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

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

25
Conclusion: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women

Harmful Effects

The views of many researchers and clinicians who have expressed skepticism about the harmful effects of incestuous abuse have been quoted throughout this book, as well as the views of those who are convinced of its destructive impact. The skeptics often point out that most of the data cited to demonstrate harm comes from clinical samples. They quite rightly argue that these are very biased samples that don't represent the women who never seek treatment.

At last we have findings from a large-scale probability household sample on this important subject. This survey provides very strong evidence for the harmful effects of incest victimization. The chapters in part 3 considered the question of the trauma of incestuous abuse from many different angles. We noted that incest victims were significantly younger when they became mothers than women with no incest history; they were also more likely to be divorced or separated at the time of the interview, to have defected from their religion of upbringing, and to be subject to a whole range of further victimization experiences in their adult years. Not only did incest victims report considerable or extreme trauma as a result of incestuous abuse in the majority of cases, but those who reported the most extreme stress were different from the less traumatized victims in a number

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