All posts tagged Incest


Published November 14, 2021 by Nan Mykel

It’s been a long life…


In traditional outpatient psychotherapy                                                                                                                                                 the client comes into treatment for assistance,                                                                                                                                willing to pay for the privilege of obtaining
help from the therapist, based on the client’s                                                                                                                                    report of his problems.
“This model is absolutely useless when applied                                                                                                                                       to sex offenders.  Incestuous fathers are                                                                                                                                         generally not in distress so long as they have
sexual access to their daughters. They almost never seek treatment voluntarily, and they do                                                                                                                                      not reveal the full extent of their offenses”  (Herman 2000, 150–51). Many sex offenders in                                                                                                                             treatment give misleading information to their therapist, due in part to their continued                                                                                                                                        vulnerability to the legal system (i.e. Parole Board), in part due to their shame about their                                                                                                                                  offending, and in part as a result of their cognitive distortions, or “thinking errors.”

After twelve years with offenders in treatment I increasingly realized that I was not given                                                                                                                                          the full story. In some cases I had no way of validating or confronting the men’s information,                                                                                                                                    but in most cases I think I was too trusting. Did a victim really bring his fiancée to meet
this molester in later years and reminisce about the good old days? Was an adult kidnapping                                                                                                                                  victim really physically turned on by her attacker (who records show was unable to get an                                                                                                                              erection)?  Did the victim of an exhibitionist really approach him and comment favorably on                                                                                                                                      his genitals, and then begin a relationship with him?
The second wife of a prisoner convicted of molesting his stepdaughter routinely drove long                                                                                                                            distances to visit him in prison. She still had faith in her husband’s innocence and did not                                                                                                                                    believe her daughter’s allegations. Later, at his parole board hearing, the man’s entire first                                                                                                                                    family testified that he had also molested them. As a result, he did not get paroled.                                                                                                                                        Confidentiality and safety concerns prevented the information being shared with the second                                                                                                                                  wife, or the perpetrator. The last I knew, she still believed him innocent.  Another case involved a                                                                                                                            man who had been in treatment over a year before it was discovered he had sexually assaulted a                                                                                                                          woman in another state. When confronted he said, “I didn’t know you were interested in what I                                                                                                                                did across the river.”
A number of child molesters have been fired from their jobs “without prejudice” or legal action.                                                                                                                              Even the employment records of teachers and counselors, for instance, cannot be relied upon                                                                                                                                  for accurate information. Yet another man who quit the program, convinced that he had
“completed treatment,” had only discussed his molestation of members of his Boy Scout troop.                                                                                                                                He denied having molested his daughter. It was not until after he terminated treatment that                                                                                                                                    the presence of a son in his household came to light. Still another man, convicted of molesting                                                                                                                                two of his daughters—one in a wheelchair—denied molesting the latter, saying he had never                                                                                                                                been that hard up for sex. Another man, who was an ex-police officer, denied ever handcuffing                                                                                                                                    his daughter when she was alone with him on his boat.
I observed that it is not at all unusual for men with both sons and daughters to be convicted of                                                                                                                          molesting a daughter, while denying any molestation of a son. I suppose sons are more reluctant                                                                                                                              to report than daughters, feeling that it casts aspersions on their masculinity. When one man’s                                                                                                                            family (excepting the admitted victim) visited him in prison, the father made fun of the length of                                                                                                                              his son’s hair, and asked him if he wanted a bobby pin. The young man in question had been                                                                                                                                reported to be depressed and self-mutilating.  Later, after I had queried the father, the son wrote                                                                                                                                a letter assuring me that his father had never molested him.

Dealing with deviant sexual fantasies is one of the most difficult treatment hurdles for the man who                                                                                                                        molests. During the day an offender may be working on his thinking errors, learning about the
harm victims experience, and reviewing his offense patterns, while at night in the privacy of his own                                                                                                                          bunk he may be undoing his treatment by mentally reviewing the offense and rewarding those                                                                                                                          fantasies with an orgasm.  Fantasizing about offending is practicing to reoffend, especially when                                                                                                                      masturbating. Even admitting to having continuing fantasies is a signal to the treatment team just                                                                                                                          how close the offender may be to reoffending, if released. At the same time, it should also be a
powerful warning to the offender himself just how vulnerable he is to repeating an offense, a very                                                                                                                    sobering thought that may help the most motivated men.
Letting go of the attempt to influence the program’s report to the Parole Board, and instead jumping                                                                                                                    into the painful but cleansing jaws of a real commitment to therapy means relinquishing control,
a scary proposition in prison, where one has so little control.

