Victims, perpetrators, and bystanders of incest: Seeking justice and making peace

Kathryn J. McNally (2003)

This theoretical dissertation explores literature from the fields of peace psychology, therapeutic jurisprudence, forgiveness/unforgiveness, analyses of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, and theories of moral development and applies them to the relationships between victims, perpetrators, and bystanders of adult-child incest. It argues that the trauma literature has predominantly focused on victims and perpetrators in isolation from each other and, consequently, has missed important interpersonal and intrapsychic dynamics crucial to future theory building and intervention. It also maintains that bystanders are frequently neglected but essential constituents in understanding the etiology and outcome of adult-child incest, and are important targets for its prevention. These bystanders include not only witnesses to victimization and perpetration, but also the media, academia, and society in general. I discuss the literature on trauma and adult-child incest, with an emphasis on victims, perpetrators, and bystanders and their relationships to each other. I advance a view of morality which will form a foundation upon which I will construct a model for intervention which values justice, personal responsibility, human dignity, interconnectedness, optimism, and compassion. Concepts from peace psychology and procedures of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa are presented as exemplars of and lessons in the application of the morality model. I present literature on interventions with victims of adult-child incest, particularly those that attend to stages of healing and the construction of meaning. I discuss literature on therapeutic jurisprudence, critiquing registration and notification laws and their impact on victims, perpetrators, and bystanders of adult-child incest, and examining the utility of selected principles of restorative justice. Finally, I present a treatment track model designed for use within the criminal justice system and recommend concurrent interventions with victims, perpetrators, victims and perpetrators together, and bystanders. This treatment track model is patterned on Healing Circles, which are innovations from restorative justice. The recommended concurrent interventions encompass criticisms and recommendations from the literature on peace psychology, therapeutic jurisprudence, forgiveness/unforgiveness, the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa, and theories of moral development.