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

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

7
What Actually Happened? The Characteristics of Incestuous Abuse

Chapter 3 was devoted to elaborating on the differences between incest and incestuous abuse. Now we will examine some of the factors that differentiate one experience of incestuous abuse from another. Did it occur only once, or many times? Was it accompanied by violence? How severe were the sexual acts involved? How old was the victim when it started? What was the age of the perpetrator? How big an age difference was there between the participants? And perhaps most important of all, who was the perpetrator: the victim's father, mother, grandfather, brother, sister, uncle, or cousin?

Of all these factors, the relationship between the perpetrator and victim is usually considered the most salient. And our study confirms its importance. Hence part 4 will focus on the differences--as well as the similarities --between sexual abuse perpetrated by different relatives. In this chapter sexual abuse by different relatives will be combined so that we can examine the characteristics of all these forms of incestuous abuse.

It is important to remember that although our interviews were conducted in 1978 , most of the cases of incest occurred well before that date.*

____________________
*
In 31 percent of the cases the onset of the incestuous abuse was over thirty years prior to the 1978 interview date; in 20 percent of the cases, from twenty-one to thirty years before; in 36 percent of the cases, from eleven to twenty years ago; in 9 percent of the cases, from six to ten years ago; and in only 3 percent of the cases had the incestuous abuse started less than five years before the interview was conducted.

-92-

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