversal in their relationship
with her being regarded more as a peer than as a child;
the identification he forms with his victim, the narcissistic sense of entitlement to her, and his projection of
his own needs and desires on her; his preoccupation
with fantasies about the victim, and the sense of pleasure, comfort, and safety he experiences in the relationship with her.
Some child molesters who are emotionally attracted to children feel
childlike themselves, and thus prefer the company of other children. I recall one inmate who, upon being paroled for a non-sexual
offense, began telling me enthusiastically how much he preferred
the company of children, and that “they are the only ones you can
trust.” Needless to say, I had my suspicions about him.
DISINHIBITION
Before a sex offense can occur, the potential perpetrator must have
the desire to offend, he must have physical access to the victim,
and he must be able to overcome the victim’s resistance. However,
even in the presence of all these conditions, sexual abuse will not
occur if the would-be perpetrator’s inhibitions against offending
are in place. Therefore, instilling inhibitions against sexual abuse
is one of the primary goals of treatment, and effective techniques
must be overlearned and strengthened. Unfortunately, after the inhibitions have failed once, they are easier to breach. A man may go
thirty years without giving in to his illegal desires, but it may not
be another thirty years before he does so again. It may be the next
day.
Besides alcohol, disinhibiting factors include abuse of drugs, an
acute negative mood change, and child pornography or other
source of sexual arousal. Anger and the seeking of revenge are
other disinhibitors, as demonstrated by sexual assaults on children
during visitations with an estranged parent. Thinking errors can
also be a powerful disinhibiting factor, as delineated in Chapter 3.
Like silently rising water against a dam, one pressure added to another can overcome the barriers of inhibition, and once breached
the resistance is greatly decreased, or non-existent. It becomes easier and easier to break the law and ignore one’s own values. Occasionally an individual’s inhibitions will be immediately dissolved
upon his own victimization, and he will respond by identifying
with his or her abuser and acting out against others, in an attempt
to regain a sense of power.
I find it remarkable that I remember the day I became aware of
“floaters” in my eye. I must have been nine years old, and told my
mother I saw things but wasn’t sure they were really there. To her
credit, she did take me to our pediatrician. His first question was
whether my father was still drinking, whereupon I said ecstatically,
“Oh no! He’s quit drinking! He hasn’t had a drink in a week, has
he, Mother?” (I assume it was their exchange of glances that
flagged the incident in my memory.)
Now I’m recalling that Daddy did have a chance to change, via
attending Alcoholics Anonymous. At some point (early 1946?) he
ran into a parked car while drinking. The judge must have sentenced him to attend AA, at least once, because I seem to remember
attending one of his meetings. I don’t recall the content of the meeting, only the room it was in.
At the time he first molested me my father had been an alcoholic
for twenty-five years, but he was not drunk that evening. He never
drank without eventually passing out, but that night he was sober.
It is my memory that my father lived in bed, except when he went
to work as a bookkeeper five days a week. (Three years later he
would be fired for passing out on the floor at his work.)
What disinhibited my father? That night I had bounced boisterously on his bed, in a rare fit of exuberance, while my mother fixed
dinner. I suspect my roughhousing with him while he was in bed
that day was a primary immediate disinhibitor for him. Apparently
he became aroused and when I settled under the covers with him
to listen to our only radio, he touched me. My first thought was
what would my cousins think if they knew Daddy was like our
grandfather? He later told me that when Mother brought in supper
that night she reached under the covers and found his penis erect
but made no comment.
Shortly before initiation of the incest, my mother had confessed to
a single act of infidelity years earlier. He now threw it back in her
face, although he had promised not to mention it again. (How do I
know? We lived in a very small duplex with thin walls.) Experiencing what must have been for him a blow to his manhood may therefore have been a disinhibitor, in addition to his sexual arousal and
significantly warped thinking.
About a week after he first touched me, my father referred to it. He
