Struggles and Scars

Incest is a grim reality but there is a way out

Cases of incest are on the rise. What can vulnerable women do to protect themselves from their most trusted relatives?
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Incest is a terrible crime that we must not ignore

The news of a father in Uttar Pradesh gifting his daughter to his friends and then joining them in raping her is another low that India has hit. Making many cringe is the fact that this man had been socially boycotted for indulging in an incestuous relationship with his daughter, who has been living with her parents, since she had separated from her husband. The villagers had even chased this man away from the village. Stomach-churning as this case is, it has raised some pertinent questions with regard to women’s safety and declining human values in the country.

According to figures released by Recovery And Healing from Incest (RAHI) Foundation, New Delhi, about 76 per cent of adults have admitted to being sexually abused as a child. Making matters grim is the fact in 40 per cent of these cases, the offender was a family member (uncle or male cousin). The survey also revealed that in 4 per cent of such cases, the offender turned out to be the father.

The survey also revealed that in 4 per cent of such cases, the offender turned out to be the father.

Violating the trust of a vulnerable victim

According to Kolkata-based psychologist Devlina Lahiri, incest is a reality and happens in cities too. She said, “Intimacy disorder is the term we use for cases where a girl has been continually sexually offended by her father or a father-like figure. These cases are more traumatic than any other case, as a person of great trust violates a child. And the fact in this case in UP, that the woman was an adult and was being forced into an incestuous relationship, indicates that the father had been forcing himself upon this woman since childhood, hence she never really learnt to say no to the abuse.”

Dr Lahiri believes it’s the mother who needs to be more proactive in such cases and raise an alarm or teach the child about “good and bad touch”. “Each child should be taught to say NO to things they feel are wrong. They should be taught to raise an alarm when any elder tries exploiting them.”

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Related reading: Haunted by childhood abuse, how do I move forward?

The perpetrators are mentally ill

Jaipur-based psychologist Dr Anamika Papriwal agreed. She said, “Incest is a reality and we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to it. Incest keeps happening as the dependents are the easiest prey that sexual offenders can lay their hands on.” According to Dr Papriwal, people who sexually exploit their children need medical help. “Research has revealed that people who indulge in incest are mentally unstable or have a history of having been sexually exploited as kids. So, it is these people who need to be treated. Mind you, such individuals who are low on moral values need to undergo psychotherapy sessions,” she added.

Asked about the reasons for the decaying morality, Dr Papriwal said, “There is too much free time and easy access to the Internet. Men with spare time and a smartphone have easy access to porn sites. They get titillated and then look for easy prey.” Men with fewer moral values and easy access to porn are more susceptible to committing incest. She also feels that kids in the family are easy prey for these perverts.

Related reading: In the wake of the recent rape cases, I am often confused as a mother of a young boy

There is a way out, although difficult

NGO
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But then if this is a grim reality, then what’s the way out? Dr Lahiri thinks “First and foremost, we need to understand that in India, women are treated as commodities and we as a society need to change this mentality. It’s difficult, but not impossible. The NGOs working in these areas need to be more active, meet women, let them know that there is more to life than their households, educate them about their rights, for then only will these mothers stand along with their daughters when they see them being violated by their husbands or other male members of the family.”

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Steps to take if you are a victim of incest

Most experts feel that women trapped in such relationships first need to understand that there is a way out. The path may be difficult, but there is a solution. Dr Papriwal feels that if you are a woman who is forced into this type of a situation:

  • Confide in your mother. If she doesn’t believe you or ignores you, then confide in a relative whom you trust. This is very important.
  • Look around for people who can help you raise an alarm
  • Talk to your neighbours and friends about your situation. Try to build up social pressure
  • Learn to say NO. Most of the time, fathers or relatives who exploit kids can be dissuaded by a simple no
  • If the family doesn’t come to your help, then look for help in the online space. But do send out an SOS
  • Don’t let it happen to you because you are financially dependent on your father or relative. Go get a job, earn your living, but don’t be exploited, as incest scars you life
  • Mothers should always support their kids. They shouldn’t be mute spectators to their child being abused
  • Approach an NGO. They will not just help you get justice, but also help you be financially independent
  • Once you have made up your mind to protest, approach the police and take legal help.

I confided in my parents about being abused and yet they did nothing

How does the abuser operate in an abusive relationship?

Childhood sexual abuse left me with shame. Until love and acceptance freed me.

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