Story transcripts

Forbidden Love

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Reporter: Peter Overton

Producer: Julia Timms

Producer: Hugh Nailon

A brother and sister - a father and daughter.

Now they're about to reveal their deepest secret, one they've always tried to hide.

Their forbidden love. The psychologists call it "Genetic Sexual Attraction".

When blood relatives fall for each other and sometimes do the unthinkable. And it's not a rare phenomenon, the experts say we'd be surprised at how prevalent it actually is.

Nevertheless, in this country it's illegal.

And many would say, immoral.

Not so, the two couples in this story told Peter Overton.

They claim they're just ordinary folk, normal happy families.

Full transcript

PETER OVERTON: On the surface, they appear to be the picture-perfect family.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Beautiful, good.

PETER OVERTON: But for years John and Jenny Deaves have been hiding a dark secret and for the first time tonight they're prepared to reveal it to the world. Let's begin by explaining your relationship.

JENNIFER DEAVES: John is my father and he's also my partner. We don't see each other as 'father and daughter'. I don't see John as my father, even though he is my biological father.

PETER OVERTON: That's right. John and Jenny are biological father and daughter. He's 61, she's 39. Yet they live together as a couple in every sense of the word.

JENNY DEAVES: We're normal intellectual adults who have had careers, have had a normal life like everybody else but fallen in love with each other when we are biologically related, when we've discovered each other later in life.

JOHN DEAVES: I class myself as a man who has met a woman and we got romantically involved.

PETER OVERTON: Incredibly, their story is not as rare as you might think. In fact, as you'll see, it's a remarkably common phenomenon around the world.

NICK CAMERON: It didn't feel as if there was anything actually wrong with what we were doing. But it was very confusing and looking back at things even now and it still confuses me why, why there's this sort of intense need to be that close. I don't really understand that at all, to be honest.

PETER OVERTON: Jenny's story began when her parents split up. She was just a year old. She went on to marry and have two kids of her own and had little contact with her dad for almost three decades. But eight years ago, she decided to track John down. And why did you go looking for your father?

JENNY DEAVES: I had children. And I felt as though he needed to be part of their lives as their grandfather.

PETER OVERTON: What was the meeting like with John, your father?

JENNY DEAVES: It was like meeting a man. It was just like, although I knew that he was my father, it was like, when I met him I met John, I met a man, I met another adult.

PETER OVERTON: At the age of 31, Jenny was meeting her dad for only the third time in her life. Despite being fully aware of their blood ties an attraction grew between them.

JENNY DEAVES: After I'd been there quite a few days I started to notice my feelings were changing and that that I was seeing him as a man, as a person, as somebody who was loving, caring, who, like, yeah I was looking at him and sort of going "Oh, he's not too bad."

PETER OVERTON: He's not too bad in what sense?

JENNY DEAVES: As in man-woman sense. Like you might look at a man across the bar at a nightclub.

PETER OVERTON: And John how were you?

JOHN DEAVES: Much the same. I met Jennifer and I realised she was a beautiful, desirable woman.

PETER OVERTON: Within a couple of weeks the unthinkable happened - father and daughter slept together. What was your physical relationship like?

JENNY DEAVES: Very loving as I, I don't know, um ... sexual relationship with any other man. It it's a normal, loving...

JOHN DEAVES: I resent that.

JENNY DEAVES: ... without going into any gloriful bedroom detail, it's a normal, sexual, loving couple relationship.

PETER OVERTON: John?

JOHN DEAVES: Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

PETER OVERTON: John, you didn't think it was wrong, let alone illegal, to be in a sexual relationship with your daughter?

JOHN DEAVES: Initially, yes. But emotions take over as people no doubt realise. There are times during your life where emotions do rule the heart, rules the head. I knew it was illegal, of course I knew it was illegal but you know, so what.

PETER OVERTON: Knowing it was wrong in so many ways John and Jenny walked away from their respective partners and set up home together in South Australia. They brought up Jenny's two children Samantha and Alex as their own. But then they would break the greatest taboo of all - Jenny fell pregnant with their baby. 9-month-old Celeste seems blissfully happy and perfectly healthy. Despite the odds. Children born to close-relative couplings are six times more likely to die at birth, did you consider that?

JOHN DEAVES: The way I look at it, it's just like if I was married to Jennifer and she was not my biological daughter and we had a child. It's exactly the same thing. The child is not deformed. It had no mental difficulties. Quite normal, healthy child.

PETER OVERTON: When we break it down - father to Jenny in a relationship with Jenny, your daughter. Your granddaughter?

JOHN DEAVES: Yeah, that's right.

PETER OVERTON: That's not a typical, normal suburban Australian life?

JOHN DEAVES: Oh no, of course not. To us, we're just a normal, happy family like any man would be with his wife and children.

SAMANTHA DEAVES: I suppose as I've grown older...

PETER OVERTON: 14-year-old Samantha and 9-year-old Alex don't know life any other way. What do you know about your mum's situation with John?

SAMANTHA DEAVES: I know they are father and daughter. I've known from pretty much day one when I could understand it all. In the beginning when it all started I was fairly young, so it wasn't a real big thing to me. As I've grown older, I don't think of it any differently. I still think of it as 'mum and dad', that's it.

ALEX DEAVES: You don't wake up every morning and think, "Well, that's my grandad AND dad." It's not. You don't really do that.

PETER OVERTON: Looking at this website, it has a lot of traffic.

JOE SOLL: It has a lot of traffic because there's a lot of people who are involved in these kinds of relationships and, um, it's understandable.