said my mother had asked him to educate me about sex. He also
said he thought he was in love with me, that incest was a capital
crime in our state and that I was not to tell anyone, ever. I promised. He told me experts say incest is harmful, but that he didn’t
believe it. He pointed out that Errol Flynn had sex with a minor
and wasn’t convicted for it.
Looking back now I realize that an additional disinhibiting factor
was that he knew that his father had molested within the family. He
also suspected (correctly) that his father had molested me, much
earlier.
“EVERYBODY’S DOIN’ IT!”
All right, I will admit this is not one of Finkelhor’s Factors leading
to sexual abuse, but I believe it was a strong motivator in my being
molested within the family.
As Courtois (1988, 40) observes,
Multiple incest in one family may be the norm. It appears that in many families, the breakdown of the incest taboo allows for its continuance either within one
generation (horizontally) and/or across generations
(vertically). … Incest is now believed to be transmitted
from one generation to the next through several such
mechanisms.
This remains a controversial topic, however, as reported earlier.
IN SUMMARY: MY FATHER’S MOTIVATIONS
How should we categorize the influence of knowledge of incest
within the family? Modeling? Certainly at the very least it contributed to my father’s disinhibition to commit incest. Other disinhibitors included whatever lifelong alcoholism had done to his brain
and self-esteem; whatever internal wound had resulted from my
mother’s confession; and perhaps a desire to get even with her,
added to her request that he teach me about sex. Some pretty weird
thinking errors had also been established, as revealed by his discussion of earlier reading on the subject of incest.
I believe that Blockage was a factor, in that he was too fearful to
seek sex with an adult outside the family, being unable to deal with
the specter of rejection and/or exposure. Probably his concept of
“adultery” also kept him homebound. In addition, he was blocked
from a meaningful adult relationship by an apparent developmental
failure (see above). In later years, upon visiting my grandparent’s
house where he then lived, I was shocked to find a maudlin tribute
to mothers, framed and on the wall in the entranceway.
Emotional Congruence came into play after he had elicited my admiration for his intellect and tennis playing abilities and my willingness to pay court to him by listening, and listening. He was hungry for attention, I now realize. I did enjoy his sense of humor.
His Sexual Arousal in response to my bouncing on the bed was an
“accident waiting to happen,” as suggested by the fact that he had
already taken me to two square dances as his partner. (My mother
“had nothing to wear.”)
THE PATHWAYS MODEL
As noted, more than one of Finkelhor’s Four Factors must be present in order for child molestation to occur. (The Disinhibition factor is always present.) A complementary model has been introduced in which all of four—other—distinct and interacting psychological conditions must be present in order for the sexual transgression to occur. This Pathways Model, proposed by Ward and
Siegert (2002), highlights offender deficits and consists of deficits
with intimacy and social skills, distorted sexual scripts, emotional
dysregulation, and cognitive distortion. Incidentally, all four of
these deficits were present in my father.
HARDWIRING OR OTHER ANOMALIES
Physiological abnormalities occasionally contribute to offending.
One elderly man became increasingly jealous of his teenage granddaughter’s boyfriends; six months later he was dead of a brain tumor. In addition, several studies have found evidence that some
child molesters may be “hardwired” differently than others. For instance, two out of three pedophiles show temporal lobe dysfunction
in the left lobe of the brain, as measured by CT scans (Langevin
1990, 109). It is unclear, however, what the differences reflect.
I believe my paternal grandfather was neurologically impaired. I
sensed he was somehow different, but I did not (and still do not)
know in what way. I also do not know what abuse, if any, he experienced as the youngest of six boys in his family of origin. Once I
was told he had hardening of the arteries, and in recent years a
family member said he had Tourette’s— which my father also
had—but I do not recall ever witnessing any Tourette’s symptoms
in my grandfather. I can recall at least one marked episode of my
father grunting and ticcing, however, but I must have grown to ignore the signs. I never puzzled about them, apparently just accepted the behavior. Perhaps that could have been an issue in my
father’s blockage from others.