Sex offenders have little empathy for their victims. Although they have some ability to empathize with                                                                                                                others in general, they empathize less with victims of sexual abuse (McGrath, Cann, and Konopasky 1998),                                                                                                              and even less with their own victims (Marshall, Hamilton and Fernandez, 2001). Empathy can be thought                                                                                                                   of as the ability to accurately attribute mental states to other people. One incest offender demonstrated                                                                                                                     his inability to do so when asked how he thought his daughter felt after she delivered her stillborn                                                                                                                  incestuously-conceived baby in the bathroom while at high school and had to carry it home in a paper                                                                                                                  bag on the bus. Her father replied that he had no idea how she felt. The lack of empathy for his victim
follows in part from the perpetrator’s observation of her physical arousal, which she cannot control, from                                                                                                              projection, and possibly, as mentioned earlier, from faulty mindreading.The empathy deficit makes the goal                                                                                                              of this book even more challenging. In order to minimize the likelihood of the men in our program ever again                                                                                                        molesting a child they care about, they were encouraged to carry with them in the forefront of their minds the                                                                                                  information that child sexual abuse is damaging. Unanswered is the question whether an abundance of                                                                                                          cognitive information will have the ability to impact their future behavior. For many incest offenders, feelings                                                                                                           of affection are misread as sex, while subsequently, for the child, the two become polar opposites. (That is, sex                                                                                                        becomes the polar opposite of affection.)

As explored at length in Chapter 9, the bond between the perpetrator and victim can be extremely resistant                                                                                                             to treatment.

Many child molesters deny the need for treatment: One man maintained that the best approach is just to put “it”                                                                                                   out of mind; another resisted doing a relapse prevention plan, saying that if he had to have it in writing,                                                                                                            then…; and another’s minister told him to quit the program because he shouldn’t be around a “bunch of sex                                                                                                offenders.” Some may not want to be “cured” of their deviance. Others may feel it’s hopeless—that they would                                                                                                     only be going through the motions.

Is psychopathy too large a hurdle for treatment? At one point it was thought that treatment made psychopaths                                                                                                      worse, but a further study by Barbaree, Langton, and Peacock (2006) laid those concerns to rest.
For some reason and with few exceptions, I had difficulty conversing with an offender while wondering if he was                                                                                                       a psychopath. One who may have been psychopathic had been reported by other inmates to have masturbated                                                                                                while sitting on the front row when a high school choir visited to sing Christmas carols to the men. He was the same                                                                                                man who had to be cautioned for being too physical across the table when his grown daughter came to visit.                                                                                                  Another was a man who raped his mother who later died, and he told me with disgust that she was a liar. She had                                                                                        reported being afraid of him. His excuse for raping her was that he could hear her in her room, masturbating.                                                                                                          Still another tried to arrange for boys to visit and be counseled by him while he was in prison. He was the same
man who ordered a book on the MMPI prior to evaluation for the parole board, and was the same man who drew a                                                                                          naked woman in his House-Tree-Person tree, and when queried said, “Doesn’t everyone?” Those are just several that                                                                                                come to mind as I reflect back on my twelve years with the prison system. Wondering if someone is a cold, calculating                                                                              psychopath while you’re talking to him, trying to understand him while imagining what it must be like to be him,
didn’t come easy for me. I had less trouble with the man who pointed to the scarf around my neck and told me that                                                                                               on the outside that scarf might be used to strangle me.  (That one wasn’t a sex offender, however.}  A recent article                                                                                     maintains that individuals scoring high on the test for psychopathy can profit from treatment designed specifically to
meet their needs and take their characteristics into consideration (Harkins, Beech, and Thornton 2013, 6). They are,                                                                                        however, a “hurdle” in treatment.

Sex before eight or else it’s too late…—Slogan of pedophile organization. What’s wrong with having sex with children                                                                                          anyway? Usually sexual abuse occurs between a child and someone the child trusts, and often by someone who cares                                                                                              for the child. Rarely do children bleed or show physical signs of trauma as a result of sexual abuse by adults.                                                                                                         Why not include sexuality in our teaching? On January 20, 1972, I was enrolled in a course in Human Sexuality and                                                                                            wrote in my journal: “[J] in class today made the startling suggestion that parents should initiate their own children to                                                                                           the sex act…. The professor said that it was grounds for a good argument, but her objection was that any time there                                                                                                is an inequality between partners (patient-therapist, father-daughter, teacher-student, etc.) the less equal of the two                                                                                              has essentially no real freedom of choice.”

Finkelhor (1984, 17-8) writes that incest is not wrong because it fails to honor a sacred, time-honored prohibition, but                                                                                    because “it violates the powerless—vulnerable wards who are not yet in a position to consent or refuse.” And what would                                                                                   they be consenting to or refusing? Children cannot give informed consent because they are not yet “informed” about sex                                                                                    and sexual relationships, what the likely consequences of incest will be for them in the future, or how other people are                                                                                        likely to react. “The child is not truly free to say no.”


INTRODUCTION – 4th Wednesday post

Published September 8, 2021 by Nan Mykel

I’ve lived a long life…

The fourth consecutive Wednesday posting of Fallout: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders: 


First, I must tell you that I was not severely traumatized by my sexual abuse. I did not significantly dissociate nor develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I provisionally met the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder at one time. I’m telling you this so you can place the effects incest had on me in perspective.

