Incest & Sexual Abuse Information

Sexual Abuse and Incest

It Can Happen To Anyone...

Statistics on child sexual abuse and incest have reached epidemic proportions. Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused by the time she/he reaches the age of 18, and about 75% of the perpetrators are family members!

What Is Incest?

The definition of incest is sexual relations of any kind by a relative or other person performing in the role of a family member; such as, fathers, mothers, stepparents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, etc. Other adults in positions of trust also sexually abuse children; i.e., babysitters, teachers, clergy, family friends, etc.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse includes many physical, verbal, and emotional acts including:

sexual abuse
Inappropriate touching and fondling
Rape and attempted rape
Coercing children to inappropriately touch the perpetrator
Photographing and filming children in a sexual way
Spying on children undressing and bathing
Showing children pornographic photos and videos
Inappropriate conversations involving sexual topics

Sexual abuse usually doesn't require physical force, as the older adult can pressure, threaten, trick, and coerce a child to do these things. Children are vulnerable, trusting, and dependent. They are taught to do as adults ask, and the perpetrator takes advantage of this vulnerability. Sexual abuse often begins gradually and increases over time. As the child gets older and begins to object to these things, they are often threatened with physical harm to themselves or their family to keep this awful secret.

Who Are The Victimes Of Sexual Abuse and Incest?

Every child is a potential victim, regardless of economic status, race, religion, or location. It doesn't just happen to other people and other families. It doesn't just happen in poor or disadvantaged families. It doesn't just happen in dysfunctional families, and it happens in the suburbs and country as well as the inner city. It happens in the well educated, upper class family and the middle class families as well.

The Emotional Effects Of Sexual Abuse

Adolescents and teens who have suffered incest and sexual abuse are left to deal with the emotional effects both during the abuse and after it has ended. These include:

Fear of the abuser and fear of someone finding out their "secret," which would cause trouble in the family.

Confusion and Guilt because they didn't stop the abuse and may still care about the abuser, because they kept the "secret," and because they now think they somehow consented to what happened.

Anger at the abuser and other adults who didn't stop the abuse and anger at themselves for not stopping it or telling someone.

Sadness because they feel so alone and can't tell anyone, because they feel betrayed, and because they feel their innocence was taken away.

The Aftermath Of Childhood Abuse

Tragically the effects of incest and sexual abuse don't stop when the abuse stops. The sad aftermath is that they stay with the child through adolescence and into adulthood, most often causing many other problems in their lives if left untreated. The following behaviors are known to occur in teens who have been abused as children:

Low self esteem
Problems in school
Relationship problems with family and friends
Eating disorders
Self cutting
Self destructive behavior
Drug and alcohol abuse
Early sexual activity
Hostility and aggressive behavior
Withdrawal and isolation
Thoughts of suicide

What Can I Do?

Most often children and adolescents don't tell anyone about the sexual abuse when it is occurring because of their fear, confusion, embarrassment, guilt, concern about being believed and/or causing trouble in the family, etc. Unfortunately, this silence allows the abuse to continue upon themselves or another younger child. Silence protects the perpetrator and keeps their secret intact.

It is critically important that any victim of incest or sexual abuse get the help they need to heal from this abuse and go on to the life they deserve, free of the above listed after effects.

To do this, you MUST talk to someone about what happened, even if it was several years ago. If you don't feel you can go to your parents, go to a school counselor or favorite teacher, or any trusted adult. You can also call your local rape crisis center or the toll free national hotline


to speak with a professional counselor on incest and sexual abuse.