The Mighty Phoenix

Support for Survivors of Incest, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence from author & survivor Marie Waldrep

Adult Survivors of Incest Information Sheet

Incest is a betrayal of trust through sexual activity between biological or marital relatives. It manifests either in the form of a "consensual" relationship, as with a brother and sister, or in the more common form of non-consensual abuse. Further, incest offenders project their sexual expression both overtly and covertly by means of inappropriate touching, verbal seduction, abuse, objectification, intercourse, sodomy, direct threats and implied threats.
Perpetrators of incest are both men and women, although the majority is men. Both girls and boys are victimized, with the majority of victims being girls. Perpetrators may include: grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters. Incest cuts across lines of race and class. Incestuous abuse may start as early in a child's life as a few months old and may last throughout the teen years and into adulthood.

* 4.5% of women report an incestuous experience with fathers or stepfathers before the age of 18. 4.9% of women report an incestuous experience with an uncle before the age of 18 (The Secret Trauma, Diana Russell, Basic Books, 1986).
* A random survey of 2,627 women and men conducted by the Los Angeles Times found that 27% of the women and 16% of the men had been incestuously abused as children (By Silence Betrayed, John Crewsdon, Little Brown, 1988).
* When incest occurs between siblings, 26% of the cases are same sex, with 16% between brothers and 10% between sisters (Healing the Incest Wound, Christine Courtois, Norton Professional Books, 1988).
* African Americans are victimized in childhood at the same rates as Caucasians. They report being more severely abused with greater use of force. African American girls are more often abused by relatives other than their fathers; often the offender is an uncle ("The Long-Term Effects of Incestuous Abuse: A Comparison of African American and White American Victims," Diana Russell, et al. Lasting Effects of Child Sexual Abuse, ed. By Gail E. Wyatt, Sage Publications, 1988).
* 66% of all prostitutes were sexually abused as children. 66% of sexually abused prostitutes were abused by fathers, step-fathers or foster fathers. ("Treatment of Prostitution Victims of Sexual Abuse," Mimi Silbert, Victims of Sexual Aggression, ed. By Irving Stuart and Joanne Greer, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1984).
* 68% of incest incidents take place in the victims home (Russell, 1986).
* Men abuse children with greater frequency than women do. 95% of sexual abuse of girls and 80% of sexual abuse of boys is committed by men (Courtois, 1988).

Incest is an experience which affects a survivor's life in many ways. The following is only a partial list of possible aftereffects survivors may experience for years into their adult life:

* Low self-esteem
* Self-blame, guilt 
* Vulnerability toward revictimization
* Depression
* Difficulty sustaining relationships and building trust
* Alcohol or drug problems
* Anxiety, the need for control in relationships
* Post-traumatic stress reactions
* Eating disorders

* Self - Injury
* Dissociative reactions
* Sexual dysfunctions

* Swallowing and gagging sensitivity; repugnance to water on one's face when bathing or    swimming (suffocation feelings)
* Flashbacks and bad memories

* Alienation from the body-not at home in own body; failure to heed body signals or take care of one's body; poor body image; manipulating body size to avoid sexual attention

* Gastrointestinal problems; gynecological disorders (including spontaneous vaginal infections); headaches; arthritis or joint pain.

* Phobias

* Splitting (Depersonalization); going into shock, shutdown, in crisis; a stressful situation always is a crisis; psychic numbing; physical pain or numbness associated with a particular memory, emotion (eg: anger), or situation (eg: sex).

* Trust issues; inability to trust (trust is not safe)

* Boundary issues; control, power, territoriality issues; fear of losing control; obsessive/compulsive behaviors (attempts to control things that don't matter, just to control something)

* Pattern of being a victim (victimizing oneself after being victimized by others); especially sexually; no sense of own power or right to set limits or say no; pattern of relationships with much older persons (onset in adolescence).

* Feeling demand to "produce and be loved"; instinctively knowing and doing what the other person needs or wants; relationships mean big tradeoffs (love was taken, not given)

* Abandonment issues

* Blocking out some period of early years (especially 1-12), or a specific person or place

* Feeling of carrying an awful secret; urge to tell, fear of its being revealed; certainty that no one will listen; being generally secretive; feeling "marked" (scarlet letter)

* Feeling crazy; feeling different; feelings oneself to be unreal and everyone else to be real; or vice versa.

Also, many victims of incest may not have memories of it ever happening. Some will not have these memories because the abuse occurred while they were very young. Many abuse victims will report that the actual physical sexual abuse was not the worst aspect of the experience; rather, it was carrying such a powerful secret that must be protected. Others may have literally pushed the memories from their conscious mind in order to survive the abuse. In either case, the victim/survivor may feel as if something occurred and may eventually regain the memories of the abuse. Whether they remember the abuse or not, victims/survivors may still experience the above aftereffects.

People who experience incest have experienced violation of trust and sexual exploitation, but they can and do survive. There is no one "right way" to heal. Many will heal with the help of a counselor/therapist and/or support group and others will heal on their own. Once a survivor has made a commitment to address incest issues, it may take an average of 3-8 years of therapy to heal.
Adult survivors of incest who are beyond their early twenties and wish to take legal action against their perpetrators must do so in a civil law suit. They must bring the suit forward within the time outlined in the statute of limitations. In most cases, this is within 2-3 years of remembering the incest and recognizing it as the cause of injury. Please refer to the Statute of Limitations for more information.

Georgia penal statutes for sex crimes
Georgia Statutes search page


A partial list of after effects of incest include some of the following on this incest wheel:





No one should live their life in fear from being a victim of sexual assault/incest. If you have been a victim of sexual assault get help immediately and know that you are NOT alone. There are people who want to help you. Call your local rape/sexual assault crisis center. They can assist you with the help you need.