The first time I was sexually abused by my father, I was around 3 years old. His abuse continued for many years ending around 16 when my ability to consent or even know what that meant had become so obliterated that choice was not in my vocabulary.
Because of this, for a long time after, I thought my only choices were murder or suicide. I thought the darkness of those memories were mine alone. I found that the erasure of the abuse can be worse than the abuse. Though I tried to die, as many do, I survived. Instead, I spoke. The more I was believed, allowed to say what happened to me, the less shame and guilt I experienced.
As written in “The Incest Diary”, an anonymous book about incest, the author write: “In the fairy tales about father- “The Girl Without Hands,” ‘Thousand Furs,’ the original ‘Cinderalla,’ patron saint of incest survivors – the daughters are all as you would expect them to be: horrified by their father’s sexual advances. They do everything in their power to escape. But I didn’t. A child can’t escape. And later, when I could, it was too late.”
Without intervention, incest can escalate to the point where some children live in states of sexual captivity that persist well into adulthood.
A study published in 2012 of ten Australian women reporting prolonged incest by their father into adulthood found the mean duration of incestuous abuse was 31 years. The estimated average number of sexual abuse episodes was more than 3,300 in the lifetime of each woman.
As my mother often states, incest is truly the perfect crime. Perpetrators are usually obsessed with power and control and strictly regulate family life to minimise the likelihood of detection.
Some incest offenders retain strong community and business ties that effectively inoculate them from suspicion. A family that is not showing overt signs of dysfunction is unlikely to attract the attention of child protection authorities. Under these conditions, the family becomes the perfect staging ground for sexual exploitation.
Until the invisibility of incest is tackled this inescapable reality will never change for so many helpless and innocent children.