Home Truths about Child Sexual Abuse: Influencing Policy and Practice - A Reader

By Catherine Itzin | Go to book overview
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Paternal incest

An autobiographical account

'Rachel Pearce' interviewed by Catherine Itzin


'Rachel Pearce' is a pseudonym. This chapter is the story of her physical and sexual abuse as a child and its effects on her life subsequently. It is based on an interview I conducted with her and edited into the narrative of this chapter. She was aged twenty-six at the time of the interview. Rachel's experience illustrates the connections between physical and sexual abuse of children and domestic violence; the ways in which children accommodate their abuse in order to be able to continue to live with it and to grow up (see Bacon and Richardson, chapter thirteen); the similarities between the grooming 'paedophiles' are described by Wyre (in chapter three) as doing of their victims and their victims' families, and the grooming by 'incest fathers' of their wives and children.

In this account of her abuse and its effects on her life Rachel describes her experience of victimisation, revictimisation and systems abuse by official agencies: the police and social services, in particular, but also by the church, the hospital and the child and adolescent mental health services. She also describes how her childhood abuse history and her 'psychiatric' history have been, and continue to be, used against her, notwithstanding the fact that eventually, many years later, her father was prosecuted and convicted for the childhood sexual assault of her, his daughter, and also, at the same time, for the more recent abuse then of a girl whom he had raped. He is currently serving a fourteen-year prison sentence. Identification here would put Rachel at additional and further risk of 'systems abuse'. Rachel's story illustrates how victims of child sexual abuse are silenced, and in her experience, the particular silencing effects of the Cleveland affair.

Background data about Rachel necessary to contextualise this story is that she has two sisters and a brother. Her first sister is two years younger, her next sister is eight years younger, and her brother is ten years younger. 'So we're kind of two sets of two', she said, 'it was like having two sets of siblings in one house'. She described herself and her older sister as 'more like stand-in parents for the younger two rather than siblings.' The rest of the story now follows in Rachel's words.

Catherine Itzin


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