Sexual Abuse and Incest Defined
Traditionally, incest was defined as “sexual intercourse between two persons too closely related to marry legally–sex between siblings, first cousins, the seduction by fathers of their daughters.” This dysfunctional blood relationship, however, does not completely describe what children are experiencing. To fully understand all sexual abuse, we need to look beyond the blood bond and include the emotional bond between the victim and his or her perpetrator. Thus, a new definition has emerged. The new definition now relies less on the blood bond between the victim and the perpetrator and more on the experience of the child.
“Incest is both sexual abuse and an abuse of power. It is violence that does not require force. Another is using the victim, treating them in a way that they do not want or in a way that is not appropriate by a person with whom a different relationship is required. It is abuse because it does not take into consideration the needs or wishes of the child; rather, it meets the needs of the other person at the child’s expense. If the experience has sexual meaning for another person, in lieu of a nurturing purpose for the benefit of the child, it is abuse. If it is unwanted or inappropriate for her age or the relationship, it is abuse. Incest [sexual abuse] can occur through words, sounds, or even exposure of the child to sights or acts that are sexual but do not involve her. If she is forced to see what she does not want to see, for instance, by an exhibitionist, it is abuse. If a child is forced into an experience that is sexual in content or overtone that is abuse. As long as the child is induced into sexual activity with someone who is in a position of greater power, whether that power is derived through the perpetrator.s age, size, status, or relationship, the act is abusive. A child who cannot refuse, or who believes she or he cannot refuse, is a child who has been violated.” (E. Sue Blume, Secret Survivors).
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