Numerous others described herein experienced much more damage. Even with my non-violent assault, however, the damage should be obvious in the following pages.


It is probable that you are much more than a man who molests. You may engage in good deeds, be a hard worker and good provider.

Like an animal that has developed rabies, however, you become a danger to society and will be/are being treated as such when your behavior is discovered. Your contributions to society become invisible and you are a marked man. The condition may not be terminal, however. In fact, you are far from alone in the population.

Most men who molest children have not yet been reported and convicted, nor have they been exposed to some of the information provided in treatment programs. You can learn to understand your urges and explore strategies for controlling them.

David Finkelhor was sensitive to the potential usefulness of shared information when he wrote of prevention programs: “Even without specifically addressing the possibility that audience members might become abusers … it is likely that these programs do have an important deterrent influence on anyone who is exposed to them, if for no other reason than that they clearly reinforce the norm that such behavior is exploitative of a child” (Finkelhor 1986b, 234). I hope the information in this book will both encourage men who are still free to resist molesting and strengthen the resolve of those currently in treatment.

The majority of incestuous fathers are symbiotic, in that they feel an emotional bond with their victim (Courtois 1988; Justice and Justice 1979).  Maddock and Larson (1995, 84) refer to “affectional based incest,” reporting that “a significant amount of incest behavior appears to serve as a means of expressing affection.” (There is a difference between affection and empathy, however; see Chapter 5.)

A glaring example of this misinformed motivation is reported by de Young (1982, 36), who quotes a molester as saying: “I wanted to be her lover, not the victimizer. I wanted her to remember our affair as one of affection and warmth, not fear and pain.”

Much of the thrust of this book is, therefore, to make a case for the fact that incest is damaging, especially for a child you care about or who is under your protection. I use myself as the example, since to outward appearances I have “succeeded” in life. Read my story and you will find otherwise.


I hope that survivors will find the information within these pages helpful, not only in the section for survivors but also the perpetrator section. I myself was surprised to learn that being able to make sense of my sexual abuse is healing, as discussed later in the book.

A group of female survivors and their therapist once visited our
program during a group session. Each man introduced himself and explained why he was in prison. They answered any questions the visitors had. After the group was over, the survivors confessed they had been anxious, scared, and even angry with the men they were
yet to meet. Upon leaving they reported feeling better about the
men, whom they saw as working on themselves.

From time to time I wondered how my father or grandfather would have fit into our prison group. Would they have denied their culpability? My grandfather would deny his molesting behavior and perhaps convince himself that he was blameless. I can imagine him complaining—as I have heard more than one offender do—that “it’s gotten so you can’t even give your grandkid a hug any more.”

I do not believe treatment would have deterred my grandfather. My father would have been more honest, but both would have denied that any damage had been done.

So do child molesters—especially incest offenders—harm their

At first I resisted the idea that much of my life had been negatively shaped by the incest. Then as I learned more about the kinds of effects it exerts, I was able to gain a clearer perspective of myself. Coming to realize that I have dissociated was an eye-opener as well. Keeping a journal, along with a record of my dreams, has been beneficial not only at the time of writing but later, when tracing my journey.


It is no surprise that the community at large knows so little about incest. It’s such an ugly topic and so difficult to discuss with children! That ignorance leaves both us and our loved ones vulnerable, however. We dress our little girls as sexy vamps, don’t know the difference between “playing doctor” and juvenile sex offending, and don’t know how to respond when our young child says she wants to marry us, insists she/he doesn’t want to return to camp again this year, or begs for a different babysitter.

What if a family member who molested a child is chastened and “wants to make it up to her,” or to work on building a better relationship with her? How should you respond if a family member
who has been in sex offender treatment gets depressed and starts blaming his victim? Or decides to start coaching Little League?

People can be wonderful in many different ways and still sexually abuse children. I hope you will find answers to these and other questions throughout this book.


I once asked Jan Hindman why there were so many survivors treating sex offenders, and she said, “Because they know how important it is.”




Published September 1, 2021 by Nan Mykel


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.



A Gift for Your Incest Abuser

Published February 3, 2018 by Nan Mykel

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.

ONE PARAGRAPH PER CHAPTER – Chapter 4: Treatment

Published January 25, 2017 by Nan Mykel



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.


Published January 25, 2017 by Nan Mykel

Medusa still frame

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).

A published author!

Published May 4, 2016 by Nan Mykel

It has been more than a year since I published my first book, FALLOUT: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders (And Others), plus her dream journal and drawings. Watch my April, 2015 author interview on Kaleidoscope:

And don’t forget to check me out on  Goodreads badge add plus.


Published April 21, 2016 by Nan Mykel

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 Goodbye to My Abuser

Published February 25, 2016 by Nan Mykel

(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.

Were You Affected by Incest? I Was…

Published January 27, 2016 by Nan Mykel

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:

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.

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