A few minutes ago while still woolgathering in bed, I realized that only incest victims were being told about my first book, which was really addressed to incest offenders. So, I thought I’d let incest victims know about the perfect gift for their incester, in case their offender was still alive.
I am included among those who never confronted their familial abuser, and he’s dead now, a scattered pile of ashes in the flower bed of a former dwelling place, in another town.
It is not a rude book, but informative. Very informative. Just thought I’d let you know.
The field of sex offender treatment is still young and was in its infancy in 1986, when our program began. As staff we diligently read master pockets and took lengthy histories, searching for etiological clues that might suggest the best treatment approaches. We turned to the research, the professional literature and professional organizations, even became clinical members of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. We attended annual conferences. We ordered books, had a victims’ group visit the program, attended training workshops, watched Oprah and Geraldo, and developed a mneumonic device to aid the overlearning of child sexual abuse. We came to realize that we could not think in terms of a cure for sex offending, only of decreasing the likelihood that the men would reoffend.
From Fallout: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders (And Others), by moi.
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. (p 34).
I’ll tell you my response now, since first, I don’t want to upset people and second, it was written 20 years ago and he didn’t know any better, Trouble is, I got the book in the library, so his unenlightenment goes on. I think I’ll take it down, since I just realized how much it can aggravate folks.
Tell me what you think and I’ll tell you my response, later.
MARTIN E. P. SELIGMAN, author of WHAT YOU CAN CHANGE AND WHAT YOU CAN’T, (Knopf, NY, 1994) says in effect that
(Gestalt Goodbyes include appreciatons, resentments, and regrets.)
Things that I appreciated about you, Daddy: your encouraging me to write creatively; your encouraging me to draw; your teaching me and coaching me to play tennis; your intelligence and lively mind; your sense of humor , and the day I left my homework at home and you chased the city bus downtown to give it to me.
Things I resented about you: your lack of work ethic; your lying in bed all the time you were home; your sense of entitlement –it seemed you thought the world owed you a lot that you really didn’t deserve; the way you treated Mother; your molesting me; your scrambling my mind with conflicting messages about sex and life; your lack of insight into your problems; your being willing to subject the family to your alcoholic lifestyle; your insising I return home when I had the chance at a much better life with my maternal grandparents; you frightening me when you straggered through the house.
Things I regret: that you remained a weak victim of your father’s molestation; that you suffered and did not become a father I could respect; that you gave up on yourself and tried to live your life through me. I’m afraid that covers it all. Goodbye to you and all that.
Reprinted from FALLOUT: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders.
If you’re 3 out of 4 females following or reading this blog, then I’m happy that incest did not touch you. The stats for males are less clear, perhaps because they fear it reflects on their manhood.
If you were exposed to incest, you may be like me–discounting the effect it had on you. Men who commit incest, even those who were molested by a family member themselves, deny to themselves that it caused any psychological damage to them…or to their later victims, if there are any. I always assumed that “this” is the real me; not the dregs left after the incest. I used to treat incest offenders in prison and recall one of the men denying that incest was harmful: “It happened too me and I turned out all right,” (he said from his prison cell).
When I retired I decided to write a book about incest, in an attempt to illustrate from the research literature, and my own experience, the damage it causes. I targeted it a little too much toward the offenders, I guess, because it hasn’t sold.
I was impressed that whether someone is judged to be damaged or not reflects the kind of measuring device used. Some offenders said, “she wasn’t hurt. She got married, didn’t she?” or, “she went to college.” I’d like to share with you some of the effects highlighted by David Finkelhor, all of which I eventually owned in myself:
Powerlessness. The experience contributes to the survivor following a “victim” role later in life. Being trapped in the situation is part of this. How many teenaged suicides are due to being trapped and seeing no way out?
Betrayal. The experience of being betrayed by someone you trust can’t help but leave the survivor less trusting in later intimate relations–or unable to engage in them. Or carrying a chip on your shoulder?
Damaged Goods. It seems everything conspires to make the survivor feel dirty and damaged, especially carrying the burden of keeping the secret.
Sexualized. Being introduced to sex in a deviant, underhanded, secretive manner developmentally limits the child. Developmental stages are a natural unfolding of growing and maturing and when a stage is blocked, there is a loss.
Another effect which Finkelhor does not specify is the defense mechanism of introjection, in which powerful aggressive figures are incorporated into their victim’s psyche, resulting in self hate and a tremendous ambivalence in feeling toward the perpetrator. This is referred to as the “Trauma Bond,” and often results in the victim seeking out other abusers.
Another eye-opener from the research for my book was evidence that the victims who were first “incested” before the age of nine tend to be more depressed, while those first incested after nine tend to carry more anger.
The grief experienced during healing almost always focusses on the loss of “what might have been.”
The preceding is just a nutshell of info discussed in the book “FALLOUT: A Survivor Talks to Incest Ofenders,” available from Amazon. Sorry I’m light in references here, but they are available either in the book or by e-mailing me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strides toward therapeutic relief for survivors have been made in recent years, and are discussed at length in the section on “Getting to Okay.” And, there is always strength in mutual support. I have come across several survivors working on their healing via their blogs. I will try and add to these resources.
When I wrote FALLOUT: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders, I was unwilling to take a stance on whether the victim should “tell” or not.
“Some readers may be surprised that I don’t give victims advice as to whether to tell or not but only suggest an alternative via escaping the incestuous situation. There are several reasons for this. First, the justice system is flawed; enough said. Second, the family suffers economic hardship, often losing the house and car, both vital to continual survival. Third, the victim experiencing additional guilt. Fourth, too much taxpayer money is not only going down the drain , but in many instances doing harm, as inmates become hardened by the prison experience. Fifth, incarceration doesn’t seem to solve the problem.” (p 261).
“The victim cannot seek support in deciding whether to report or not, and is actually as trapped as she feels, especially with the current reporting laws.
“When incest is suspected, social workers usually urge victims to ‘tell,’ so the family member can get the help he needs,” they are doing their job but misleading the victim.”
“According to Gaddini (1983, 357), “Years after the incest, survivors who did not report usually wished they had, and those who did report wished they had not.” (Quoted by Mykel, 162).