Dad Imprisons, Rapes Daughters, Mere Sex Objects

Two Austrian sisters say their father locked them up and both sexually and physically abused them for over 40 years. Now 45 and 53 years old, they lived under this tyranny nearly their entire lives, as reported by The Guardian.

The father, identified as Gottfried W. (Austrians don’t fully identify suspects) threatened his daughters with a pitchfork, a stick, and firearms, repeatedly threatening to kill them if they resisted. The sisters also have mental deficiencies, which the violence may have caused or worsened, further enabling the abuse. Gottfried also forbade contact with the outside world. All of this left the women withdrawn and dependent.

Yet last May the older sister fought an attempted rape, knocking down her now 80-year-old father. Both sisters fled. Days later a social worker discovered Gottfried on the floor.  The sisters have been taken in by social services and are receiving psychiatric treatment.

The case only became public last week.

It is all so reminiscent of another Austrian, Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned and raped his daughter in a dark, windowless cellar, where he forced her to live for 24 years.

Makes you wonder what’s up with Austria. Yet in a country of over eight million these cases are the only two of this kind. You might actually expect the opposite in this country. Men who commit incest tend toward authoritarianism (unlike Austrians generally, who came in dead last on a scale measuring autocratic leadership styles) and believe children should obey parents at all times.

But the two men who so savagely raped their daughters fit the profile well. Gottfried
continually bossed and threatened his entire family, while Josef’s children described him as a “dominating tyrant” who frequently beat them.

In incestuous families, there is usually little affection and the mother’s role is often reduced, often due to physical or mental illness.  Again, true of these two families.

As a repeatedly abused victim herself, Gottfried’s wife was unable to help her daughters. Josef’s wife was unaware of the cell her husband had built to hold their daughter, and so was unable to intervene. Even as babies were born, Josef simply told his wife that their long lost daughter had left the babies at their doorstep.

Men who commit incest believe that men are entitled to fulfill whatever sexual desires they might have. And they see children as sex objects.

When I first heard complaints about sexual objectification I didn’t get it. I didn’t know what a sex object was. I thought feminists were complaining about grown women and men just being sexy. And the world seemed a bit dull to me without a little sexiness, which I define more broadly than the narrow notions that tie women in knots.

Later I came to understand that when a person is seen as a sex object she (usually) is seen as an OBJECT. A thing. An object thing that is all about sex, and little else. A sex object is not seen as having feelings, a life, dreams, human potential. A sex object exists to satisfy someone else’s purposes. In these fathers’ behaviors we find the more brutal outcomes of this way of seeing.

No, the problem isn’t Austria. The problem isn’t men. The problem is patriarchy, manifested in male dominance over women and girls and less powerful men and boys, sexual objectification and the disempowerment of women.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Anything Good About Being A Sex Object?
Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze
Grade School Lingerie

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 31, 2011, in feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. It is not rare to hear news about a father raping his daughter but it is always impossible for me to understand why such sexual crimes can happen because how can a father see his real daughter as sexually attractive? Why does he become sexually aroused by touching his daughter? I have many questions about this issue, but after reading the article, I know that a father who rapes his daughter sees her not as a daughter but as a sex object. That is, there is no parental relationship between them in this rape and the father may not feel that a girl he rapes is his real daughter, at least during sex, since he sees her just as “object.”

  2. I really hate reading stories about fathers taking advantage of their own flesh and blood this way. Thankfully, no one close to me has gone through anything close to this situation, but I’ve definitely read a lot about it. It is true that females are often seen as “sex objects” and some are brutally raped and left there to die. They are treated inhumanely, like they are “a thing”. I can’t imagine what is going through a man’s mind when he is intentionally hurting and molesting his own child. I can’t believe that this went on for over 40 years. I know that when a child is young and innocent, most don’t know that this is wrong and they love their parents no matter what. However, when someone comes of age then they should speak out about it. And they were locked up for half of the average lifetime. There should be a lot of support for children who have gone through this type of thing.

  3. It truly pains me to read of such brutal incest/violence these dads showed towards their daughters. I can’t even believe their despicable actions and that they would actually treat their own children this way. I believe they had psychological problems where they weren’t able to control their sexual desire and which led to their sick thinking.
    This is similar to a story of a man named David who lived in Omaha, Nebraska and imprisoned his wife Polly, and their four children for ten years in their home. He had double-bolted the doors, nailed shut, and covered all the windows with tin foil so that they wouldn’t have any contact with the outside world. He would beat Polly on a daily basis, frequently rape her and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. Eventually Polly could no longer let her children live in daily fear and sought help from a YWCA in 2003. David is sentenced for 14-20 years behind bars.
    These stories shows extreme versions of how men can feel in control of, and dominant over their wife and children.

  4. Alice Miller argues in For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence that a similar authoritarian father, supported by a culture that encouraged authoritariam and physical abuse of children, was responsible for Hilter’s violent sadism.

    • Interesting point. Thanks. Makes you wonder if there are continued stains w/in Austria, while the country, generally, threw off the authoritarianism, perhaps in reaction to the Nazi autrocity. Just speculating here.

      You also find that rape and incest decrease as patriarchy decreases. I’ll write more on that later.

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