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Definition:  Sexual contact between blood relatives.  Often included in this group is sexual contact between stepparents and stepchildren.  Incest is considered by many experts to be a particularly damaging form of sexual abuse because it is perpetrated by individuals whom the victim trusts and depends upon.  In addition, support can also be lacking and pressure to keep silent powerful as fear of the family breaking up can be overwhelming to other family members.

Cultural Note:  There are, however, different cultural expectations and rules about incest.  For instance, in some areas of the Arab world and southern India, it is estimated that as many as 50% of marriages occur between first cousins.  In addition, in southern India, it is still common to see a maternal uncle marry the first daughter.

Incest can include such sexual acts as:

  • Non-contact acts – sexual comments, exposure, voyeurism, showing pornographic materials, etc.
  • Sexual contact – touching rubbing
  • Digital or object penetration – both of the victim and of the perpetrator
  • Oral sex – both of the victim and of the perpetrator
  • Penile penetration – vaginal, anal, animals
  • Group sex
  • Sex rings
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Child pornography
  • Child prostitution

Behavioral Signs

  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Sleeping and eating disorders
  • Self-mutilation
  • Phobias
  • Psychosomatic symptoms (stomach aches, headaches)
  • School problems (absences, drop in grades)
  • Poor hygiene or excessive bathing
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Regressive behaviors (bed wetting, thumb sucking, etc.)
  • Aversive feelings about sex or overvaluing sex
  • Sexual identity problems
  • Hypersexual or sexual avoidance
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Risky behavior
  • Avoidance (runaway)
This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

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