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Father-Daughter Incest (with a new Afterword) Paperback – June 4, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0674002708 ISBN-10: 0674002709

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (June 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674002709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674002708
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


There is much to commend in the book. It is gracefully written and reviews a wide literature ranging from the scientific to the pornographic and from fairy tales to the Bible...The author presents practical and helpful suggestions on how best to approach a family facing the problem of incest, the methods of strengthening the mother's position and improving the mother-daughter relationship, necessary steps to protect the victim from further physical and psychological harm, and ways of prosecuting or treating the father. There is also useful advice on psychotherapy of grownup incest victims and a discussion of the countertransference feelings in male and female therapists that are most likely to interfere with treatment or to make it detrimental. (Vera Frances, M.S. Family Process)

A timely book of striking humanistic political and theoretical significance...I also find Herman's book an eloquent expression of feminist concerns about the oppression and sexual exploitation of woman at her most vulnerable stage of development. It is indeed Herman's trenchant feminist analysis that makes this book not just another research report, but rather a profound critique of female socialization in this society...This book is written in a clear, scholarly, and highly readable style. Although the book's message is passionate, the author maintains a measure of objectivity. She avoids harangues or polemics and relies on facts and observations in organizing a convincing presentation. I found this to be an absorbing, thought-provoking book which deserves to attract a wide readership among mental health professionals and the lay public. (Sophie Freud Loewenstein, Ph.D. Review of Psychoanalytic Books)

Father-Daughter Incest is an exciting addition to the growing literature of child sexual abuse. It offers the best hope to date of appealing to a broad range of clinical professionals who have not yet examined the current rediscovery of incest. The book is startling, sobering, challenging, and in many ways inspiring. Most important, it is compatible; it is considerate of the needs, fears, and vulnerabilities of readers across the entire spectrum, from those who have experienced incest to those who would deal with it professionally....[It] is a fascinating, profoundly moving clinical and cultural expedition into the heartland of incest. (Roland C. Summit Readings)

The book is evenhanded, logical, well researched, and thoroughly gripping. It may have taken a while to get to, but it was truly hard to put down...Herman's thesis [is] that incest is the furthermost extension of male domination in a patriarchal society whose men do not share equally in child raising...The bulk of Dr. Herman's book, apart from her considerable historical analysis, is an anecdotal and statistical study of 40 incest victims and their families. She compares these families with 40 families in which the father had been merely seductive...In summary, this is an excellent book that weaves together theory with the very practical therapeutic guidelines. Most fascinating is the way Dr. Herman brings to life the family dynamics of an incestuous family. In the end, the family members take on a mythic quality, like characters in a Grimm's fairy tale. Father-Daughter Incest should be required reading for anyone treating a victim of incest. (Judith Blitman, M.D. American Journal of Psychiatry)

Herman's work is valuable to everyone who has been the victim of such incest because it offers help; it is valuable to those whose families are shattered by its occurrence because it offers a means for reconciliation, and it is valuable to specialists who seek to assist their victim-clients. (Los Angeles Times)

Herman's rethinking of incest is profoundly, passionately feminist...Her book, the result of years of psychiatric work with incest victims, is undeniably painful, but it is also full of hope. (Mother Jones)

In a well-researched and readable book, Judith Herman--an American psychiatrist--presents a clear and compelling feminist analysis of father-daughter incest. (Maryon Tysoe New Society)

Judith Lewis Herman's fine book is one of the most important contributions to psychiatric knowledge of the last decade...As an exemplary model of feminist scholarship, [it] is a rigorous sociopsychological reconceptualization of our clinical assumptions about incest...Herman offers a sophisticated, detailed, and clinically relevant discussion of treatment and issues for victims and their families...Father-Daughter Incest is an eloquent, illuminating, and empathic analysis of an extraordinarily complex and troubling phenomenon. It should be required reading for all mental health professionals and trainees. (Elaine Carment, M.D. Contemporary Psychiatry)

This is an extremely readable survey of father-daughter incest today. The author describes the incestuous family from several points of view, including the dynamics typical of the incest family, and of the seductive father family; the traditional values of American society that promote the possibility of abusive family conduct; the political structure of our society that fails to assist the victim and favors the perpetrator; and the legal-enforcement-treatment system, which is too heavily funded or prepared to work with incest/seductive families...The comprehensiveness of the book, and the well thought out presentation, make this one of the most thorough pieces of literature on the subject...The subject matter, statistics and legal information is accurate and well presented for easy reference. This book should be mandatory reading for any professional or paraprofessional who works with women, children and families. (Nora J. Baladerian, M.A. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy)