PETER OVERTON: New York psychotherapist Joe Soll says John and Jenny are examples of a recognised phenomenon called 'Genetic Sexual Attraction' or GSA.

JOE SOLL: It is an attraction that develops between people who, generally speaking, have not been raised together and don't have a taboo. They just want a hug, they want to get close and if they don't have the taboo and they're not careful it can turn into sex.

PETER OVERTON: And how often does it progress to a sexual relationship?

JOE SOLL: It's too common. I can't give you a number but it's too common.

PETER OVERTON: Too common? You are saying it's more widespread than society realises?

JOE SOLL: I think that people don't have a clue as to how often it happens.

PETER OVERTON: Joe Soll says while attractions like Jenny and John's do happen, they don't have to progress to the next level.

JOE SOLL: I don't doubt that they have the attraction, but it pisses me off that the man didn't know how to not do that. He's an adult. He should know better than to than to mess around with his daughter, he knows she's his daughter.

PETER OVERTON: And it's not always father and daughter. Danielle Heaney and Nick Cameron from Fife in Scotland are clearly a couple very much in love. They're also half brother and sister. Had you ever experienced that intensity of feeling for another woman?

NICK CAMERON: I've never experienced that intensity, feeling that absolute need to be together, actually, I suppose you could describe it as. It's almost, basically, like a pair of teenagers sort of meeting up, falling in love, effectively. It's the same thing, but the intensity of it is so much more it's unreal.

PETER OVERTON: Danielle and Nick have the same mum but grew up as strangers after Nick was placed in foster care. They only met as adults two years ago. What was the first kiss like for you, Danielle?

DANIELLE HEANEY: I think we were both wanting to kiss each other, but we were both hanging back as well, and when we eventually kissed I thought, "Oh, at last."

PETER OVERTON: Nick, recall the moment when you first laid eyes on Danielle?

NICK CAMERON: Yeah, I mean it was literally, sort of looking and thinking, "Wow, she's really attractive." And then I thought, "Wait a minute, "this is your sister you're talking about here. "Le-lets just not go there."

PETER OVERTON: The pair desperately tried to keep their relationship secret. For one, they knew it was taboo, for another, Danielle was married. But one afternoon, Danielle and Nick's mum discovered them having sex.

NICK CAMERON: She walked in on us in Danielle's flat, on the couch, effectively, and called us a pair of scumbags and walked out. And she ended up calling the police, effectively, so it wasn't a too clever a time.

PETER OVERTON: Your mum dobbed you in?

NICK CAMERON: Yeah.

PETER OVERTON: They were shunned by their families and charged with incest. Now on probation, they're free to live together, but if they ever have sex again they'll end up behind bars.

NICK CAMERON: If we break that order then it would be a prison sentence. And the maximum prison sentence for incest is actually life imprisonment in Scotland.

PETER OVERTON: It's a big thing to have hanging over your heads.

NICK CAMERON: It's huge, especially when we love each other as much as we do but the law's the law. I mean, in my eyes it's too black and white, it doesn't take all the sort of science into consideration, it just says, "Well this is how things are end of story." And to me there is no such thing as black and white, there are a million shades of grey in the middle.

PETER OVERTON: Australian authorities charged John and Jenny with incest after they, too, were dobbed in by relatives. They're on a 3-year good behaviour bond and for them, as well, sex is out. John, the courts want you to stop having a physical relationship.

JOHN DEAVES: Yes.

PETER OVERTON: Can you do that and keep the relationship together?

JENNY DEAVES: Yes.

JOHN DEAVES: Yes.

JENNY DEAVES: To say that I'm not going to have sex with John doesn't mean I have to stop loving John or caring for John. The important thing I think that people should remember is that John and I are in this relationship as consenting adults, that we are not harming each other.

JOHN DEAVES: Or anyone else.

PETER OVERTON: John and Jenny insist there are no victims in their relationship. But therapist Joe Soll believes their children, Alex and Samantha and especially Celeste will be psychologically scarred by their upbringing.

JOE SOLL: I can't even wrap my head around it. Her father and mother are father and daughter? What's that going to be like? What's that going to teach her about the world? What's she gonna think about herself? About how she was created. How could any child of a union like that not be a victim? How are they going to grow up and not have it torture them?

SAMANTHA DEAVES: Society can think what they want. I'm living it and I'm happy. I am going to go out and I'm going to have a normal relationship when I'm older. And that's how I want it to be.

PETER OVERTON: In the UK, Danielle and Nick's relationship is out in the open after their highly-public court case. So you're out and you're saying "I'm proud about this"?

DANIELLE HEANEY: Yeah, because I don't think we've got anything to be ashamed of. It's the most natural thing in the world to fall in love with an absolutely gorgeous man. And I have.

PETER OVERTON: But in Mount Gambier few people know the truth about the Deaves family. Jenny and John only hope that now they've revealed their secret, people will accept their relationship.

JENNY DEAVES: We are not going out there to hurt anybody, to murder anybody, to blackmail anybody, to do anything to anybody else. We are just asking for a little bit of respect and understanding and to be left to live our life like we are, like we do not go and walk in and impose on anybody else's life,

PETER OVERTON: If we crystal balled and I came back in five years?

JENNY DEAVES: I'd love you to come back in five years.

JOHN DEAVES: What do you reckon I'd find?

JENNY DEAVES: You'd find a loving, happy family that you see today.

JOHN DEAVES: Exactly what you see to today.

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