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

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

21
Uncles Who Sexually Abuse Their Nieces

Cases of uncles who sexually abuse their nieces are scattered through the incest literature. But rarely have they been separated from other types of perpetrators to compare them to incestuous fathers, brothers, or other relatives. Yet our survey shows uncles to be the most common perpetrators of incest (N = 48), slightly more common than fathers (N = 44). And the Kinsey study ( 1953) found over twice as many cases of uncle-niece incest as father-daughter or brother-sister incest (p. 118). It is indeed past time to take a careful look at incestuous uncles.

The fact that uncle-niece incestuous abuse occurs outside the nuclear family makes it particularly important theoretically. Some theorists have attributed the occurrence of incestuous abuse within the nuclear family to certain types of family problems, for example: a mother who is weak, sick, or unavailable; a wife who rejects all aspects of the traditional wife role, particularly sex with her husband; a daughter who plays the role of little mother (see, e.g., Herman 1981; Mrazek and Bentovim 1981; de Young 1982; Thorman 1983). Clearly such explanations are irrelevant to uncle- niece incest. This fact alone does not, of course, invalidate the possible usefulness of these theories in explaining father-daughter incest. However, it does raise questions about their usefulness, especially when they are considered the only causal factors. It it doubtful that incestuous fathers and uncles are altogether different kinds of men and that the dynamics of father-daughter incest and uncle-niece incest have nothing in common.

True, for most people the incest taboo is probably considerably stronger between father and daughter than uncle and niece. Hence a complete and satisfactory explanation of father-daughter incest has to account for the

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