MONICA MARES was 16 when she gave up her newborn son Caleb Peterson for adoption.
She reconnected with him on Facebook when he was 19 years old and they met in person around Christmas last year.
After they met, Monica told the Daily Mail she started getting “crazy” feelings about her son.
Soon, they were living together. And a few weeks after that, their sexual relationship began.
Monica reflected on the moment she first admitted her feelings to Caleb:
“I’m sorry I don’t know how you are going to react to this. I’m your mum and you’re my son, but I’m falling in love with you,” she recalls saying.
Caleb responded by saying “You know what, I am too. I was scared to let you know.”
The pair ended up kissing “and kissing lead to other things”.
Now the couple, who reside in New Mexico, are awaiting their day in court after being arrested earlier this year on incest charges.
Incest is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico. They were released on $US5000 ($A6491) bond and now face a trial by jury in September. They face up to 18 months in prison if convicted.
Initially they tried to keep their relationship quiet, but they were arrested when police were called after a fight broke out between the pair and their neighbours. According to Monica, they were assaulted and called names including “incest.”
Caleb and Monica currently live separately and are legally banned from having contact. Monica says she has received death threats and warnings that if she goes to prison there are people wanting to “take her out” there.
The couple went public with their affair in a bid to raise awareness of Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA), which is defined as sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings or half-siblings.
The term has become more commonly used than “incest” in those cases where two people who are related, but don’t grow up together, meet and fall in love. It reportedly occurs to about half of adults who reconnect with their estranged parents. You may recall that Kim West and her son Ben Ford brought the term into the spotlight when their relationship was exposed in April.
Psychotherapist Robi Ludwig says this “phenomenon” of GSA occurs because “we are drawn to what is familiar.
“When there is a genetic link, that can increase, especially if you are not raised together.”
But the concept of normalising incest, even in a “consensual” GSA case, can be dangerous, especially when it comes to an older parent and a younger person who may be too immature to understand, according to Ludwig.
Ludwig likened this power imbalance to a professional relationship, such as teacher-student or therapist-patient. “When you are the professional in the parental role, you have the power,” Ludwig said. “It is your role to set appropriate boundaries.”
Monica says that if she’d raised her son, they “probably” would never have had a sexual relationship, but she now considers him the love of her life.
“It felt like I met somebody new in my life and I fell in love with him,” she explained.
Caleb says that he didn’t see Monica as his mother when he met her.
“I never had anyone cook me meals or give me anything,’ he said.
“I never got anything my entire life and she went out of her way to make me happy and after about a week or so I started having feelings for her and I guess I fell in love.
“It went beyond a mother-son relationship I never really viewed her as my mum. In certain aspects I do but mostly I don’t.
“I never thought I was crazy for having these feelings because I didn’t see her as my mum, it was more like going to a club and meeting a random person. It didn’t feel wrong, it felt normal.”
“Honestly I never thought we would get into trouble for our relationship. We were both consenting adults — when it comes down to it … She’s adult I’m adult I can make my own decisions. I never thought it would blow up into something like this.”
But unfortunately for Caleb, the law states that if you are related as they are — mother and son — you cannot have any type of sexual intimate relationship.
“It’s a fourth-degree felony,” points out Prosecutor Andrea Reeb, District Attorney for the Ninth Judicial District in New Mexico.
“It’s the law so our office is bound to uphold the law so we are pursuing it.”
Monica has eight other children, who apparently don’t have a problem with her relationship with Caleb.
She is not allowed to see Caleb or any of her other children — a fact that doesn’t seem to phase her.
“It is every bit worth it,” told the Daily Mail.
“If they lock me up for love then they lock me up. There is no way anybody could pull us apart, and I really do love him.
“It hurts he is far away. It hurts really bad. I wish I could see him, talk to him, but I can’t risk it.
“I have to be with him. When I get out of prison I will move … to a state that allows us to be together.”
Incest is a crime in all 50 US states, but the specifics of the laws and punishment vary greatly from state to state.
The couple is being supported by Cristina Shy who runs http://www.lilysgardener.com, a support and advocacy website for related couples, also known as consanguinamorous people.
Cristina, who is involved in an illegal relationship with her half brother in Minnesota, told the Daily Mail: “Our whole community is watching this case and looking for updates.
“It needs to be brought to the attention of everybody in the country and people need to start thinking differently.
“It was the same with gay people just a few years ago and now they can get married they are accepted.
“Well why not consanguinamorous people like us? We are all adults. We are not paedophiles, there’s no domestic issue we are in love, we want to be together but we are related. That shouldn’t be a deciding factor.”
Monica and Caleb are hoping to attract a high-profile lawyer who will take their case to the supreme court.