PREFACE

Published September 1, 2021 by Nan Mykel

I’VE LIVED A LONG LIFE

My professional graduate training did not prepare me for doing therapy with sex offenders, much less incest offenders. When I was scheduled to interview an alleged incest offender at the mental health center where I first worked after graduation, I hesitated. I  would have gladly transferred him to another clinician if one had been available. Inadequate and unprepared for the task and the client,  I don’t know who was more anxious, the alleged offender or  me.

I remained ignorant about the treatment of sex offenders until I joined the psychology staff of a state prison. Shortly thereafter, my warden assigned me the task of starting a sex offender treatment program.

Since I had been molested by both my paternal grandfather and my father, I experienced the assignment as both a professional challenge and a personal one, which it turned out to be, on both counts. 

An early realization was that at the visceral level, offenders do not believe their sexual abuse harmed their victim. That is why this volume contains the hefty section on the effects of sexual abuse, especially incest.

The content of this book is frank. It is an attempt to by-pass denial, not to feed old resentments; to lift spirits, not to dampen them. I have changed names to protect the innocent and the guilty. I kept my abuse secret from my children because I was embarrassed about it, didn’t want to appear to make excuses or to present myself as a cripple, and was concerned that I might provide them with a loser’s script. I was afraid to be myself for fear of contaminating them.

Sandra Butler writes,   Perhaps the only lessons we have for our children are the truths about our lives.—whatever those truths are—for that is all we know.  (1985, 142-43)

Incest is real. It hurts the victim, the family, future children, future spouses, and even the perpetrator. Denial permits incest to continue unchecked. This volume’s intent is to explore in depth the machinations of incest and its effects.  The following information may be particularly helpful for the unreported offender whose secrecy bars him from treatment.

The tendrils of incest may reach down through generations to silently claim unsuspecting prey within the family circle. With stealth and intent, the invisible intruder leeches off both joy and harmony while the family, ignorant that it has been attacked by one of its own, leaves the victim alone without protection or redress.

The incest offender is that invisible intruder, and may be himself a link in an older family pattern. (There is, however, no evidence  that most victims will become abusers.)

What is incest anyway? Incest is the use of children or adolescents for sexual gratification by their caregiver.

Incest offenders can be divided into blood and non-blood incest offenders. The only significance of this distinction is to stress the fact that incest involves the violation of trust, and may include stepfathers, teachers, priests,  coaches, scout leaders, etc. The emphasis is on the unequal power  and influence over the child. This is especially obvious when the perpetrator purposefully builds rapport and friendship with the intended victim, a common practice known as grooming. Not surprisingly, the closer the relationship between the caregiver and the child, the greater its destructiveness. 

I can attest to the latter statement. Although my paternal grandfather molested me as a very young child, I always saw him as somehow “different,” and I never felt close to him. My father was another story, and I believe he caused much more damage precisely because our previous relationship had been close. The molestation by my father may have also built upon vulnerabilities inflicted on me by my grandfather.

(MORE TO FOLLOW NEXT WEDNESDAY)

 

TO THOSE WHO THINK SURVIVORS ARE DRAMA QUEENS

Published October 5, 2019 by Nan Mykel

Has the #Me Too movement gotten to the backlash stage yet?  It will, in part because people are so incredibly nauseated by  even thinking about sexual abuse, and most especially incest.

I just came across  a chapter which escaped the garbage several years ago, by Philip Ney and Anna Peters, who treat inest surivors. The article, Despair: Saying Good-bye to What Might Have Been or Could Be, deals with “The discrepancy between what they are and what they could have been produces an enormous incipient rage.”

“…They cannot recapture their childhood. Their needs will never be met. ..They can never become what they were designed to become…”

No one  can re-create that loveless childhood because each building block is age and stage specific.  A small example:  I’m a survivor of my father’s incestuous behavior.  I persevered  into becoming a survivor through excellent psychotherapy and escape into academia, but at the gut level I am always tense, if not afraid, of men.  And that’s half the human race!

Don’t get me wrong–I’m relatively content, even happy at times, but I know I’m not whole.

Photo courtesy of  Faisal Jawaid  info@www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://gdj.gdj.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/kits-photography-3.jpg&imgrefurl=http://graphicdesignjunction.com/2013/07/kids-photography/&h=750&w=500&tbnid=0sYvrGsLE8-ErM&tbnh=275&tbnw=183&usg=__TxaMRYu_LpNDk4KTslifxXTYJlA=&docid=YFx0JFHX82-3wM

 

SEE ALSO PAGE ON INCEST

 

I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN…

Published August 30, 2018 by Nan Mykel

In order to respond to a recent blog posting by a survivor,  I got out a book I wrote and published in 2014, and re-read it.  Because the world is so threatened by anything that smacks of sex offending or incest, it’s basically never been read. I published it through Create Space and did nothing to publicize it. Oh, I sent a note to the local paper which was discarded, but I write, I don’t push.  After 4 years I have only 282 blog followers, but I love them all.   My county library was disinterested in helping to sponsor a presentation on the book, and I didn’t push.  A follower wrote something positive about the book but I didn’t know enough to pick up her review and run with it (thank you).

