There are two types of sexual sibling abuse: physical and non-physical contact with the victim. The physical one involves for example, unwanted touches, caresses, attempted penetration, full sexual intercourse or regular rape.
Examples of non-physical contact are indecent exposure, forcing the victim to witness sexual acts or to strip.
American research shows that children and adolescents expose their siblings to worse sexual offenses than other sex offenders, whether they are inside or outside the family. These sibling perpetrators namely tend to commit more sex crimes over more years and often exercise more severe abuse, such as full penetration than other sex criminals.
In addition, the crimes also often occur during the night when the rest of the family is asleep or when the older siblings are babysitting their younger siblings. When a sibling is babysitting a younger brother or sister, it is therefore very easy for him or her to misuse the power given by the parents, to abuse his or her sibling in different ways, not just sexually. Due to the particular nature of the criminal act, the offenders tend to remain undiscovered. Many times there are also threats of reprisals in connection with the sexual assaults, and that leads to the victims not daring to tell.
All of the above mentioned violations usually occur within the framework of what can be seen as rape, as they occur through physical compulsion, threat or manipulation. In many cases, the perpetrator also blames the victim for the occurrence of the sexual act, so he or she doesn’t have to take responsibility for the assaults. For example, they can say things like “you wanted it too!” or “you enjoyed it!” And this leaves the totally innocent victim feeling even more guilty for an assault that is already surrounded by so much secrecy and shame. This is especially common in cases where the victim has experienced some form of pleasure during the offense. But because the act has been under compulsion, it is important to understand that the victim is innocent. The strongest and most prevalent emotion that a victim of sexual sibling abuse undergoes during the sexual assault is fear.
Many siblings are also trying to make the victims of sexual assault to accomplices by exploiting, lying for, exerting pressure on, or bribing their victims into submitting to the abuse. And often these persuasive attempts lead to the victim agreeing to have sex, either because of different circumstances or because the victim is not mature enough to say no. Even though the “accomplices” are persuaded to keep silent, their emotional pain in the form of anxiety, shame and guilt is no less than for other survivors. The only external sign of this inner emotional turmoil is that the victims tend to be withdrawn, silent and just want to be left alone.
In children, an age difference of two to four years means that they are very far apart when it comes to maturity. Therefore, the difference in growth and physical development makes it very easy for an older sibling to trick a younger one into participating in sexual acts.
In addition, the sexual violations are often, as mentioned earlier, surrounded by secrecy. Like in cases of adult perpetrators, siblings tend to approach their victims in a friendly manner. They may say things like what is happening should be their own little secret and thus they seduce and enable their victims to suffer the assault in silence. But it is also common for the use of threat or force to prevent the victim from telling about the abuse. Sometimes they even threaten to kill the younger sibling if he/she does not hold his/her tongue.
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