BY MICHAEL A. CAMPION, PH.D.
A young Christian woman came to my office because she could not have an enjoyable sexual relationship with her husband. After several sessions “Mary finally shared that her father had performed various sexual acts with her from the time she was six until she was married at age nineteen. “Mary” sobbed as she related her inability to tell her mother about what her father was doing, as well as the overwhelming guilt of not being able to stop her father. Now, when her husband begins his sexual advances she is fearful and even becomes sick to her stomach.
“Mary” went on to relate, “It’s almost as if I become a different person and my fear makes me cry and beg my husband to leave me alone.” “You are the first person I’ve told, I can’t tell my husband because he likes my father.” “If my husband knew, he wouldn’t be able to relate to my father and eventually my mother may find out and she just couldn’t handle it.”
“Mary” is the victim of an incestuous relationship with her father. Incest is a sexual relationship between close relatives such as a father and a daughter or brother and sister. Researchers have found that the incidents of incest are somewhere around five cases per thousand persons and that incest between brothers and sisters may be five times more common than that between father and daughter. Incest between mothers and sons is considered to be relatively rare.
Incest has been a social taboo ever since the beginning of recorded history. The Egyptian culture was one of the few cultures that approved of it. It was an established practice in Egypt for the king to marry his sister. But the Egyptian culture was the exception rather than the rule. The Bible has definite prohibitions against incest. (Lev. 18:6-18), (Lev. 20:11-21) (Deut. 22:30), (Deut. 27:20-23), (Ezk. 22:11), (I Cor. 5:1). There are recorded incidents of incest, (Gen. 19:31-36, Gen. 20:12, 13, Gen. 11:29, Gen. 35:22, Gen. 49:4, Exodus 6:20, Gen. 38:16-18, I Chron. 2:4, II Samuel 13:14, II Samuel 16:21-22, Matt. 14:3-4, Mark 6:17, 18, Luke 3:19) and incidents of marriage between near kin are recorded in (Gen. 24:15, 64, Gen. 29:23, 30 and II Chron. 11:18).
It is interesting that the Bible make significant comment on the incestual problem and supports the fact that it has been a continual problem throughout history. The unfortunate aspect of incest is that much of it goes unreported and, therefore, unrecorded in statistical information. Recently, however,
there has been much interest and discussion on the problem of incest. There have been several books written, as well as TV shows dedicated to the problem. An example of one of the recent books is entitled Kiss Daddy Goodnight, by Louise Armstrong, Pocketbooks, 1979. The Phil Donohue show on November 9, l979, did an extensive broadcast which included the daughter of parents of and incestual relationship. It has also been noticed that in my practice as psychologist there has been a significant increase in the number of clients suffering from incestual relationships in 1979. Whatever the reason, it does appear that there has been more interest from mental health workers and ministers, as well as the media regarding the treatment and issues involved with incest.
Incest, like so many problems, tends to vary in intensity and consequences from situation to situation. In some cases, incest has been almost accidentally in that brothers and sisters have been allowed to share the same bedroom in pre-adolescence and adolescence, and, therefore, sexual exploration and
experimentation may occur. The brother and sister may not be fully aware of what they are doing and the incest may be curiosity than overt sexual conquest.
Incest on the other hand could be associated with extremely emotionally disturbed fathers who are sexually promiscuous and become involved with their daughters as part of their own unchecked