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Old 06 March 2008, 02:01 AM
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Icon05 Questionable letter to Ann Landers

I read this letter to advice columnist Ann Landers more than 35 years ago. In fact, it was so upsetting that I remember the exact date of the letter's posting in the Columbia Daily Tribune, (Columbia, Missouri).

A woman wrote to Ann about a problem that was embarrassing her. She stated that three years earlier, her boyfriend took her home to meet his family. The letter writer explained that she was startled by the way the father was behaving with the eldest daughter who was then 15. She reveals that "theirs is an incestuous relationship." She said that by the time she had written the letter that "it had been going on for three years now." By this time the daughter would have been 18. She does not explain how she found this out. She also said that "even the younger children knew that something was going on." She also said that the mother knew about the relationship (puke!) and condoned it. "She (the mother) was like a servant in the family." The writer ended her letter by saying that her boyfriend had recently asked her to marry him. However, she was hesitant as she wondered if incestuous behavior was possibly inherited. "I don't want any husband of mine doing that to any child of mine!" Ann Landers' reply was that such behavior cannot be inherited.

However, I am wondering if the story is really true? Or did the writer just make it up in the course of inquiring about whether or not incestuous conduct could be hereditary? I have done a lot of Googling, but I have never found any satisfactory answer.

B. A. Rainey
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  #2  
Old 06 March 2008, 02:41 AM
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queen of the caramels queen of the caramels is offline
 
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My gut reaction would be to say that incestous relationships are not hereditry but more of a learned behavior in the type of relationship described.
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Old 06 March 2008, 06:35 AM
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UEL UEL is offline
 
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All I can find is that it was published in the New York Times Magazine on October 13, 1974. So the letter is legitimate that it appeared (as you have said). However, it has been referenced several times, but nothing I can find has any further information as to veracity.

Sorry if I'm not much help.
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Old 06 March 2008, 05:25 PM
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I think she got mixed up.

She meant to write to V.C. Andrews.
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Old 06 March 2008, 06:01 PM
candy from strangers candy from strangers is offline
 
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Originally Posted by imjustasteph View Post
I think she got mixed up.

She meant to write to V.C. Andrews.
That's a good one!
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Old 06 March 2008, 06:16 PM
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Barring involvement by the police or children's services, what corroboration would there be of such a story?
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  #7  
Old 09 March 2008, 12:53 AM
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I recall the exact day of the letter's appearance in Ann Landers' column as October 9, 1972.

As to what kind of corroboration, well, possible pregnancy for one. But then, the girl might not want to reveal who the father/grandfather is. But beside that, the account sounds very impausible. I mean, it was not likely to have occurred. In a Wikipedia article on incest that I read recently, some studies have shown that people who lived together in a family--whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption--usually don't develop romantic fealings or sexual desires for one another. Only husband and wife do, of course. So unless they become "over-sexed," by means of an aphrodisiac or any drug which has that affect, immediate family members, such as parent and child or brother and sister, don't naturally fall in love or lust after each other. Furthermore, the letter writer made it appear as if the father and daughter were consensual partners. In other words, it didn't sound like a case of coercion. Also, they were no doubt flaunting their unnatural behavior.

B. A. Rainey
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  #8  
Old 09 March 2008, 03:05 AM
KKHB
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbrainey View Post
In a Wikipedia article on incest that I read recently, some studies have shown that people who lived together in a family--whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption--usually don't develop romantic fealings or sexual desires for one another. Only husband and wife do, of course.
Okay, so far so good...I find it completely believable that people in family relationships (through blood, marriage or adoption) do not "normally" or "naturally" develop romantic feelings for one another. I would pick a nit though and say that neither do husbands and wives- those feelings typically develop before marriage, although the living arrangements after marriage might deepen or strengthen those feelings (not always and there are probably many examples of the feelings and desire developing after marriage, but that is not the "typical" scenario).

Quote:
Originally Posted by barbrainey View Post
So unless they become "over-sexed," by means of an aphrodisiac or any drug which has that affect, immediate family members, such as parent and child or brother and sister, don't naturally fall in love or lust after each other.
And here is where I go . Is there a drug that has the (side?) effect of making people lust after family members (when the user would not normally)? Or were you referring to drugs that generally make one more, ummmm (looking or the right words)...desiring of sex or lustful in general? And if so, is there any evidence that these drugs would make the user more open to or even desirous of sexual relations with those to whom they would not otherwise be attracted (or indeed would likely be sexually repulsed by)?

As far as the letter in the OP, I too doubt there would be any way to verify if it were true. If the girl involved was 18 (at the time the letter writer found out about or knew of an ongoing incestuous relationship) it might not have even been illegal* (depending on the state, etc.) although the father could have been punished for the (criminal) actions when she was a minor, and marriage between the two would be illegal. So a child born after she was 18 would not necessarily have made the incest public at least not to the point that it could be referenced now to prove or disprove this particular letter.




