The nature of incest makes it a taboo subject, but a number of true stories have been shared in the hopes of shedding some light on this type of familial abuse. According to The National Center for Victims of Crimes, studies indicate that an estimated "1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys" fall victim before adulthood, and the majority of assailants are related to their victims. As these shocking documentaries prove, this type of occurrence is more common than one may think
Fictional books and movies about incest and inbreeding can be over-the-top, such as the novel Flowers in the Attic or the slasher series The Hills Have Eyes, but true-to-life documentaries put real faces on these stories. In the following films about real survivors, victims identify incestuous relationships - from predatory grandparents to long-lost siblings. In one extreme case, a teen captive bore inbred children with her abuser. In another, a teen had inbred children with her consensual, intrafamilial lover.
'Monster: The Josef Fritzl Story'
One of Austria’s most notorious criminals is Josef Fritzl, a man who kept his daughter Elisabeth captive in a cellar below his house and repeatedly assaulted her for 24 years. As this 2010 documentary about Fritzl recounts, then-18-year-old Elisabeth was kept in a prison cell her father had been built and designed as a hidden extension of the basement. It had three cells, a toilet, and appliances for cooking.
Fritzl impregnated his daughter numerous times, and Elisabeth gave birth to seven children. Three were raised in the chamber with her, while another three were raised in the above apartment by Fritzl and his unwitting wife. The seventh died at only a few days old after Fritzl denied the sick newborn medical care.
Elisabeth and her basement children were rescued in 2008 when the eldest daughter, Kerstin, had to be taken to the hospital. Fritzl tried to come up with an elaborate lie to explain the girl’s condition, but suspicious health professionals alerted the police, who placed him under arrest.
'Incest: A Family Tragedy'
In the 2007 documentary Incest: A Family Tragedy, direct Edward Blackoff offers real interviews with real offenders. The film is overwhelmingly a call to action, as it asks people to become a part of a community effort to prevent child sexual abuse, specifically in the home.
"Over my entire life," one assailant who spoke to the filmmaker said, "I’ve probably had a hundred, hundred fifty victims."
Blackoff also interviews victims, law enforcement personnel, medical professionals, and social service officials to shape a piece that addresses how the system is failing to protect and prevent victims.
'Brothers & Sisters in Love'
The internet has allowed more people to reach out to individuals from their past, like long-lost parents and siblings. But when they meet in real life, something called “Genetic Sexual Attraction” can make it a bit more complicated. The 2008 documentary Brothers & Sisters in Love explores one such story about German siblings.
One expert in the film explains "Genetic Sexual Attraction" as an increasingly more common occurrence: "If you meet someone and one sees the genetic similarities without even knowing it, this could trigger a... very, very powerful erotic charge." When estranged siblings Patrick Stübing and Susan Karolewski met in 2000, they reportedly experienced this.
But when Susan, a minor, became pregnant with Patrick’s child, it gave the police hard proof that they were guilty of inappropriate sexual contact. Patrick was imprisoned and attempted to appeal his sentence when the documentary was made. Together they bore four children, but three reportedly suffer disabilities.
'House of Incest'
This French documentary from 2010, released under the original foreign title Inceste: familles empoisonnées, investigates seven separate cases of incest in which each were assaulted by either a father, uncle, or father-in-law. Years later, they share experiences to help raise awareness. The painful details also highlight the psychological manipulation involved in such cases. One victim, Nadia, was told by her father-in-law: "Anywhere you go, I will find you."
Another victim, Sandrine - who later started an organization for victims - explains how these crimes unfold:
It's a spider web thrown on the child. When an adult in whom he has confidence does that to him, he does not understand. He does not say no. It's not like a stranger assaults him, there is an emotional connection. The child is under control, alone, walled in silence.