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INCEST: Break the Silence

By August 8, 2019No Comments

Most people are likely familiar with the concept of incest, when two biologically related parties enter into a marital or sexual relationship. The law refers to incest as consanguinity. Every state prohibits some type of incest based on the parties’ consanguinity. Some states, such as Ohio, are narrow in their prohibition, limiting illegal incest to sexual relations between children and their parents or guardians. Other states, like Michigan, have broad prohibitions, defining incest as sexual contact between actors who are “related by blood or affinity to the third degree.”[2]


In Oklahoma, incest is defined by how closely related the parties are. Under the law, this closeness is called the degrees of consanguinity. Oklahoma defines consanguinity as relationships between:

  • Ancestors and descendants of any degree, including
    • Mother and child,
    • Father and child, and
    • Grandparent and grandchild,
  • Brothers and sisters (both half and whole),
  • Step-parent and step child,
  • Stepmother and stepson,
  • Uncle and niece (unless the only relationship is by marriage),
  • Aunt and nephew (unless the only relationship is by marriage), and
  • First cousins. [3]


If two parties are within these degrees of consanguinity, those parties cannot legally marry. Should related parties marry, the law says their marriage is void, and treats the marriage as though it never happened. Married parties who are within the prohibited relationships above will need to have their marriage annulled.


If two people are within these degrees of consanguinity and are married or have sexual relations with each other, this act is considered incest. Importantly, Oklahoma law does not require that married parties are engaged in sexual relations for the marriage to be considered incestuous. In Oklahoma, incest is a felony and is punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison and a $500.00.


An Oklahoma woman was recently prosecuted for violating this incest law. In March of 2018, a Duncan woman was sentenced to two years in prison, eight years probation, and nearly $3,000 in fines. She will also have to register as a sex offender. These charges came after a DHS worker discovered that the Duncan woman had married and engaged in a sexual relationship with both her daughter in 2016 and her son in 2008.[4]


The Duncan woman did not believe she was in violation of the law because she was not listed on the children’s birth certificate and had lost custody of them many years ago. However, her relationship with her biological children was still considered incest under Oklahoma law. Oklahoma does not allow for exceptions where custody is lost or parental rights are terminated. Instead, Oklahoma law focuses on the genetic relationship between the parties, which can not be changed.


An incestuous relationship may cause severe psychological harm as it is based not on sex but on power. Typically, someone in the “parent” or adult role is taking advantage of a younger or less powerful person. Incest is such a taboo in our society that it is rarely spoken about. The shame and humiliation of a sexually abusive relationship may be even greater because of the family connection. It is important for victims that we break the taboo of incest and treat it just as openly as we treat other sex crimes.


Victims of incest may be able to seek damages under the civil legal justice system. To learn more about your rights and remedies, contact Koller Trial Law.