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Archive for July 11th, 2008

Hornet\'s Nest (c) Lynda BernhardtI really hate the word “incest.” I often hear people talk about “rape or incest” as if they are two different things. Yes, I understand that the use of the word “incest” is to specify that the abuser was blood-related to the victim. However, incest is rape in most cases. By separating out the word “incest” from “rape,” it makes incest sound innocuous when it is anything but.

Dictionary.com provides the following definitions for incest:

  • Sexual intercourse between closely related persons.
  • Sexual relations between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal or forbidden by custom.
  • Sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry (as between a parent and a child).

There are other definitions provided as well. None of them include that the sexual contact is by force.

I did not enter into a consensual sexual relationship with my mother as a toddler. She raped me. I have been raped by both men and women, so I am in a position to say with certainty that the sexual contact forced by both men and women is rape. The sexual abuse is just as horrible and degrading regardless of whether a woman or a man is perpetrating the abuse.

I refuse to allow another person to water down what I experienced by calling what my mother did to me “incest.” If the term “incest” must be included, then call it “incestuous rape” because that is a more accurate term.

The fact that a sexual abuser is blood-related makes the crime worse, not better. It really bothers me that, when the perpetrator is a blood relative, our language seems to downgrade the level of horror involved. “Rape” carries a punch. “Incest” is fodder for bad jokes about the residents of particular Southern states. There was nothing consensual with what I experienced, so I refuse to apply the word “incest” to what I experienced.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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