A new art campaign entitled “Princest Diaries,” was recently released by Middle Eastern artist Saint Hoax as a way to encourage incest survivors to report their abuse to authorities. The posters feature a variety of Disney princesses being forced to kiss their fathers, with the reminder, “46 percent of minors who are raped are victims of family members. It is never too late to report your attack.”
The posters are startling and poignant—a reminder that victims of incest could be anyone we know, including close friends and even childhood idols. The artwork takes characters we inherently associate with innocence and turns our expectations around to remind us that abuse can warp even precious childhood memories.
Indeed, the posters certainly prompt talks about a significant issue that largely flies under the radar. Various estimates suggest that millions of Americans are affected by incest, and recent high-profile accusations against author Marion Zimmer Bradley and filmmaker Woody Allen point to the fact that incest often goes unreported. As more and more people speak out about sexual assault in general, these posters importantly insert incest into that discussion.
However, the posters don’t seem poised to accomplish their stated goal of encouraging minors to report abuse. As Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), points out, the posters don’t offer any information on how to report the crime.
Indeed, the posters seem to simplify an issue that can’t be broken down into a statistic and a command. The posters instruct children to report abuse, but ignore the reality that they might be too scared to do so, and that witnesses may ignore their pleas for help. RAINN’s website notes,
Many non-abusing parents are aware of the incest and choose not to get their child out of the situation, or worse, to blame their child for what has happened.
In this environment, reporting may not be a conceivable option for a child. Story after story of incest demonstrates that not only are non-abusing parents complicit in incest, but entire communities may protect abusers and hinder the ability of victims to seek help.
Woody Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow said about witnesses of her abuse,
All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, ‘who can say what happened,’ to pretend that nothing was wrong.
Zimmer Bradley’s daughter Moira Greyland writes about her abuse in a poem titled, “They Did Their Best,” and said that people try to forgive abusers by claiming they “somehow did their best.” She counters with, “My mother did her best, yes she really did her best / To drown me for not being her willing lover,” and says that by ignoring abuse, witnesses “may condemn a small child to die.”
The posters also do little to address the fact that many children believe their abuse is a normal component of a familial relationship. These children may not know what they are experiencing is rape or incest—indeed, those words may not even be in their vocabularies. They may not know that their father or mother touching them counts as an “attack” or that they count as “minors.” Overall, the language of the poster is inaccessible and ineffective in communicating to children that abuse is wrong and that alternatives exist.
Finally, since abused children already feel vulnerable and helpless, the posters may appear jarring and re-traumatizing. Survivors of incest have an incredibly difficult time coping with their abuse, leading to eating disorders, self-harm and sexual problems later in life. Yet the posters don’t consider the tenuous mental state of someone undergoing abuse.
Overall, the posters may be far more effective in speaking to older survivors of sexual assault and other individuals unaware of the extent of this issue. And perhaps parents could use them as a way to teach children about abuse and how they can safely report abusers.
If you have been abused or molested, RAINN offers a variety of resources to report the abuse and cope with the aftermath. The Courage to Heal, by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, also provides a “comprehensive guide that offers hope and a map of the healing journey to every woman who was sexually abused as a child—and to those who care about her.”
Poster published as part of the Princest Diaries campaign, courtesy of Saint Hoax.