According to Arielle Bossuyt
What are the consequences of incest on the psychology of the victims?
A child victim of incest will suffer this trauma well into adulthood because all his references and his relationship to life are disturbed. We know that the trauma associated with incest and domestic violence will have very serious consequences, even more serious than those experienced by victims of terrorism. The trauma of incest will indeed affect the psychological development of the child and even have physical consequences through a psychosomatic effect (when the psyche affects the body). The earlier the violence starts, the more serious and lasting the consequences will be. In addition, as adults, some victims experience this trauma through flashbacks.
In this symposium, you will talk about the repetition scheme. What do you think ?
In spite of themselves, victims of incest have integrated that life should bring them to this adversity because they know it from childhood. They learned from what they experienced. This causes some victims to adopt a passive behavior in the face of aggressive behavior. This explains why many women who are victims of violence as adults become former little girls who are victims of incest or domestic violence. Despite themselves, they are easy prey for predators.
You talk about awe. Can you develop this mechanism?
Stunning or dissociation is a psychological defense mechanism. Some victims of violence will find themselves unable to move and some will feel that they are leaving their own body. It’s a defense mechanism you can’t control. Moreover, some child victims of incest reproduce this mechanism when they are confronted with another situation of violence as adults. They have unconsciously assimilated that this is what must be done in order to survive. This mechanism is anchored very early and children are built on these foundations.
Some victims may even reproduce what they experienced.
Yes, it exists, but it is very rare. The family environment is very important in this process, because if the mother or another family member is informed about the violence and does not react, the child realizes that it can be normal. Once an adult, he can reproduce the same actions and does not understand what he is accused of because no one reacted when he was the victim. He can consider it a part of education.
How to stop this vicious cycle?
We must act in several axes: social, legal and therapeutic. Legally, it is necessary to identify and condemn all those responsible, because the aggressor in the context of incest rarely acts alone. Before you get there, it’s important to raise awareness to free the voice of victims. Finally, we must support the victims and enable them to rebuild. He’s going through therapy.
How to approach therapy with victims?
More often than not, the victim lives as if this reality does not exist. She resorts to narcotics, alcohol or other products that alter her mental state and her consciousness. It’s a way of not thinking about it. Our goal is therefore to bring her out of dissociation by confronting her with this reality. The aim of therapy is to transform this trauma into a memory so that it no longer interferes with everyday life like a parasite. But for this you need a lot of skills, especially in psychotraumatology, because there are dangers: the victim makes so much effort to forget what happened that the confrontation with reality can have dramatic consequences that can even lead to suicide. Victims feel ashamed and their trauma is not very socially recognized.
How to recognize a child victim of incest?
A change in behavior is a harbinger: a child who is more withdrawn, agitated or overwhelmed when faced with authority, with attitudes that are out of step with other children his age. There are words that must be heard. For example, when he mentions an unusual game or a strange attitude of an adult around him. You have to be very sensitive in the way you ask the child questions so as not to distort his answer. We also found that victims are often sick or hospitalized. As we said above, trauma can have psychosomatic effects. In the child, this leads to disruption of the development of the immune system. The child is thus more fragile. In addition, as adults, victims are prone to developing cancer and other diseases.
How can we, on our level, help a loved one who has become a victim?
You don’t have to be rude or mean. Phrases like “Tell me everything”, “Talk to me”, “Go see a psychiatrist” will not work. Again, you need to know how to listen and create an atmosphere of trust. In addition, the Paris Institute of Victimology is the largest consultation in France when it comes to sexual violence. He organizes interviews in person but also remotely, which is important because some victims do not dare to leave their homes.
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