The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women

By Diana E. H. Russell | Go to book overview

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Introduction: The Problem and Its History

For those who aspire to an image of free womanhood, incest is as destructive to women as genital mutilation or the binding of feet. - JUDITH HERMAN, 1981

When we examine a cross-section of the population, as we did in the Kinsey Report, . . . we find many beautiful and mutually satisfying relationships between fathers and daughters. These may be transient or ongoing, but they have no harmful effects. - WARDELL POMEROY, 1976

Contradictory views, such as those expressed in the quotations from psychiatrist and author Judith Herman and Kinsey researcher and author Wardell Pomeroy, are as common in the incest literature as they are in the culture at large. Nevertheless, 1978 marked the beginning of a new look at incest from a more victim-oriented perspective. In that year Sandra Butler's Conspiracy of Silence and Louise Armstrong Kiss Daddy Goodnight gave us the first feminist analyses of incest ever published in book form--building on feminist author Florence Rush's earlier groundbreaking work ( 1974; 1977). The proliferation of scholarly and popular books and articles since then reflects the tremendous upsurge in public awareness and concern about incest. (For two excellent and thorough annotated bibliographies on incest, see Bagley 1985 and de Young 1985.) As sociologist Wini Breines and historian Linda Gordon point out: "Incest, a heretofore unmentionable subject, is now part of popular consciousness, explored often in Ann Landers' columns, television talk

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