I agree that this post may seem a little outdated. But I just completed an essay on this topic for an application form. Here goes:

In April 2008, the Josef Fritzl case first came to court. Josef Fritzl, an Austrian, had been arrested on charges of imprisoning, sexually abusing and raping his daughter Elisabeth for twenty four years. He was later meted out a life sentence. He also had five children with his daughter out of which one child died due to neglect. In November 2008, one more incest and rape case came to court in Sheffield where a man (whose name was never revealed publicly) who, undetected over a period of twenty five years, committed incestuous rape with two of his daughters with whom he had nine children. The girls themselves had nineteen pregnancies between the two of them. In Late March 2009, Arcedia Alvarez was arrested in Mariquita, Colombia on charges of sexually abusing his daughter for twenty one years. Incidentally, he also had eleven children with her, three of which died. The latter were just dubbed the British and Colombian Fritzls.

These men were fathers. They “were” because the moment they looked at their daughters as women who were born to satisfy their masculine needs, they became monsters. The very thought sends a chill down the spine since I can’t even imagine what those women might have gone through at the hands of the very man, any woman would love the most. Their fathers.

Psychologists claim that fathers would rape their daughters if they find their wives sexually unsatisfying. Also these “fathers” want to be the first man their daughters have sex with. There are certain reasons as to why incestuous rape happens.

The earliest proposed explanation for the occurrence of sexual abuse was Freud’s psychoanalytic theory which derived from his clinical work with female clients who disclosed childhood sexual abuse, often at the hands of their fathers. Freud was the first to postulate that the trauma of childhood sexual abuse resulted in later psychic damage. This was the basis of his ‘seduction’ theory which he presented along with detailed case studies at a major forum in 1896. The idea that fathers were sexually abusing their daughters caused such an outrage in conservative 19th century Vienna that Freud was ridiculed and shunned by his peers. In fact, Seduction Theory was so poorly received that Freud never again publicly referred to it.

Another explanation is the victim precipitation approach. This approach considers offenders and victims as mutually interacting partners where the victim, through signs, eye contact, gestures and words, or by being present at certain venues or being out alone sometimes encourages rape. Things like accepting a ride home, responding in a friendly manner in conversation, accepting a dinner invitation, visiting a male friend at home or inviting a male friend into her own home may be misread or intentionally rationalized by the perpetrator as a sign of consent to sexual intercourse. In other words, a woman is raped because she failed to accurately communicate her desire not to have sex.

A classic explanation is family dysfunction. In this view the mother is seen to have failed fundamentally. Firstly, she is seen as a dysfunctional wife who does not fulfill her assigned role as sexual provider for the husband, or her nurturing role as mother and protector of her child. She does this by absenting herself either emotionally or physically from her children by working outside of the home, pursuing outside interests and activities, or through illness, hospitalization, escaping into depression, or by being emotionally and/or sexually frigid.

Secondly, this view assumes that the mother’s failure to provide adequate nurturing means the love-starved and seductive child turns to and accepts the sexual advances of the sex-starved father as a substitute for the mother’s love.

Thirdly, both the mother and father are seen as dysfunctional adults who seek a role reversal and disintegration between generational boundaries with the child cast in the role of satisfying the sexual needs of the father while assuming a protective role towards the mother. The mother supposedly engineers the incestuous relationship by placing enormous responsibilities on the child such as housework, child-care and wifely duties towards her father.

Of course there are also other reasons stated for such heinous acts. One reason that is often given is that a person just wants to abuse his daughter because his personality traits drive him to do so. Another is the fact that the man-woman power imbalance tends to take centre-stage. The male in a family tends to se his wife and children merely as property. Incest is thus seen as a just one expression of ‘normal’ male/female relations in a patriarchal society. And hence the children suffer.

A father is someone who a child looks up to. That is cliché but it is still true. Anyone would agree with that. Every child’s first hero is his or her father. Every boy wants to be the great and his father was and every woman wants a husband like her father. For any child his or her father is the biggest man in the world. They don’t care what their fathers did for a living. It didn’t matter who he was. It only mattered what they remembered he was. William Jay Smith’s poem ‘American Primitive’ brought out the wonder with which the child looks at his father going to work.

“Look at him there in his stovepipe hat,
His high-top shoes, and his handsome collar;
Only my Daddy could look like that,
And I love my Daddy like he loves his Dollar.”

The father brought home the bacon, or in India, the roti. He is the caretaker, the economic provider, the role model, the family head, the playmate and the friend. He is the one man no one would want to hurt. The one man anyone would give their lives up for. The one man where emotion took over reason, love over ego.

And men like Josef Fritzl and Arcedia Alvarez brought shame to an institution glorified beyond imagination – Fatherhood.


5 thoughts on “Of fathers who turned into monsters.

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