Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Speaking Out About Incest

Speaking Out About Incest
© (2009) by Vicki Polin
The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - September 30, 2009

So many incest survivors are faced with so many dilemmas when it comes to speaking out against their perpetrators.  One of the biggest reasons is because their offender(s) are members of their own families.  They carry titles such as:  mommy, daddy, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle and or cousin. 

One of the things most people forget is that every incest survivor has a relative who is a sex offender.   Going public means they will be "outing" someone they may love and care for. 

Children who are being abused in the home have to live with the fear of repeated abuse every day of their lives.  The reality is that the majority of cases of childhood sexual abuse occur in the home by relatives, and the offenders are not teachers, rabbis, coaches, scout leaders, babysitters, etc. 

Just like any other group of those who were sexually violated, incest survivors deserve to have their day in court and to have the same protections as survivors of any other form of sexual abuse.  Unfortunately, in todays society if your offender is a relative you have less civil rights and or protections then those who's offenders are not relatives. 

As many of you know, I am an incest survivor.  There were many times during my childhood I went looking for help, yet it felt as if doors were slammed in my face every time I asked to be removed from my home.  The problem was that no one wanted to believe that Jews would do such things to their own children.  The only exception to that rule seemed to be if the offending family member(s) were holocaust survivors.  I am not saying that all holocaust survivors abuse their children, yet there appeared to be a higher percentage of holocaust survivors who were abusive towards their children, then those who did not.  The reasoning appears to be that one is more inclined to the behaviors of their parents or other adult figures who had influenced their own lives.  Unfortunately, there have been too many cases in which holocaust survivors identified with their aggressors and repeat some of the abuse they endured while being kept as prisoners by the Nazi's.  

An issue that is hardly ever addressed is the fact that many incest survivors turn to drugs and alcohol to escape for their thoughts, feelings and memories of the torture they endured in childhood.  An example of someone doing this is actress, Mackenzie Phillips.  Below is a link of her sharing some of her history and the backlash she experienced.

Though I never had issues with addictions I could relate to much of what Ms. Phillips shared in her interview.  As many of you are aware over twenty years ago I was on Oprah.  I totally understand the backlash a survivor may experience for sharing childhood experiences. 

I personally believe that Incest survivors really needs to be grounded and have a great support system in place before attempting to speak out.  It's not only due to the backlash that can come from family and friends -- it's because often once you speak out you will be inundated by other survivors contacting you wanting to share their experiences with you.  Naturally, there are times the survivors will want to share every detail of what happened to them in details -- which is healthy for them, but can become extremely overwhelming to another survivor.

Survivors heal a great deal by speaking out and sharing their experiences with others.  It's a wonderful feeling to learn that you are not alone, that you are not bad and that you do NOT have to keep secrets.  For me going on Oprah many years ago was both an extremely empowering experience, yet the backlash at times felt devastating.  The losses were great, yet the ability to speak the truth was freeing.

It's important for incest survivors to understand that once you speak out you can never take your words back.  What you say can and most often be used against you by those who are protecting other sex offenders. 

It's a wonderful feeling to know other survivors will see you as a role model, yet inside you may still feel very fragile and vulnerable.  You want to be helpful, yet also NEED to be protective of your own personal needs and space.  You have a right to say no to any future interviews and you also have a right not to answer questions people may ask you.  Remember this is about you and your own life.  You have a right to do what you find as healing and empowering and to say NO to things that are not.

Please watch the following Youtube clip of Mackenzie Phillips's experience of speaking out.

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