Incest: a family pattern

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Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982 - Family & Relationships - 224 pages
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Offers statistics about incest and child abuse, describes the impact on its victims, and looks at legal aspects and rehabilitation therapy

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The review is copied from the Journal "Sociology of Health & Illness", Volume 5, Issue 3 (p 367-368). As review is the from November 1983 issue, I would hope that the copyright owners will not object to its posting in the public domain. If it is objected to, I apologies and hope it can be removed wiothout any great fuss.
J. Renvoize, Incest, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, £7.95, viii + 224pp.
Recent years have witnessed spiralling interest and awareness of sexual exploitation of children. While the statistics remain inconclusive, there is agreement by investigators that the extent of this problem has been seriously underestimated. Thus, it becomes relevant to professionals who work with children to have some degree of appreciation and understanding of this issue. Incest by Jean Renvoize successfully introduces the subject to professionals (and the lay public), who are relatively unfamiliar with the problem.
Renvoize provides a broad overview as she addresses the major facets, the pertinent questions and current controversies. The scope of this endeavour precludes, perhaps unavoidably, a comprehensive in-depth analysis. Generally, her treatment of the subject is of a descriptive nature, with less attention given to conceptual and theoretical principles.
The author has integrated illustrative case histories, a sampling of the research finding and a spectrum of clinical and legal approaches. Most of the material presented derives from Renvoize's contacts with leading professionals in the United States, with occasional reference to sources in the United Kingdom. The first-person accounts by incest victims movingly convey their pain and suffering without being melodramatic. It is of interest that the chapter dealing with the pro-incest lobby did not include any such evidence of the suggested benefits of incest.
The review of the literature reasonably relates major findings, although Renvoize relies heavily on the work of a few investigators, who are quoted repeatedly. At times data is summarized sufficiently out of context that the reader is unable to make an independent appraisal of the information. An example is the incidence data reported by Finkelhor (p. 48) when one is left guessing what is meant by 'some kind of sexual victimization'. Renvoize met with many of the clinicians whose work she refers to and her reports of conversations with them give the varied approaches a certain richness and vitality. The author includes representations of those disciplines involved in incest, with a spectrum of sources ranging from the British Home Office to a Colorado policeman. Greater focus on principles, rather than details, of management might have helped clarify divergent philosophies.
The immense controversy surrounding state involvement in incest cases is adequately portrayed in Chapter 8, with the author focusing on the clinical dilemmas posed. Surprisingly little mention is made of the rights of children which have become an important issue in the USA. Here, as in other areas, greater comparison between the two countries would have been of interest.
Two important facets of incest warrant more attention. Renvoize describes the definitional problems and presents a sampling of approaches, but resists the opportunity to integrate these and offer readers her conceptualization of what constitutes incest. This failure, all too common among authors and researchers in this field, serve to perpetuate current ambiguities.
Prevention is beginning to attract greater attention. A number of exciting innovative
ideas, using various media forms, have recently been implemented. An example is a children's theatre group, similar to one described by the author for diagnostic purposes (p. 62), to educate children at an early age to recognize physical or sexual contact that is exploitative, and what options exist for them to seek protection. These measures provide a stimulus for planning future strategies to diminish incest.
Renvoize writes in a style that facilitates easy reading. However, on a


What is incest?
Incidence of incest and how to discover it
The fathers

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