In an ideal world it would be unnecessary for me to write an article like this. Nonetheless, it is an issue that affects most of us because of the discrimination we face just for being what we are, and the way in which the public and mental health professionals perceive us. I have touched upon this subject briefly in some of my articles, and but I feel it deserves an article of it’s own owing to it’s importance.
There is a perception that incest is inherently unhealthy and abusive, and that therefore the couple must be split into categories of ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’. While this is far from the truth, it matters little to the mental health professionals who then make assumptions that the ‘abuser’ must be sick and perverted, and that the ‘victim’ must be mentally damaged and should be helped to realize how ‘wrong’ the relationship was and accept their victim status and make subsequent steps to become a survivor of such abuse. This model works absolute wonders for people who have been sexually abused in childhood or who have been raped at any age, and I will acknowledge it’s usefulness and validity for these groups. However, where it should never be applied is consensual adult incest.
For a start, the words CONSENTING ADULTS speaks volumes. How can sex between consenting adults be an act of abuse? Obviously it can’t be, and arguments to the contrary would never be made about any ‘normal’ relationships, would they? No. So if a woman can consent to sex with a total stranger she just met in a bar, or her best friend, or the guy who comes around to clean her driveway every couple of weeks, why not with a male relative? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense now, does it?
Telling people who are in healthy, functional and loving incestuous relationships that they are abusers and victims is going to do something to their psyche. Because many incestuous people internalize the prejudices of society and become self-hating, these kinds of assumptions make them question things and ask themselves ARE they abuser and victim and are completely unaware of this fact. This is undoubtedly damaging to their mental health, and it is where psychology and psychiatry can cause more harm than good when it is based on faulty sets of assumptions. This only adds to their self-rejection and shame, and does nothing to help!
In addition to this, most incestuous couples live in fear of being discovered and jailed. Can you begin to imagine having to watch your every move in case the wrong person catches you in a compromising situation, even down to watching your own body language? Imagine knowing that discovery would also mean loss of friends, family and employment. This causes a lot of stress and it is no surprise that many people in such situations can sink into depression.
So if psychiatry is serious about helping abuse victims, let’s focus on people who actually ARE victims, not people who are in consensual adult relationships. Just because it’s incest doesn’t mean it’s abusive. Treating consensual adult incest as an abuser/victim dynamic CAUSES mental health problems that were not there to begin with. Furthermore persecution and forcing people to hide their love may lead to depression and anxiety issues, it CAUSES mental health issues.
So to psychiatrists and lawmakers: please review this because it is neither right nor fair to cause people mental health problems, or to declare them mentally ill when they are not. Our people are not abusers and victims, we are not crazy, we are normal people in relationships that differ from the prescribed norms of society. This is no different than how wrong everyone, including the psychiatrists, were about homosexuals in the past. Classifying us as crazy is to de-legitimize our feelings and love, and is actually an easy cop-out for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of incest. Please open your minds and hearts, and stop hurting people who are already suffering discrimination.