Sibling Sexual Abuse: How Big Of A Problem Is This?

By Lawrence W. Daly

The sexual abuse of children which occurs every minute of every day compels experts in the child sexual abuse to focus on the problem areas within the family. Research has demonstrated that the child sexual abuse victim knows their sexual attacker 90% of the time. Of that 90%, 75-80% are relatives of the child victim e.g. father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, brother, sister, mother etc.
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So how big is the sexual abuse problem when the child victim and sexual offenders are siblings? The problem of sibling sexual abuse is a greater problem than most researchers believe. The problem is generally not talked about, hidden, ignored, rarely acknowledged, and/or minimized by all of the family members.  The sexual offender is generally protected, not the child victim. This attitude is generally created because the child victim is seen as the individual who is attempting to destroy the nucleus of the family. It is easier for the family to say it didn’t happen than that it did happen. This attitude indirectly tells the sexual offender that he/she can continue with their sexualized behavior that what they have been doing to their younger sibling is alright.

There are generally signs that something is happening between the child victim and sexual offender. Children begin suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder immediately. There are some behavioral signs which parents should question when seen within the family. Let us review them:

               1.      Difficulty with authority
               2.      Low self-esteem
               3.      Night Terrors
               4.      Anger
               5.      Emotional Issues i.e. mood swings
               6.      Withdrawing from the family i.e. expending a lot of time alone in their bedroom
               7.      Anxiety and/or depression
               8.      Other

These behavioral traits will generally not be present prior to the child sexual abuse occurring. Children will question their value within the family and want protection from their parents. Most parents are absence either from the home because of work or other commitments. These types of parents are not rare as in today’s world most parents are working, if not working two jobs.  So the parent’s ability to be perceptive is problematic because their absence provides an opportunity for the sexual offender to act out sexually on the child victim.
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The child victim finds disclosing the sexual abuse difficult as they fear the sexual offender. Generally, the sexual offender will verbally and physically threaten the child victim to the point that they fear retaliation from the sexual offender. The child victim becomes such a target that the sexual offender has his/her method of intimidating the child victim into compliance. This compliance includes dealing with the physical and sexual aggressiveness.

The parent’s response to the sexual assaults determines the accountability and responsibility of the sexual offender understanding that what he/she has been doing is possibly illegal, inappropriate, unimaginable and difficult to deal with. The outcome of the sexual assaults will be determined by the parents. If the parent believes the child victim then the next step is to get both the child victim and sexual offender into counseling and treatment.

The possibility of contacting and bringing in child protective services and law enforcement must be seriously considered. What the parent finds out about the sexual assaults the parents will find themselves questioning their role as a parent, the guilt of allowing the sexual assaults to have occurred. The shift from feeling guilty to the stages of anger and rage will occur. Parents will question how the sexual assaults could have been occurring under their roof. Although the parent will feel the way they feel, they will protect their sexual offender child at all costs.

Involving child protective services and law enforcement officials is a very intelligent step to take as a parent. Child protective services have two responsibilities and they are to make sure the child is protected and to provide family services for everyone involved. Having law enforcement officials involved is vital to bringing a closure to the allegations. Law enforcement has the specific role to investigate any and all sexual assault allegations; interview the parties involved and make a determination if a crime has occurred.

Terapists.jpgThe parents generally do not want their son/daughter charged with a crime. However, this aspect of the fact finding process may direct law enforcement into the filing of criminal charges. The problem with having your child charged with a sex crime will be difficult for the family, especially the child victim. The child victim will feel like he/she has the weight of the problem on their shoulders, blaming themselves for the family being split up. They do not use reason and logic that the sexual offender was the aggressor not for sexual reasons, but for power and control, which is one of the main reasons sexual offenders offend.

Tomorrow, I will continue to review the research which is now available to us about sibling sexual abuse. The complications in such a situations and scenarios come with a double edged sword. It is this author’s contention that the absent parent highly adds to the sexual offender’s ability to accomplish his/her sexual assaults. In light of what professionals in the child sexual abuse network have learned about sibling abuse over the past four decades, has given professionals some direction, ideas and planning which will minimize the trauma which occurs to the child victim. We will look at some of these minimization plans over the next couple days.

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