Incest is defined as having a sexual relationship with people who are too closely related to you – by law, you are not allowed to marry these people; it is the serious crime having sexual acts with a parent, child, sibling or grandchild. About 23 percent of all sexual abuse cases in the world are incest and the most commonly reported involves a father-daughter relationship.
Sexual contact typically does not happen when the daughter is still young; intercourse usually takes place when the child is past 12. According to reports, alcohol is one of the biggest factors behind these sexual abuse cases – about 20 to 50 percent of abusive fathers are alcoholics.
Cases of brother-sister incest are also very common; it usually happens within families that suffer from serious problems. Healthy and happy families exhibit affection with each other. However, it should be remembered that affection is very different from ‘sexual stimulation’.
What is Incest Taboo?
This cultural taboo is prevalent in today’s society and many past societies. Modern societies have already established laws and restrictions against closely consanguineous marriages (related by blood). Some societies even extend the taboo to people who are not related by blood such as milk-siblings, step siblings and adoptive siblings; relationships between third-degree relatives such as half-aunt and first cousin, are also viewed differently in some cultures – most cultures discourage it.
The most common reason behind incest taboo is the impact inbreeding has on the offspring of incestuous relationships. Close genetic relationships usually produce children who have high risk of congenital disorder, disability and even death. Unintended incest sexual relationship may also occur because of sperm donation, surrogacy and adoption – people are uncertain or clueless about their biological relationship to others.
Types of Incest
- Between an adult and a child. This is considered as child sexual abuse and is the most commonly reported case of incest. However, the prevalence of this type is quite difficult to assess because most victims keep it as a secret. Moreover, reports show that this form of child abuse is more likely to happen between stepfather and daughter as compared to biological father and daughter. Some of the most ‘common features’ that lead to the occurrence of incest include extreme paternal dominance, reassignment of mother responsibilities to the daughter and an estrange relationship between mother and daughter.
- Between consenting adults. The most common reason for this occurrence is the ‘genetic sexual attraction’ between the two adults. Although not so many cases of this incest have been reported, some evidences point to its occurrence; technological advances such as chat rooms and other websites have fostered the occurrence of incestuous relationships today.
- Cousin relationships. Marriages and sexual relationships that occur between first cousins are tolerated in some areas of the world. However, it is still considered as incest and is strongly discouraged by many cultures. Although the occurrence is very rare, it is indeed present in some communities – in Pakistan, marriages between cousins are encouraged to ensure the purity of descent line and that patrimony will not pass into ‘outsiders’.
- Aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. In some cultures, marriages among aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are considered legal. However, in the case of the Dutch, they must seek the consent of the Dutch government first because of the risk of inbreeding defects. Consensual intercourse between adults is tolerated in Netherlands and Belgium but is seriously punished in the US such as in Florida and other US States.