Counseling For Sibling Sexual Abuse

Among the most difficult situations parents could ever encounter in raising a family is sexual abuse between their children.  This taboo topic is one that creates significant discomfort for most people so the topic is rarely openly discussed.  Unfortunately, many parents are faced with this dilemma and how they choose to deal with it can result in life-long damaging consequences for both the offender and the victim.

Sibling sexual abuse is an abuse of power. For example, a more powerful sibling who is older and stronger, who coerces a younger sibling into sexual activity. This may occur through force, threat of force, bribes or a promise of special gift to make the victim keep the abuse secret.  Sibling sexual abuse does not always involve sexual contact. An older sibling may force younger children to engage in sexual activity with one another and watch. The older sibling may force a younger sibling to watch sexual activity or pornography. An older sibling may also abuse a younger sibling by repeatedly watching them in the shower or bathroom. An older sibling may force a younger sibling to watch while they masturbate.  Each of these situations could be considered sibling sexual abuse.

STAR Guides Wilderness - Counseling For Sibling Sexual Abuse

If you are a parent and are unsure if a specific activity is sexual abuse consider the following:

  • Is this behavior what you would expect from a child that age?
  • How long has the behavior been going on?
  • Does it seem that one of the children involved is being forced to participate?
  • What is the purpose of the behavior?

Don't Minimize Or Trivialize The Abuse

Sibling sexual abuse is harmful for the following reasons:

• The victim feels pressured and trapped by the abuser. This pressure includes bribes, sexual stimulation or physical force. Self-esteem is impacted immeasurably.

  • The victim feels betrayed, because someone they expect to love and care for them is harming them in the worst way possible. In addition, because children inherently believe a parent will protect them from all harm, and when they are harmed by a sibling, the victim feels betrayed twice—once by his/her sibling and by their parents. They might even believe that the parents think the abuse is acceptable—further adding to the emotional harm.
  • The victim may feel responsible, bad or dirty—thus engendering feelings of guilt, shame and humiliation about their body, sexuality and personhood.
  • Sibling abuse causes more damage than abuse by a stranger. This is because children are dependent for years on their families and on 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 so because the victims—brothers or sisters—are readily available, they are available for longer periods and the aggressors are protected by the enforced secrecy.

 STAR Guides Wilderness - Counseling

If you know or suspect that one of your children is being sexually abused by a sibling, you need to intervene by contacting a professional who specializes in sexual abuse and by reporting the abuse as required by law. This can be particularly difficult for parents due to the fear of legal consequences that may result. If you allow the abuse and secrecy to continue, because you think, ‘all children experiment sexually,’ or ‘it is just a phase, they will grow out of it,’ you are no less responsible for the outcome of the sibling sexual abuse than the sibling aggressor. Thus, the damage is on-going rather than short lived. Furthermore, by intervening, you are clearly communicating the behavior is unacceptable and both children are given an opportunity to heal.

We Can Help

If sibling sexual abuse has occurred in your family, we can help! Call us today at 800.584.4629 and we can help guide your family through this process together.

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