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

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

13
Some Long-term Effects of Incestuous Abuse

Since most knowledge about incestuous abuse prior to our community survey has been based on cases that have come to the attention of therapists or other authorities, we will begin by evaluating how similar or different incest victims look from these two perspectives. To this end a comparison was made between Judith Herman's sample of 53 women outpatients who participated in short-term therapy groups for incest victims at a clinic in the Boston area and the 152 incest victims identified in our survey ( Herman, Russell, and Trocki 1985).*

As can be seen in table 13-1, the abuse histories of the patient group differed markedly from those in our survey. The types of experiences generally described as least traumatic by our respondents were rarely found in Herman's patient group, while the types of histories judged to be most traumatic in our survey group were common. For example, a much higher proportion of the patient group reported incestuous involvement with a father or stepfather, violent abuse, and abuse of long duration. Women in the patient group were also more likely to report abuse by more than one incest perpetrator. In addition, the mean age of onset of incestuous abuse in the patient group was considerably lower than in our survey.

Although the differences between the groups are apparent by inspection, no formal analysis of the significance of these differences was attempted because the differences in methods of selection and demographic composition of the two populations do not permit statistical comparison.

It may be remembered that incest victims identified in our survey were significantly more likely than women who had never been incestuously abused to be divorced or separated at the time of the interview, to be

____________________
*
Sections of this chapter were written for a coauthored paper by Judith Herman, Karen Trocki , and I ( 1985).

-191-

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