About the Author

Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., is Psychiatric Director of the Women’s Mental Health Collective, Somerville, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This book is a must read for anyone touched by this horrendous issue.
Shirley Bubel
This work presents the most comprehensive picture of father-daughter incest I have found -- and many subsequent psychological texts rely on it heavily.
The authors do a good job of explaining the culture in terms of patriarchal domination.
an apt word

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a text about the 'whys' and ways of incest, this is among the best. It explains why children go along with the parent, why they do not report it, and in some cases, may even want to continue the sexual relationship once it has begun. This is hard for some to understand, but you need to remember that a child will accept what they perceive as love from a parent any way they can get it. This is one of the best texts on incests that i have read.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith on November 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I think that there are three separate (and possibly overlapping) audiences for this book.

First, those professionals who work with incest survivors will find the results of knowledge gained from Dr Herman's experience studying this particular field of sexual abuse and working with those directly affected. Secondly, those who work with abuse victims in any care-giving capacity will find some guidance through the minefield of taboo and denial that tends to accompany this topic. Thirdly, this book is invaluable to some of the survivors who themselves can deal face the reality of the past while trying to understand that it isn't their fault and they are not necessarily alone in the conflicting feelings they have experienced.

Dr Herman's work in this area is well-presented and relatively easy to follow. By relying on facts, by incorporating case studies, and through referring to the history of the various incest taboos and practices, Dr Herman makes it easier for sufferers and caregivers alike to discuss the undiscussable.

One could wish that such studies were not necessary, and that no parent ever abused their position of power and authority. One could also wish that care and help was readily available to each child who has suffered at the time that the abuse was first experienced. By opening the topic to discussion and through publishing books which deal with behaviour in context and the consequences for individuals, families and communities, society is better equipped to help sufferers become survivors. Or so I hope.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Joyce Barrows,
This book is an in depth detailed account of child molestation/incest and the ramifications of the act and the future of the child put under such a devestating stress. I personally am a fan of memoirs, enjoying the real more so than the imagined. This book offers the real life accounts of people when they were children and the pain that they must have had to endure. It is also a moving book, similar to that of Nightmares Echo by Katlyn Stewart and Beauty For Ashes by Joyce Meyers. Though this book is a bit more clinical
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sammy Miller on August 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm a Father-Daughter incest survivor. My father molested me. My mother knew it was going on and didn't protect me. I never understood why, until now. I took more from this book than from all the therapy I've had and materials I've read over the years. For the first time in my life I feel that my finding peace is possible.

I'd like to share three gems from the treasure chest that this was for me as examples.

*If you cannot say no, then you cannot say yes.

*Sexually abused daughters are taught from early in the incest that they don't have the right to protect themselves.

*Father-daughter incest is never about sex; it's about dominance and abandonment.

Read the book. For the love of all things beautiful, read the book. I hope that if you do you might begin to find your own peace, too.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Jones on March 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is not easy reading. It is much like reading a textbook. However, it is very informative but very disturbing because the medical, phsyciatric, legal and law enforcement communities combined to ignore the evidence and blame the victims or not believe them. Disgusting profesional behavior for years and years. Your heart goes out to the victims. These little girls were not safe at home and either they were blamed or not believed. The emotional injuries last forever.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By an apt word on January 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
Deeply disturbing to read, disquieting to have lying about in the house, but a hugely important book in terms of serving the women who have held their incest secrets for far too long. What are you going to do if/when someone close to you tells you their incest secret? This book will help you decide on an appropriate response. "Denial has always been the incestuous father's first line of defense" Herman notes. Will you believe the father or the daughter?
The author met Lisa Hirschman first in 1975 when they were beginning their clinical practice and saw multitudes of women who had experienced incest. Most of those women patients had remained silent. Herman and Hirschman credit the women's liberation movement with finally having changed our cultural bias to favor the victim. There are two traditional beliefs at play which favored the abuser: 1. He did no harm, he says, and 2. He was not to blame.
On the question of harm, sociologist James Ramey writing in a 1979 SIECUS newsletter, expressed more concern for the harm of official recognition and punishment of incest than for the act itself. Men's magazines continue to make this point as do those few psychoanalytic holdovers in the field of psychiatry. These arguments ignore the question of power in the parent-child relationship.
The authors do a good job of explaining the culture in terms of patriarchal domination. The homes studied were very traditional homes with full-time mothers. These mothers had spent a significant period of time being ill, were often separated from social supports, had larger families than average (3.6 children each), and experienced very little power in the domestic relationship. Often the fathers abused alcohol. Mothers and daughters were alienated.
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