Emotional sibling abuse Part 2

While the external injuries after sexual and physical sibling abuse heal fairly quickly, the scars after emotional sibling abuse tend to remain for a very long time with the victims, especially since they may have long-term effects on self-esteem, adult relationships and life in general. Sometimes the wounds can lead to a mental ill health for the victim that will linger for rest of his or her life. The pain and the trauma that the victim is undergoing in connection with emotional sibling abuse can therefore not be overestimated. In addition, it takes a long time to recover from mental abuse. For the recovery process you can expect a period of at least five years.

One of the conditions that aggravate the identification of emotional sibling abuse, is that it does not leave any visible damage outside, even though the pain for the victim is as difficult and sometimes even worse than for the other two forms of sibling abuse. This makes it much harder for the people that exist around the abused child, to detect the abuse.

What disarrange things even more is that parents and the professional adults that are around the child, such as psychologists, counselors, teachers, youth recreation leaders and others, often tend to mistake the violations as normal behavior among children. It is common for children to use spiteful and degrading comments in their communication with each other and it can therefore easily be mistaken by parents as normal sibling rivalry. In some cases, parents may even decide to participate in the verbal violations.

Unfortunately, this reaction can lead to the victims believing that what they are subjected to is not ill-treatment. Because if it really was ill-treatment, then mom and dad would interfere and put an end to it! This therefore causes many adult survivors to often repress or deny that the emotional assaults have taken place.

Victims of emotional sibling abuse tend to react in very much the same way, as they who are subjected to physical sibling abuse. They scream and cry and do everything they can to try to stay away from their oppressors. They, in turn, can go for the weaker sibling or a pet and they can tell their parents about the violations. They also tend to internalize and believe in what the older sibling says to them and occasionally they try to give as good as they get.

The above reactions may reveal the presence of emotional abuse, as well as lasting behavioral changes in the victim.

Parents often tend to ignore their crying children with the excuse that it is perfectly normal for children to tease or that the child in question must have done something to deserve it. But children who are mocked and ridiculed by their siblings, often only have their parents to turn to and when they refuse to help them, the children become even more exposed and vulnerable.

In cases of long-term manipulation, the victim may have a changed sense of reality, even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with him or her.

In severe cases, where the emotional sibling abuse has lasted for a long time, the assaults can also lead to chronic loss of the serotonin in the victim’s brain. It is therefore not entirely harmless for a sibling to be subjected to long-term emotional violations.

Now the entry is over for this time. Please, take care of yourself and others. Thank you. See you if you wish to, next week.


You are welcome to comment if you like, but please do so with respect and good judgment.


Book: Perilous rivalry by Vernon R. Wiehe, Teresa Herring, 1991

Book: Sibling abuse by Vernon R. Wiehe, 1997



© Helén Varenius – text and photo