The Truth About Incest
JW: Typically, when we're working with an adult who's in an incest situation, there's one thing that determines two different paths that you take. The first would be, 'Is this a relationship where if they were to end it, they would be in imminent danger?' Because, a lot of times, what we see with adults in incest situations is that relationship, whether it started when they were adults or when they were minors, it kind of morphs into a situation that's involves partner violence. So safety would be the number one priority in that situation.
If they're not in imminent danger, if it's a situation they're easily able to leave or escape from, just find support. Whether it's a nonoffending family member or whether it is a best friend or a partner, or obviously, available to everyone, are the national sexual assault hotlines. We want them to know that even though they may feel like they're all alone in this, which we hear a lot, you know, "I can't talk to anybody about this," there is hope. There are people out there who are willing to listen.
Q: If you suspect that a child is a victim of incest, what steps should you take?
JW: If a child discloses or if anybody discloses to you that this is happening, you need to believe them. When they first disclose, this isn't the time to try and figure out whether or not this is happening. That first reaction could make a really big difference in terms of the person's long-term recovery.
Then, try to find resources. Every state has different mandatory reporting law, so that would be something a teacher or someone like that should be knowledgeable of. But if it is a neighbor or something like that, [I suggest] reaching out and talking to somebody in their community or local rape crisis center or talking to the proper authorities about what you suspect is happening.
Q: Should you ever confront an abuser?
JW: I would probably say to use other resources first because you could endanger the victim further if that perpetrator still has access to the victim. When you confront them, they may take that anger out on the victim.