Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Incest: Child Sexual Abuse within the Family

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Incest: Child Sexual Abuse within the Family

Article excerpt

Introduction

Sexual abuse of infants, children, and adolescents remains an unfortunate tragedy in all societies in the world (1). In this discussion we focus on intra-familial sexual abuse or incest (child incestuous abuse) that, as noted by the story of the Old Testament figure, Lot, has a history that dates back to the dawn of human civilization:

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children-as is the custom all over the earth. Let's get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father." That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I slept with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

Genesis 19: 30-38

History records that Cain, son of the first parents (Adam and Eve) married his sister Awan based on a common theme of antiquity, as also illustrated with Lot's daughters, that suitable mates were not available for females of child-bearing age (2). Royal families, as epitomized by ancient Egyptian dynasties, used incest in attempts to keep their descendants "royal" (2, 3). The issue of rape was suggested around 1000 BC by the Old Testament story of Amnon, a son of the ancient King David, who raped his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13: 9-14):

Send everyone out of here," Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, "Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand." And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, "Come to bed with me, my sister." "No, my brother!" she said to him. "Don't force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you." But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

The puzzle of incest was allegorized by the famous Greek writer (tragedian) Sophocles (497-405 BCE) in his classic 429 BCE play, Oedipus Rex. In this story passed down through the ages and analyzed by a myriad of scholars, Oedipus becomes king of Thebes after killing his father (Laius) and then marrying his mother (Jocasta). Tragedy befalls Oedipus whose mother subsequently hangs herself and he gouges out his eyes in horror at what he has done and what fate led him to do:

.. ..that I was fated to lie with my mother,

And show daylight an accursed breed

Which men would not endure, and I was doomed

To be murderer of the father that begot me" (4)

Incest was accepted for eons of time as was sexual abuse of children in general. The first law in Western civilization against rape of children or adolescents was not enacted until 1280 AD in England and incest was not identified as a crime until 1908 in England (1). In the 19th century, the Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), discussed the controversial subject of the Oedipus complex in which a child (usually a son) has an unresolved desire for sexual behavior with a parent of the opposite sex (usually the son for the mother) and begins to hate the same sex parent (usually the father) as the rival for the opposite sex parent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.