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What incest does to a child?

Incest is a crippling experience. It is a violation of the body boundaries and trust. The child will carry a weight for the rest of their life. Most of the time, children that are abused do not remember their incest experience. Their internal message is only about the struggle to survive in incest. Some men and women and do not realize that is why they are in therapy and not remembering can be considered a denial.

In my practice, several of my patients are women who have been molested in childhood by someone they knew. Some of them do not know the abuse has occurred and this is why in this paper I will focus on memory. If they know something happened, they do not remember the event.

The first step in healing from incest is to end the confusion in their lives. Some of the most common signs of the after effects of incest survivors are:

  • Bed wetting, nightmares, fears of going to bed and other sleep disturbances.
  • Fear of being alone in the dark.
  • Difficulty swallowing, a repugnance of water on peoples face, and a feeling of suffocation.
  • Alienation from their body, a poor body image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
  • An extreme requirement for privacy, especially using the bathroom.
  • Eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and other compulsive behaviors.
  • Self-destructiveness, like skin carving and other self-abuse.
  • Phobias.
  • Depression.
  • Gender issues.
  • Inability to trust.
  • Guilt, shame, or low self-esteem.
  • Abandonment issues.
  • Demanding to be loved, because love was taken not given.
  • Blocking out periods of their early years, a form of selective amnesia.
  • Fleeing crazy or unreal and creating a fantasy world.
  • Denial (part of the memories) it was not that bad. They have dreams and flashbacks remembering surroundings but not the incest.
  • Sexual issues, sex is dirty they do not want to be touched.
  • Trouble integrating sexuality and emotionally.
  • Dominance, aggression, violence, manipulation, sexual inability of having sex with intimate relationships.
  • Porno avoidance, inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
  • Avoidance of mirrors.
  • Desire to change names.
  • Difficulty to tolerate happiness.
  • Regression to infantile behavior, clinging.
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid or rawness in private areas.
  • Multiple personalities.

In sexual abuse when there is penetration, it increases the risk of physical harm, internal injury and disease. Penetration includes sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, being touched in a special way and touching someone. It also involves inserting objects into a child’s body or sexual acts with animals. It can be abuse by one person or more people and the abuse could have happened one time, many times or still be happening

Studies indicate that the majority of abusers are men, almost 80%. We do not know to what extent or if women abuse children, because unfortunately there is very little research on the subject. 4

The child who has been abused is called a “survivor” because they found a way of surviving their trauma. In today’s society, survivors speak out more. They try to break free from their past though therapy, they feel more understood and are less alone.

There was an avalanche of sex abuse cases in 2006 related to the Internet and this is expected to continue. Children die every day of sexual abuse and neglect. Three million (3,000,000) cases are reported every year, but that is estimated to be only 25% of the actual abuse.

I have analyzed this subject on all the angles possible, dramatized, idealized, fantasized, forgot, suppressed and the results were always the same − taking the victim back to point A. Point A is no way to forget, no way to find a short cut. To accept, to move on, but the scars are present, consistently present on the victim’s body and in their behaviors, demeanors, attitudes, feelings. The scars are real. But are they strong enough for you to rebuild a new life without any memories?

4 Bureau of Justice Statistics 1996-2006 data Victims, Offenders and the Criminal Justice System.