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A strong attack on conventional views about incest between adult males and female children, particularly on the Freudian theory concerning the girl as unconscious temptress. The book concerns sexual contact between any older male and any girl-child in the household, not merely between biological fathers and daughters. When capitalized, Ward uses the words ""Father"" and ""Daughter"" to apply to any male in a household in a position to intimidate any young girl into doing his bidding, and to being his victim. Ward rejects the term ""incest"" because its usage focuses on psychological, sociological and theological concern about the kindred relationship between victim and offender. She writes: "". . .I had to create a term which would accurately convey the dynamics of the situation. I use 'rape' because I believe that the sexual use of a child's body/being is the same [author's emphasis] as the phenomenon of adult rape. Terms like 'sexual abuse,' 'molestation' and 'interference' are diminutions of 'rape'; they imply that something less [author's emphasis] than rape occurred."" Ward feels secure in her usage, she says, because the women she interviewed "". . .universally described the experience 'as feeling like rape,' no matter what specific form the abuse took."" An Australian, Ward first became involved in her subject when she became a counselor at the Rape Crisis Centre in Sydney. She says the experience convinced her that rape by family members is much more widespread than is generally believed and one of the most underreported crimes. Ward believes Freud's perceptions of women's sexuality were wrong because they grew out of ""phallocentricity""--which viewed the penis as an organ so powerful and attractive that women envied it and wanted one. Freudians tend to find, she says, a mutuality between the two people involved in familial rape. She points out that rape is not about sex but about power--the power of men to make women do their bidding. The book opens with the stories told by nine women who were raped by family members when they were children. The central section is a review of the literature and the major lines of thought about incest. Ward closes with a call for action to open up the subject to greater public awareness and scrutiny. This is a solid work that needed to be written. An ardent feminist, Ward occasionally becomes strident in her accusations against men and their domination of women. But those occasions apart, the book is well done. A new and useful perception of a problem as old as humanity.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1985
Publisher: Grove