Episode 7: Covert Incest

In this episode Kimberly tackles ‘covert incest,’ a type of abuse where a parent turns to a child for needs typically met by a partner or spouse. She interviews Paul Gilmartin, host of the “Mental Innless Happy Hour” podcast and survivor of covert incest by his mother. Paul speaks candidly about the impact the covert incest had on his overall development and especially his sexual development. As he shares his story, Kimberly facilitates some new insights, which deepen the impact of the interview.

Unlike actual incest, emotional incest rarely involves any actual sexual contact, but rather a series of consistent emotional and physical boundary-crossings that leave kids feeling like a ‘surrogate spouse.’ It is typically nuanced and subtle, but in certain families, can be more blatant.

Kimberly and Paul discuss how hard it is for most people to understand how a mother can engage in this dynamic. Sadly, people seem to ‘expect’ fathers to sexualize their daughters, but they have a harder time wrapping their heads around mothers who sexualize sons.

Kimberly explains how male survivors of covert incest often grow up to abuse drugs/alcohol and engage in promiscuity. Paul’s story highlights these patterns and he describes how the covert incest took him down the path of thrill seeking and avoidance of intimacy. Kimberly also gives examples of covert incest, such as commenting on changes to a child ‘s body as they experience puberty, sharing personal or sexual material with a child, or taking the child on special, romantic outings to simulate dates.