Quite often these days, especially with some of the lazier journalists, whenever incest is mentioned they fail to mention whether the participants are consenting adults or whether it’s a case of child abuse. Not only do I find this incredibly lazy, it’s also highly irresponsible because it gives the public the impression that all incest is the abusive variety when that is not at all true. With this in mind, I would like to clarify what abuse actually is so as to enable the reader to know whether a particular relationship is an abuse case or not.
There is a world of difference between two consenting adults, an adult abusing a child, and two children or adolescents of very similar age having a mutual exploration experience. In all three scenarios when the participants are closely related it can be labelled as ‘incest’ but just applying that label gives no clue as to which type of incest is being talked about.
This shouldn’t concern the law at all and unfortunately it does at the moment, that’s got to change for a start. By definition this type of incest is non-abusive and exists in both GSA and non-GSA forms. It is also falsely conflated with child abuse when people fail to mention in their articles that both parties are consenting adults.
Similarly aged minors
This happens most frequently between siblings, where they experiment with each other instead of classmates at school. While minors having underage sex is ill advised for a whole other bunch of reasons (such as lack of emotional readiness), it is not necessarily abusive because both participants are able to give the same level of consent, neither has power over the other. Minor siblings who have been participating in incest with each other should be treated the same way as unrelated minors who have had sexual experiences together should be… with compassion and understanding, and with a good talking to about the reasons for the age of consent. It should be discouraged of course, but throwing the book at these teenagers is complete overkill and does more harm than good.
Childhood Sexual Abuse
This occurs when a grown man or woman decides to molest a child. The abuser is nearly always well known to the victim, and sadly it’s often a parent or another much older relative that is responsible. Somebody who does something like this to a child needs locking up, because children cannot consent to sexual activities with an adult. How can a child refuse an adult who has power over them? He or she cannot without feeling that they did something wrong. Even in cases where the adult is not overtly physically violent or threatening, there is still psychological trauma that is borne by the child.
Many of these poor youngsters are brainwashed into believing that it’s perfectly normal for adults to have sex with children, it’s been normalized in their brains because the abuse has happened for so long and they got used to it as a means of coping with the trauma. Traumatic Bonding and Stockholm Syndrome come to mind. This is what is meant by grooming, where the child is conditioned to believe that they want to have such sexual contact when in fact they do not. The child comes to firmly believe that they wanted it from the outset, despite the opposite being true. This psychological aspect of child sexual abuse is as terrifying as the physical aspect of it. When these children reach adulthood they often say ‘well we’re consenting adults’ as if all of the abuse they endured has vanished. Many of them come to realize this and seek help from other survivors of abuse, and some of these survivors bring their abusers to account. Occasionally, a victim never breaks free of such conditioning, and because of how normalized it has become in their minds, they then go on to abuse their own children, thus the cycle of abuse comes full circle.
People who do this kind of thing to their own children are extremely fucked up individuals and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It’s never acceptable regardless of whatever excuses they dream up to justify the unjustifiable.
All journalists, when writing any articles about incest, should specify which of the these three categories the particular case belongs to. It really does make a huge difference. Those who falsely conflate consenting adults with child abuse are extremely offensive and they are deliberately confusing the two in the public mind. This is incredibly damaging all round. Anyone who does these things should think before they put their fingers on the keyboard.
Note: If anybody reading this has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, there organizations which are able to help you and provide you with the right sort of support and counselling. Here, here, here and here are just four such places.