Background/Objectives: Incest is increasingly being recognized as a problem in Malaysia, but advocacy and
optimal recovery is hampered by stigma and culture. The majority of victims are females, violated before age 18, usually
by their own biological fathers. Alarmingly, brother-sister incest is also increasing. The family is no longer a safe haven
Methods: This article highlights the problems associated with incest in Malaysia. Two case examples are used to illustrate
the difficulties faced by adolescent victims who disclose their abuse.
Results: Secrecy and denial are coping strategies of the family to protect the family name, thus protecting the perpetuator
from any legal action and promoting recidivism. Often, with the blame conveniently shifted from perpetuator to victim,
the innocent child is re-victimized and transformed into ‘the problem child’ by the family. After the severe psychological
trauma of sexual abuse by a trusted relative, the victim spirals downward into depression, re-victimization and stigmatization
resulting in increasing dysfunction, suboptimal academic achievement and subsequent loss of other opportunities in
life. Legal redress is hampered with the existence of more than one legal system with areas of overlapping jurisdiction.
Conclusions: Malaysia, a modern developing country, faces major obstacles in advocacy and intervention of incest victims
due to strong negative cultural influences and problems with the legal system. However optimal and timely intervention
and supportive attachment relationships help victims heal from the toxic stress of the sexual abuse. The adolescent
thus builds resilience, attains self-actualization and transcends from being a victim of incest to becoming a survivor.