*The following quote is blatantly copied from a Wikipedia entry that can be found here
Quote:
As University of Minnesota Law School Assistant Professor Brett McDonnell explains in his research paper "Is Incest Next?"...One of the references McDonnell provides with respect to this fact is AMERICAN LAW INSTITUTE, MODEL PENAL CODE AND COMMENTARIES, PART II, 398 (1980). McDonnell's paper also notes on page 20 that "Several scholars have argued that prohibitions on certain incestuous marriages violate the constitutional right to marry. See Carolyn S. Bratt, Incest Statutes and the Fundamental Right of Marriage: Is Oedipus Free to Marry?, 18 FAM. L. Q. 257, 298-309 (1984); Christ McNiece Metteer, Some “Incest” is Harmless Incest: Determining the Fundamental Right to Marry of Adults Related by Affinity Without Resorting to State Incest Statutes, 10 KAN. J.L. & PUB. POL’Y 262 (Winter 2000); Margaret M. Mahoney, A Legal Definition of the Stepfamily: The Example of Incest Regulation, 8 B.Y.U. J. PUB. L. 21 (1993)." McDonnell notes on page 19 that "Rhode Island repealed its incest law in 1989. See GEN. LAWS R.I. ANN. §§ 11-6-3, 11-6-4. Michigan and New Jersey both criminalize some incestuous sex involving persons under 18, but not between adults. See MICH. COMP. LAWS. ANN. §§ 750.52b, 750.520c; N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C:14-2." McDonnell's paper also provides (on pages 32-34) a table, "Incest Laws in the 50 States", detailing state incest laws with respect to each type of relationship (parent-child, uncle-niece, etc.).
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Old 09 March 2008, 03:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbrainey View Post
I recall the exact day of the letter's appearance in Ann Landers' column as October 9, 1972.

As to what kind of corroboration, well, possible pregnancy for one. But then, the girl might not want to reveal who the father/grandfather is. But beside that, the account sounds very impausible. I mean, it was not likely to have occurred. In a Wikipedia article on incest that I read recently, some studies have shown that people who lived together in a family--whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption--usually don't develop romantic fealings or sexual desires for one another. Only husband and wife do, of course. So unless they become "over-sexed," by means of an aphrodisiac or any drug which has that affect, immediate family members, such as parent and child or brother and sister, don't naturally fall in love or lust after each other. Furthermore, the letter writer made it appear as if the father and daughter were consensual partners. In other words, it didn't sound like a case of coercion. Also, they were no doubt flaunting their unnatural behavior.

B. A. Rainey
This makes it sound like what you are doubting is whether incest of the kind described is possible, rather than necessarily wanting corroboration that the particular instance in the letter occurred. I can assure you, it happens, sometimes as blatantly as in the letter. I work in the criminal law field, and stories like that, while not common, are also not terribly rare.

So, yes, it could have happened as described in the letter. Whether that particular letter writer was telling the truth, or whether the letter was made up, probably is impossible to know.

erwins
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  #10  
Old 09 March 2008, 02:19 PM
Victoria J
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbrainey View Post
But beside that, the account sounds very impausible. I mean, it was not likely to have occurred. In a Wikipedia article on incest that I read recently, some studies have shown that people who lived together in a family--whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption--usually don't develop romantic fealings or sexual desires for one another. [...] immediate family members, such as parent and child or brother and sister, don't naturally fall in love or lust after each other. Furthermore, the letter writer made it appear as if the father and daughter were consensual partners. In other words, it didn't sound like a case of coercion.
If this started at 15 then it is quite clearly child abuse. Forget about looking for love or sexual attraction and start looking for really screwed up power relations. Don't assume that current acceptance of the relationship makes it consensual - rather than something the daughter has learnt to regard as normal. Forcing people to do something may start with physical force or obvious pressure - but can end up being pretty much inbuilt.

Victoria J
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  #11  
Old 09 March 2008, 06:17 PM
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If you're looking to verify this particular letter as true it seems unlikely that such corroboration is possible, as others have said. I would be curious as to Ann's full reply, though--even though she correctly stated that such behavior could not possibly be inherited I wonder if she pointed out the fact that a man who grew up in a family where incest was openly practiced and accepted may find nothing wrong with it? That would be what the letter-writer really needed to be concerned about.
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  #12  
Old 13 March 2008, 01:39 AM
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Of course, if the letter writer found out about the "relationship" when the girl was 15, then it would be a crime in most states and countries. Therefore, it behooves me to ask why the letter writer did not report the father's behavior to the police and child protective services. I can't believe she was that embarrassed. Most of us would indeed report it.


B. A. Rainey
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  #13  
Old 13 March 2008, 02:41 AM
KKHB
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbrainey View Post
Of course, if the letter writer found out about the "relationship" when the girl was 15, then it would be a crime in most states and countries. Therefore, it behooves me to ask why the letter writer did not report the father's behavior to the police and child protective services. I can't believe she was that embarrassed. Most of us would indeed report it.
But I thought she (the letter writer) didn't know about it when the girl was 15, but found out after it had been going on since then.

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Originally Posted by barbrainey View Post
She said that by the time she had written the letter that "it had been going on for three years now." By this time the daughter would have been 18.
I don't know much about the process, but I believe there is little that would be done or investigated if it were reported by a third party after the girl was 18 unless there was cooperation from the girl herself. If the girl was not interested in prosecuting her father for his actions when she was a minor, regardless of her reasoning, could it be done against her wishes?

If she was aware of it when the girl was a minor, then yes she should have reported it. But even that would not, I don't think, leave enough of a public record to verify this particular letter this many years after the fact. I think we will never know or sure, even though it is unfortunately possible that it could be true.
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