But the thing is, it’s good and valuable and I’ll soon be 83 and no one will have profited from it.  Sooo–I’m going to try and schedule a discussion of it at the county library, knowing that the incest offenders, for whom it was primarily written as well as survivors who I also believe can profit from it but are ashamed, will probably not show up.  I have one friend who I believe will attend–won’t you, Alexa?

The discussion will be based on the book Fallout: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders plus her journal including dreams, drawings, and reflections.  I treated sex offenders at Hocking Correctional Facility for 12 years, and spent two or three years researching the literature.  At first I began to write on just my experience as a survivor, and the damage incest causes, but then I realized that would be too easy to discount, so I began the research.

Since I used to be a clinical psychologist before I got too old, the session will hopefully involve give and take more than preaching.

I’m kinda scared to do it, but I figure if I announce I’m going to do it I’ll follow through.

(I think I can.)

SCHEDULED THURSDAY,   NOVEMBER 1 st,  6:30p.m.  Big Meeting Room, Library,

Athens, Ohio, but they want a sponsoring organization so I’ll push through that situation.

WHO IS MY READER?

Published December 24, 2017 by Nan Mykel

I’m finally trying to get the hang of blogging via WordPress’ tutelage, and one of the questions I need to address is who I am writing for [and about what].  That’s an especially tough question for me, because my interests are so far-flung.  I write–a lot of different stuff–I think because I was never listened to until a rehab counselor who became alarmed at my sudden torrent of tears in his office referred me to a master psychotherapist right there and then, making a contact on the phone during the session.

So, I write in response to folks I empathize with, and almost all of them are struggling with some sort of problem at the cusp of growth and change.  My mind is like a billiard table, with thoughts, ideas, questions and “what-if’s” rolling around inside my head almost constantly, by myself.  I’m lonely for intellectual stimulation. I was most alive in graduate school, studying psychology,  where everything and everybody was a glorious mystery.

I know I have too many pages on my blog, but still I probably need to make a separate one for politics, because I keep getting waylaid by someone’s political savvy. My page on Relief is pure bliss, for those into bliss, and the two on Secrets really reveal the wide range of things I’m curious about. But none of that addresses the question of who I’m writing for–what kind of followers would find my blog most compatible with their experiences and interests?  I probably shouldn’t have revealed my age–that’s an automatic downer, but too late to re-think that.  Talking about my book is also a downer, I think–everybody who blogs seems to have written a book.  Most bloggers I have read seem to have suffered from more heartless incest than I did. I can’t relate to the yearning or jilted lover population, and I don’t cook; never did, really.

I can despise myself as much as any blogger, but that’s a downer for others and not fun, even for me, to read.  Obviously my experience with a Downs syndrome child (one page) didn’t light any fires.  So if I’m not aware of who I’m writing for, why write?  It reminds me of my 20 years of volunteering as a public access television producer, when almost no one ever watched that channel.  So–it’s probably back to the question of why I never reached “my potential.”  Since I was licensed to practice clinical psychology in two states, received a Ph.D., and received top-drawer psychotherapy for myself,  I am reluctant to admit that I still  bear the traces of the sexual abuse (from my father) and the verbal abuse (from my mother).  I don’t want others to know that even the best psychotherapy still leaves some of the damage untouched.

As Briere (1996, 84)  said of survivors, they will never not have been abused–the past will continue as memories, and it will always be part of her life.

Although I look okay on the surface, I am the only one who is aware of the shortcomings, inadequacies and even diseased places within.  I’ll have to go and meditate a little more to put that into words for readers who may in turn have empathy for me.

He Adored Her All His Life

Published September 24, 2017 by Nan Mykel

Spoiler:  Tragedy

She listened well, very well.

When he was drunk, she could

put him back on track. He was

so full of himself  (aka her) that

one day when he stepped on her

she stuck to the bottom of his

shoe.  He saw her in his d.t.’s

and never knew  she was there

so close, just squished, still out of

sight,  carried through life on the bottom

of his smelly old shoe. It’s called

trauma bonding. Avoid it if you can.

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