Intimacy and Incest: The Advantages of
Group Acceptance in Healing Inner Conflict and Outer Trust Issues
S. M. O'Bryan
Few issues are as taboo and as difficult for society and individuals to confront as is sexual abuse by one’s own parent or guardian. This abuse leaves deep scars on the victim. This abuse is unique in that it does not require physical force and yet it is such a violent act. This uniqueness has caused many abused children to possess false notions that they themselves are the culprit and bear the responsibility for what happened to them. In their minds’ they rationalize that they themselves gave a form of consent by allowing themselves to become a victim. Guilt is layered onto the child’s feelings of pain, shame, and confusion. Use of group therapy has been shown to help in confronting incest symptoms of mistrust, shame and self-loathing. This paper examines and investigates incest’s attack on healthy intimacy and the fact that group therapy for adult victims of childhood incest has shown to be effective in healing and helping to bring both men and women a deeper self-value and help these individuals in trust issues. Lack of intimacy due to mistrust and misunderstanding are key symptoms that many times lead to troubled or dysfunctional sexual relationships for abused individuals who do not seek healing. Sexuality is only one aspect of a healthy relationship and is often times used by incest victims as a tool to avoid true intimacy. Alternatively, sexuality can also be excluded from the relationship all together due to the pain or flashbacks of the childhood experience. This paper strives to investigate the healing process of group therapy on adult survivors of childhood incest. This paper will include steps to creating such a group to process through feelings of the past and present, as well as introducing methods of conflict resolution that can help these clients overcome their present dilemmas. Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (2001) defines incest as sexual contact that takes place between a child and an individual that is in a position of power or authority, this is not restricted to family, however, a crucial part of the relationship which leads to abuse is the child’s powerlessness relative to the perpetrator. The offender is defined as the child’s caretaker; ranging from parent to close relative, to babysitter. Incestuous acts range from touching in inappropriate places, masturbation, exposing the child to pornography, oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. To understand the implications of personality disorders and the fear of intimacy, as well as the feelings of isolation and shame that need to be dealt with in the area of adults who have been victims of incest, one must remember that due to the taboo, the fear of confrontation, the average stage at which victims of incest seek therapy is adulthood. Adult survivors of childhood incest are much more prevalent than children seeking therapy or psychiatry in this arena. Graber, Ken (1991) Documentation of the symptoms of incest has shown that adult survivors are normally vulnerable with feelings of inadequacy and of low self-esteem. Lack of trust and distancing from others are also high on the list of symptoms. Female incest victims tend to accept the responsibility and blame themselves for the sexual abuse; suffering from guilt, depression and isolation. With sexually abused males there is concern for the safety of boundaries, power and control, facilitating intimacy, handling shame, guilt and the effects of trauma. (Knight, 1991) States that incest victims as a whole tend to feel powerless, helpless and have a fear of further abuse. Many times contending with overwhelming feelings of rage and loss which may fire up randomly or be feared and therefore repressed. Ratican (1992) identifies symptoms of childhood incest to include anxiety, depression, self-destructive tendencies, intimate...
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