Child Sexual Abuse: The Search for Healing

By Christopher Bagley; Kathleen King | Go to book overview
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Chapter Eight

HEALING THE FAMILY

To assign to each family member a role in causing the incestuous assault is to imply that whatever happens to women and children in our homes can be traced back to something that is our fault. The promise held out to us… is that once we figure out as mothers and children what we have done wrong, our victimization will stop.

Sandra Butler (1985),

Conspiracy of silence: the trauma of incest


SEXUAL ABUSE OF DAUGHTERS BY FATHERS

Families are inclined to rally to the support of a child who is sexually abused by a stranger: the dynamics are much more confused when the assault happens within the family, particularly at the hands of the father (Berliner and Stevens 1982). Much of the early treatment literature focused on what was called father-daughter incest. The review of this material will be brief as it is assumed that this basic knowledge has been well summarized, and is readily available to most practitioners. As well, it must be remembered that these cases represent only one type of intrafamilial abuse, and a small, fraction of all child sexual abuse (Finkelhor and Hotaling 1984).

The statistics outlined in Chapter 4 suggest that biological fathers make up only some 2 per cent of all offenders. The following sections must be read with that qualification in mind. Although there may well be overlaps between the dynamics of abuse within families and outside of families, this cannot be assumed. Sometimes the role of stepfathers is, in dynamic and structural terms, similar to that of biological fathers, but again, this may not always be the case.

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