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

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

20
Grandfather- Granddaughter Incest

In our survey, sexual abuse by grandfathers was reported less frequently than any other category of male relatives except brothers-in-law. Uncles, for example, constitute 26 percent of the total number of incest perpetrators compared to only 6 percent for grandfathers. On the other hand, one more case of sexual abuse by grandfathers was reported than sexual abuse by all female incest perpetrators combined (eleven versus ten cases). These eleven cases represent a prevalence rate of 1.2 percent for grandfather- granddaughter incest.

With an average age of sixty-one years at the time they started to abuse their granddaughters, three of these grandfathers were step- and eight were biological grandfathers. We have no data on what percentage of our sample had stepgrandfathers. However, this three-to-eight ratio suggests that stepgrandfathers, like stepfathers, may be more prone to sexually abuse their granddaughters than biological grandfathers.

Even less is known about grandfather-granddaughter incest than about brother-sister incest. Psychologist Karin Meiselman ( 1978) is one of the few scholars who has made at least some attempt to shed light on the subject. She had access to only five cases of grandfather-granddaughter incest obtained from a sample of women who were undergoing psychotherapy. Meiselman was interested in evaluating to what extent incestuous grandfathers fit the cultural stereotype of the "dirty old man." She concluded that they did not.

None was reported to have been senile, psychotic, mentally defective, or drunk. All of the grandfathers were gentle in their sexual approaches, and none of them attempted to have intercourse with a prepubertal granddaughter. They did not threaten or intimidate their incest partners, and because of their quality of gentleness the granddaughter was cooperative during the incest affair itself, although she later developed very serious misgivings about it. These women tended to blame

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