I have been very moved by many of the things people have written as a result of my last blog, FOR MY MOTHER, so much so that I want to say a few more things about this horrific (and under-reported) issue of sexual violence, incest and some of the resulting damage that is caused to the victims.

One woman shared her story with me–an agonizing story of continued, terrible abuse over much of her young life by many different men including her father. She pondered if, perhaps, she didn’t “ask for it;” if, somehow, she wasn’t guilty of bringing on her abuse. She could find no other reason to explain why she was targeted multiple times by different men over the years for sexual violation. Maybe it is more appropriate to say “. . . for terrorism,” because sex never has anything to do with it. The act may be sexual, the motivation of the predator is power and control, not sex.

I was in the middle of reading Dr Judith Herman’s book, “Father-Daughter Incest” when I came upon the answer to the woman’s question which I want to share. It is an answer that resonates with me because many of my friends who have been raped and incested have experienced the same phenomenon and it was true of my mother, as well.

Quoting Dr. Judith Herman in “Father-Daughter Incest” “It is also clear . . . that survivors are at high risk for a wide range of problems. Most ominously, exploitation in childhood seems to render survivors highly vulnerable to repeated exploitation in adult life . . . In Russell’s study [“The Secret Trauma” done by Sociologist Diana Russell], for example, incest survivors suffered rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and recruitment for prostitution and pornography twice as frequently as women who had not been abused in childhood. These horrible statistics led Russell to speculate that ‘the incest experience itself could have stripped away some of the victims’ potential ability to protect themselves . . . men appear to be selecting previously victimized females for further… Victimization.'” In other words, repeated victimization is NEVER the fault of the victim. It is what the original perpetrator did to her (or him) that imposes on the victim a sexual energy that a young person is unable to hold, is not equipped to handle. The sick perpetrator can sense this.

The Russell study that Dr Herman cites, along with other studies, show that incest seems to be as common in middle-class and wealthy families as it does in poor families and is pretty much the same across ethnic groups.

Yesterday I met a young woman who almost died 6 months ago due to complications in child birth. As a result, she has suffered terrible physical damage. She was not able to see her baby for two months because she was in intensive care and only recently has been able to hold her baby. She told me that when she read my blog, she recognized she’d had some of the same PTSD symptoms I described of victims of sexual abuse—guilt, self-hatred, shame. I told her I wanted to write of this in a blog because it is important that we know that such reactions to trauma–all kinds of trauma– are not uncommon, not bad, but, in fact, normal and need to be seen as such and addressed through appropriate therapy. After reading the blog, this same woman was also able to remember that she had been raped. She had, like so many victims, “chosen” to forget that it ever happened. But, of course, our bodies and our unconscious cannot forget. The trauma remains unless it is brought out into the open and addressed. She was grateful for the insights she gained from the blog.

I am grateful for the many people who have bravely shared their stories. May this dialogue continue. My deepest love and compassion to all who have suffered trauma of this nature.

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  1. Wow Jane! I am so glad that you are staying on this topic. I am ordering the book, “Father-Daughter Incest” because honestly, I have not found many books about it. For so long, I felt like I was the only one. In fact, even to this day, I have yet to personally meet another individual that shares this same type of horror. I had to smile when I took a “peek” inside at the introduction and she writes about Cinderella. I used that phrase in my letter to you. I, ironically had the wicked stepmother as well and from what she is sharing about the original tale, the father was a predator. Wow! I can’t wait to read this. Much thanks for being here as an avenue for many of us to share our personal experiences. The “picture images” from our past will forever be part of us. I can never shake what had happened as it is part of my journey but I have come a long way to discover and bring back many parts of the original me. Still a work-in-progress, but at least now, I am on the right track. You are AWESOME Jane and I absolutely adore you.

    • Thank you Debra. You will gain a lot from the book, I think.

  2. And in all of that, I didn’t say thank you…. Thank you.


    I say, sometimes; “you make my whole self smile”. That, in and of itself, makes me hopeful. I mean that I can say that, and mean it. I can of you, and I love that.

    • “I say ‘out’ to every negative thought that comes to mind. No person, place, or thing, has any power over me, for I am the only thinker in my mind. I create my own reality and everyone in it,” ~~~~ Louse L. Hay

      I saw this, for the first time today. These wonderful little cards, full of just good thoughts.

      I love you so much, Jane; and I love me, so much…..

      I continue to imagine that I will “leave you alone.” I don’t really want to leave you alone; so, I will try to stop saying that. You will either read, or not. Again, I don’t need your counsel, I love that pay any attention to me at all. And I will keep that, forever….

      • Nancy, I read!

