Mršević Zorica, The Incest Lying Between Myth and Reality - The Criminological Study on Sexual Abuse, Belgrade, The Institute of Criminological and Sociological Researches and Yugoslav Center for Child's Protection, 1997)

Childhood's traumas leave their traces in one's mind for all his life. As a rule, the incestuous traumas are being registered for the rest of life. Their destructive influence on emotions, mind and physical health are often never eliminated even after intensive long-standing therapies. What to do and how to help people who lived through this kind of abuse? This is the question that has been discussed within society and by individuals since long ago. However, it looks that the incest is one of those themes that are rarely spoken about and even less known about.

Here, we are faced with an extraordinary text, which does not offer final answers to these and similar questions, but demystify our knowledge about incest, its nature and expansion. The Incest Lying Between Myth and Reality raises by itself some completely new and provocative questions. We are referring to the criminological study on molesting of children in which Z. Mršević, the author, tries to penetrate in essence of this relationship, understand and explain some of reactions of the victims and those whose help and support are expected. The plentiful empiric material-confessions of the victims of incest and an unusual critical analysis of reasons and conditions that are present in situations when molesting takes place, give a special meaning to this out of the ordinary research. In other words, the feminist exploration perspective of the problem is present in all five chapters.

  1. Family Incest Type Pathologyis the first part of the study that introduces the readers with a specific terminology, field of research and observation's aspect of the problem. The author holds our attention by criticizing Freud’s understanding of incest, and later the anthropologic and historic interpretation and accepts a feminist approach. As accepted in the modern criminological theory this approach rejects abstract functional frameworks where incest has been treated as a dysfunctional, deviated and dangerous attitude for community.

    Incest is, above all, a product of an unequal distribution of social power between genders resulting in inevitable presence of the patriarchal context in researches of this or other types of abuses.

    By incest, the author does not mean only and first of all, sexual relationship with a child carried out by close blood relatives. The main point is the abuse of power and trustful relationship between a child and adult.

    The author based her study empirically at the experiences of victims of incest (99) with whom she personally met or communicated by Internet. According to the sample acquired by operation of Autonomous Woman’s Center and SOS telephone in Belgrade, the victims are girls in most cases, who experienced their first sexual abuse when they were between 5 and 10 years old and which lasted more than 5 years with numerous post-traumatic symptoms revealed in their adulthood.

  2. Incest Scenario and Social and Family Frameworks of Incest Events represents the chapter in which the author is concerned about the demystification of repressive-dominant relationship between a victim and executor. Absences of free communication within a family, as well as the patriarchal division of male and female roles in the society is in favor of and cause incestuous relationships. Social and family conspiracy about silence, skepticism and discharge of incestuous confessions as "too ugly to be true", puts victims to even deeper isolation. The author points out that incest has always been everywhere condemned by the society, but those people who were supposed to react and protect and offer all kinds of help have accepted the problem inadequately from the beginning. If the type of reaction: "This happens to somebody else and in different families and not to me and my family", refers to some of family problems then the incest is certainly one of them.
  3. The Psychology of Those Who Experienced Incest: Post Incest Syndrome discloses all the tragedy and lengthiness of a painful experience survived in childhood. Consequences left in a victim's mind are lifelong and very painful. First of all, it is about memories disturbance (the point is that very often fragments are not in direct connection with the very act of molesting but they preceded them or follow them), suicide attempts, feeling of guilt, anger, multiply personality etc. Being an active member of the feminine movement, the author is oriented towards an active exploration and change of present approaches and treatments of incest victims. In that way, for example, she makes a list of signs by which one can recognize the people who lived through such traumatic experiences: phobias, problems in coping with anger, fear of darkness, extreme swallowing sensibility and choking etc. She, also, points out what should be avoided in contact with a victim who experienced incest (not to touch her/him without her/his consent, not to approach her/him from behind, not to stop her/his movements and gestures...).
  4. The legal analysis called De legate i de lege ferenda represents a selection of effective lawful and criminal regulations referring to incest. Also, the solutions that are applied by English Law are laid out in details. The most important deficiency of our definition of the criminal part of incest is too narrow determination of possible executors and acts of incest. This chapter is short of a universal critical analysis of all acts that could be related to incest (defined as molesting of children carried out by adults), as well as analysis of penal policy applied in such cases.
  5. Participation of Non Governmental Organizations is novelty in our practice and our professional literature alike. By defining clearly, visibly and separately all positive and negative aspects, this chapter represents one of rare universal critical evaluation of the work carried out mainly by woman’s Non Governmental Organizations. The major advantage of group therapies for women, who experienced incest, which are organized in special groups for help and support of victims of incest, is the developing of a feeling of belonging and acceptance by others. However, the serious criticizing of incompetent work of feminist therapists who are trained and capable to receive only the first uncovering of victims, which is actually just a beginning of a therapy, is not less important. They cannot and they must not proceed.

The last chapter, what to say finally about incest without impairing the things we said at the beginning and in the middle, is a kind of valuable list of creative suggestions for the future researches among which we think that the most important and most necessary is the analysis of criminal and family laws and corresponding proposed measures for disclosure and prevention of the incest type children molesting.

At the end, it should be emphasized that the study does not represent only a significant source of facts about incest observed from victims’ perspective and those people who should react, but it is also provocative and inspiring by questioning wider community. The author places many dilemmas as: should a voluntary sexual relationship between blood relatives-adults-be sanctioned? How to solve the problem of professionalism and incompetence in women groups?

The suggestion to the author for the next edition of the book would be enrichment of the text by an analysis of the criminal policy in our courts and somehow more systematically arranged themes covered by the chapter.

Without a doubt, this is an exceptional, authentic, brave and specific project, which will be definitely an inspiration for future researches and studies covering this field, as well as an individual testing of  all ideas and prejudices of all of us who represent a group of readers interested in issues and problems caused by incest.