Norway: Incest among immigrants

Norway: Incest among immigrants

Culture and religion can be used to legitimize silence regarding incest.  Lifelong loyalties towards one's family and community prevent being open on the topic, thinks Amina Benattou, spokesperson and social consultant at the support center against incest in Oslo.

Benattou thinks incest and sexual assault happen as often in Norway as in other countries, and as much among Norwegians as in the multicultural communities.  It's a taboo among Norwegians, and and even more among the ethnic minorities.  She says there's no research documenting the extent of incest among ethnic minorities in Norway, but research shows that psychological problems are more widespread among immigrants than among the population in general.  According to the report "Immigrants' health" from Norway Statistics (SSB), 9% of the entire population and 27% of immigrants have psychological problems.  The proportion of women with psychological problems is also higher among immigrant groups compared with the population in general.

Benattou says that they see that there's more of a taboo imposed on incest and sexual assault among minorities than in the population in general.  Talking about experiencing incest can cause stigma, shame and can for some be life-threatening.  Many feel that the family's interests and honor are most important and that it's best to keep silent about an attack.

She points out that boys in the immigrant community and Muslim girls who are subjected to incest, suffer the most.  To be subjected to incest for boys is taboo, no matter where one comes from, but it's can be harder for boys of an immigrant background.  Benattou says that non-Western boys seek help to a lesser degree than others.  Girls of Muslim background can't report such things to the police and they don't seek help either, as the price for breaking the silence can be very high.  The family risks losing face if the attack become public, and the girl can risk that nobody will marry her."

Benattou says that in some macho cultures, people risk being labeled as homosexuals but speaking about such problems.  And the culture among most non-Western immigrants is not to seek psychological help after incest or sexual assault.

It's not just religious and social-cultural norms which prevent incest victims from seeking help, but also lack of information.  They risk living with psychosomatic problems throughout their lives.

Benattou calls on those subjected to incest to contact the support center against incest, which offers help, and is bound to secrecy.  She says that attacks can last a few minutes, several hours or several years, but regardless of how often it happens, it can affect children for the rest of their lives.  Being victims of incest and sexual attacks affect one's physical integrity, the right and power over one's body.  The support center works in spreading knowledge and information about incest and what it involves, in order to help the victims and prevent it.

Source: Utrop (Norwegian)

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