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Using trial and error, clinicians now see the necessity for systemic rather than linear interventions for the treatment of incest (Gil 1996). The characteristics of a healing environment are openness, honesty, support, and worthiness. Incestuous families are characterized by secrecy, deception, isolation, and worthlessness. Early in treatment, offenders will commonly protest society's and the criminal justice system's overreaction to their behavior. Offenders will often believe that the child liked the behavior, never objected, and was already sexually active and therefore not harmed by it. Other family members may participate in this pattern of denial as well. As the perpetrator and family begin to understand the effects on the victim of the secrecy and deception the incestuous relationship requires, they begin to break through the denial and rationalizations.

In general, early treatment should be designed to protect society from the offender and the offender from a recurrence of the abuse during the beginning of treatment (Conte 1990). Treatment should include careful assessments and well-informed treatment plans that are directive, cautious, comprehensive, and full of measurable and attainable goals and objectives (Gil 1996). No research has been published that definitively proves one mode of treatment is superior to others. Eliana Gil (1996) notes that clinical interventions focused on the offender were unsuccessful because they did not take into account the interactions between parents and children. She states that treatment carries with it the responsibility to alter harmful behaviors while making an effort to preserve the family without compromising the child's safety. Treatment often includes individual, family, couple, or group therapy for the offender, the victim, the nonoffending parent, and other family members. Finally, the perpetrator and other family members need to be evaluated for co-existing problems such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and psychiatric disorders.


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Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social IssuesIncest - Prevalence Of Incest, Effects On Victims, Profile Of Offenders, Treatment