        • Jane vous etes simplement Jane je vous aime chère Jane!!!!!!!!!!! you are amazing and i love your innocents eyes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          sincèrement votre; Salma

  3. Thanks, Jane, for this most-welcome-I-am-sure follow-up to FOR MY MOTHER.

    An experiential comment on the continued vulnerability of victims after initial abuse: as in nature, the predator instinctively recognizes–and targets–wounded prey.

    As you and many others have already advised, awareness that one needs outside help with self-worth/self esteem, et. al. issues–and seeks same–is a big first step towards getting one off the top of the cunning, deceptive perpetrators’ food chain.

    Peace, Love and ‘Understanding,’

  4. Ms. Fonda,

    I am grateful for your input. This is a subject matter that infiltrates every cell of one’s body, and if not confronted and dealt with can encapsulate you in a world of make believe. Images can be dealt with as well as self esteem, but the unity of that first family can never be the same. My sister, who has a psychiatric practice with her husband in Sugarland Texas, has never been my friend. My father is alive but very ill. I appreciate this forum if only just to see what is spelled out in front of me. I hope to engage in this forum again. I am not alone.


  5. Yes, you do…. And you are a part of my life for a reason, and I love you for it. I won’t question it, anymore; and you are only the second place that I have, as of this moment, ever not had to… That is a huge step ??? forward ??? I don’t trust; I have been conditioned not to. I am tired of that; and you are more helpful that I could ever explain; and have been, since I was 11….

  6. Thank you, Jane, for educating the public with the facts and the stories. Keep the conversations going. I think it is a topic that gets swept under the carpet.

  7. I really need to tell you how grateful I was for the previous entry. At that time, it meant so much. I don’t want to really get into my own ‘story’ (I totally trust you, but I somewhat feel intimidated by declaring it to the whole world with my name and everything).

    And yes, the worst part is not being heard, especially when it comes from “an expert” who basically tells you that sh*t happens. But damn, I found healing (as you would say) in my family, friends and guess what I started acting and actually got great feedback (haha, we should totally do a movie or a play together 😛 🙂 , I guess that’s a new thingt on my bucket list; I’m gonna have to write something 😉 ). I even changed my avatar and name here (in case you don’t recognise me).

    On another note, I finally watched The Butler. It was quite good and even though the story was often kind of, ahhem, predictable, the tasteful, interesting direction and the great performances really elevated the material. My MVPs were Oprah, John Cusack, You and of course, Forest Whitaker. Oprah especially did a wonderful job, which I, quite frankly, did not expect. I, of course, expected you to rock even in a cameo (how delicious it was!!!), but I only saw Oprah in The Color Purple and Whoopi easily overshadowed everybody there (at least in my eyes) and didn’t have high expectations. So congrats to all of you! 🙂

  8. Ever since I was a little girl I have watched your movies and you have been an inspiration to me. I have just found your blog and do hope this is truly you! I love you Jane Fonda!!

  9. I don’t know if I’m glad I came to this page this morning, or if I should just go sit in a corner somewhere???

    • Be happy. Why not? Learning about other people’s pain is good. We are not alone. Maybe there is something you can do. Write your elected official about his/her supporting the solution the author recommends…if it makes sense to you (which it does to me))

  10. I got your letter today. “…more fragmented…” Without question. Having said that, there is something way good happening, and I don’t know how and can’t ‘explain’ it at this point. I know I am all right. I read my “book” tonight, after having got your letter, all the way through, for the first time. I don’t want to get lost in you. But you matter in this, and I don’t know why. I don’t care why. Thank you, Jane… A lot. xo

  11. Thank you for your continued support of sexual assault,incest and rape victims. Speaking out against these crimes, rather than hiding in fear or humiliation affects change. As a victim of rape, it’s hard to remember that the crime isn’t who you are, it’s who the rapist is. It doesn’t define you. It changes you, but it doesn’t define you.

    One Voice Raised: A Triumph over Rape
    Through Dec.9 $2.99 (Amazon Kindle)

  12. Thank you for acknowledging that we exist, in a world that would rather ignore us. I have long admired you for not ignoring injustice and my admiration is only deeper now. As a survivor of father-daughter incest I do question your statement that it is about power rather than about sex. My father saw an opportunity to please himself at my expense, and his sexual motive was unmistakeable as he who had always masqueraded as a kindly parent turned into a heaving, sweating, contorted, bug eyed monster. Also, I doubt that predators are picking up on a sexual energy in an incest victim because being tortured is not a sexual experience for the victim, who suffers a neurological electrical storm that causes permanent damage. I think it is just that predators are looking for the characteristics of people who have been brought up in slavery. However, I must thank you again for this blog. Thank you for casting light on the wrongs of this world. I salute you.

    • Shelagh, Thank you. I am o sorry for what happened to you. We must make people understand how this is virtually epidemic.

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