It is a parent’s worse nightmare. Sadly, it is not as uncommon as many think. There was a time when it was normal for kids to “play house” or “play doctor”. However, parents need to pay close attention to the difference between signs of normal childhood exploration and the possible signs of sexual inappropriate and potential predatory behaviors.
How do parents deal with this? Do they hope that it will just go away? Maybe if we just talk about it, it will resolve itself? What am I supposed to do? Parents in these situations are often torn and faced with an emotional dilemma that is unimaginable. Often times parents ask what did I do wrong? My hope in this blog is to provide some insight into this issue and provide some information prevention and resources.
According to www.sasian.org Please note that laws and practices may be different within your state or country. Please contact your local Department of Social Services or your local law enforcement to ensure the practices in your area.
is sibling sexual abuse?
Sibling sexual abuse, like all forms of sexual abuse, is an abuse of power. If a more powerful sibling, who may be older or stronger, bribes or threatens a weaker sibling into sexual activity, that is called sexual abuse. The abuser usually wins the trust of the victim first, and then violates that trust in order to commit the abuse. The abuser may use force, the threat of force, a bribe, the offer of special attention, or a gift to make the victim keep the abuse secret.
In sibling sexual abuse, the victim and the abuser are siblings. This may include such situations as foster or step-siblings. Also, as in other forms of sexual abuse, sibling sexual abuse doesn’t necessarily involve sexual touching. The abuser may force two or more other children to engage in sexual activity with one another. The abuser may force the siblings to watch sexual activity or pornographic videotapes. The abuser may also abuse them by repeatedly watching them dress, shower or use the toilet when they don’t want to be watched.
Trust is essential in families, but a sibling who has been given a lot of responsibility and power may abuse that trust. Sibling sexual abuse often takes place when parents fail to pay attention to the trust that they have placed in one of their children.
Sibling sexual abuse is often very harmful for the following reasons:
- Because the siblings live together, the victim may feel pressured and trapped by the abuser over a long period of time. This pressure usually includes bribes, sexual stimulation or physical force. For example, when you allow your oldest son to use physical punishment when baby-sitting, he may continue to use both physical abuse and threats to make sure his younger siblings keep the sexual abuse secret. This kind of pressure can break down the siblings’ self confidence.
- The victim usually begins by trusting the abuser because they are siblings. When this trust is violated, the victim feels betrayed by that brother or sister, because someone they expect to love and care for them is hurting them. In addition, your younger children would naturally trust you to choose a safe, kind person to take care of them. When the person you choose abuses them, the victims feel betrayed again, this time by you. They may even believe that you think the abuse is all right.
- The victims usually feel powerless to stop the abuse. They feel they can’t stop the offender, because he has threatened them. They may also feel powerless if you don’t believe them when they tell you they are being abused. This feeling of being powerless can stay with them and affect their adult relationships.
- The victims may be made to feel responsible, bad or dirty. If you accuse your younger children of doing something to encourage the abuse, or if you call them ‘dirty’ or ‘slutty’, they’ll believe you, and feel ashamed as well. They may carry these feelings of shame into adulthood.
- Sibling sexual abuse often causes more damage than abuse by a stranger. This is because children are dependent for years on their families and parents to keep them safe. Studies of convicted teenage sexual abuse offenders show that the sibling offenders commit more serious abuse over a longer period of time than other teenage offenders. This is because the victims (brothers or sisters) are more readily available, they are available for a longer period of time and the offenders are protected by family secrecy.
If you know or suspect that one of your children is being sexually abused by a sibling, do something. If you do nothing because you believe ‘they’ll grow out of it’, you allow the abuse and secrecy to continue.
Admitting to yourself that sibling sexual abuse might be happening in your family can be hard. Admitting it to someone else can be even harder. The important thing is to get help. It is often helpful to get support from family and friends, but you might have to rely on others. Often these others are professionals. As a parent you may feel in a state of despair and confusion when you realize that one of your children, is abusing their sibling. You may feel disappointed and may feel that you have failed as a parent. Joining a parental support group may help you acknowledge and accept your feelings.
- When you discover abusive behaviour, remember that you should report it to the child protection agency.
- The best way to prevent sibling sexual abuse is to pay attention to your children