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What is Incest?

Incest is intimate sexual contact between a child under the age of eighteen and a relative such as an uncle, aunt, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, or grandparent. In other words, someone you are not legally allowed to marry. About 23 percent of all sexual abuse is incest.

Father-daughter incest is the most commonly reported and legally prosecuted form. In about one quarter of the reported cases, sexual contact is a one-time occurrence, but more typically it continues over a period of years, having an average time span of three and a half years.

When the daughter is young, between five and twelve, the relationship very rarely includes actual intercourse. Once the daughter is past twelve, intercourse is likely to be part of the sexual contact. Alcohol is a significant factor. (Between 20 and 50 percent of the fathers are alcoholics. Even when the man is not an alcoholic, the first experience may take place when he has been drinking.)

A number of studies have concluded that brother-sister incest is the most common form of incest. Research does not support the view that brother-sister incest is “normal.” It usually occurs in families where serious problems exist.

Healthy families exhibit a lot of holding and affection. However, affection is different from deliberate erotic stimulation (Redbook, 11/80, pp. 83-86).

Taken from The Teenage Q&A Book, pg. 185