Child sexual abuse within families

Sexual abuse within the family (incest) is a hidden sickness, facilitated by isolation and threats. Mic Hunter classifies incestuous fathers in several ways. The most common type of abuser is the one who is dependent on his family to satisfy his sexual and emotional needs. This type is over-controlling and preoccupied with sex. The next most common is psychopathic, has little emotional connection to his victims and is promiscuous. The others are psychotic, drunken, paedophilic, mentally defective, and highly stressful men. Alcohol, as already mentioned, does not create the sexual abuse, but makes it more likely to happen, as inhibitions are lower. A Paedophile (Greek word meaning ‘one who loves children’) is attracted to prepubescent children as sex partners. Psychiatrists see it as a psychological disorder of being obsessed with children. In recent years, it is considered by some as an addiction, and now many researchers see it as an aspect of neural development. Paedophiles are a minority of sexual abusers.
Family members use different tactics to gain sexual power and control over the child. Some use threats of harming the victim, or stoke the child’s fear of abandonment by telling her that she will be left alone if the perpetrator is jailed. On the other hand, a child may be bribed, or told that he is special. A child needs love, and abuse may be masked by this ruse. One particularly insidious form of abuse is nonsexual incest, whereby a parent treats a child as a surrogate spouse, subconsciously feeding his or her needs off the child. This tactic involves the mother pleading that no woman is good enough for her son, and ridiculing prospective partners. This is a possible sign of enmeshment.
Sexual abuse by a family member means the home is no longer a sanctuary. This is particularly torturous, where the abuser is a parent, because the parent will have made every effort to create a semblance of trust, and when it is shattered, the effect is more severe. It is an equally bleak picture if the home has never been a place of safety, but of neglect and coldness.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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