The Criminal Code of Canada states that "everyone commits incest who, knowing that another person is by blood relationship his or her parent, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild, as the case may be, has sexual intercourse with that person." Father-daughter incest is most reported, although brother-sister incest is apparently 5 times more frequent. Incestuous activity is not only a criminal offence but can be a symptom of serious family problems. It causes fear and humiliation for the victims and creates secrecy and shame in the family. A child experiences fear and guilt that "telling" may send a parent to prison. A wife fears that exposure will destroy a marriage and leave her family without support. These factors strongly hinder discovery and correction of the problem. If the criminal conduct is prosecuted through the judicial system, these same emotional responses are devastating to a child who must testify in court to incestuous acts with a parent.
It is estimated that about 20-30% of all sexual abuse is committed by nonfamily members and that most victims are girls. The vast majority of abusers are male. The methods of sexual abuse include indecent exposure and genital contact of the children by fondling. Sexual intercourse is rarely committed and violence is seldom used. Abusers generally use threats or coercion in the form of bribes, toys, candy, money or affection. On the basis of limited evidence, some authorities believe that the actual incidence of sexual abuse is unknown but that it may be as common as one in 4 for females and one in 10 for males, if all forms of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards children from birth to 16 years are included.
There is little evidence that many children deliberately make false allegations or misinterpret appropriate adult-child contact as sexual abuse. As a result of changing public attitudes, it is now possible to acknowledge publicly and clinically the existence of child sexual abuse in Canadian society.
Author B. SCHLESINGER
R. Badgley, Sexual Offences Against Children (1984); D. Finkelhor, Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse (1986); C.L. Mather, How Long Does it Hurt? (1994); D.E.H. Russell, The Sexual Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (1986); B.Schlesinger, Sexual Abuse of Children in the 1980s: Issues and Annotated Bibliography, 1980-84 (1986).For Additional Reading Materials write to: National Clearing House on Family Violence, Health Canada, Ottawa, ON, K1A 1B5
Links to Other Sites
Check out the colourful AboutKidsHealth website for online articles on hundreds of childhood ailments, medications, behavioural issues, and medical procedures. Also offers an animated "How the Body Works" feature, and much more. From the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto.
Aboriginal Healing Foundation
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation’s mission is to encourage and support Aboriginal people in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical abuse and sexual abuse in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts.