This week is Sexual Abuse Awareness Week, and we wanted to speak about an issue which isn’t often raised due to its extreme taboo nature – and that is the issue of sexual abuse among siblings.
Nobody wants to believe that their son or daughter could commit sexual abuse to a sibling of theirs, but it’s sadly more common than you may think, with one study finding 5% of children being involved with sibling sexual abuse.
Abuse of this nature is often underreported, as children fear of not being believed or upsetting the family but studies have shown that if these acts go unchallenged, it could lead to further predatory behaviour in the future.
What to look out for
As abuse may go overlooked or ignored, stress can manifest in different ways including altered behaviour. It’s worth looking out for:
- Sexual behaviour with toys or other kids
- Rapid behavioural changes such as withdrawing or clinginess
- Reverting to old behaviours, e.g. bedwetting after being dry
- Altered eating habits
- Avoidance or fear of a sibling
- Mood swings like irritability, sadness or anger outbursts
Preventing Sibling Sexual Abuse
Here are some ways to reduce the risk:
- Supervise your children: Ensure that your kids are always under the care of a trustworthy person, at school, home, or elsewhere.
- Communicate with your child: Take time daily to talk to your child about their day and any concerns they may have.
- Educate children about sexuality: Lack of age-appropriate sex education increases the risk of abuse. Be supportive: If your child reports abuse, believe them and take action to address the issue and seek help.
- Monitor online activity: Research indicates that sibling sexual abuse often starts at a young age and can involve online activities like sharing suggestive images, pornography, or abusive acts. Monitoring your child’s online behaviour can also aid in prevention.
If you suspect that abuse is happening in your home, you need to seek advice and support from a professional service who will be able to support you and your family. It’s important that each child is given the appropriate support, so that healing from trauma can take place.
Find out more about sibling sexual abuse via the Safeguarding Network
Visit the SARSAS website for further information and resources.
Visit Stop It Now to find out more about harmful sexual behaviour in children.
Videos on sibling sexual abuse by SARSAS
A short film about the impact of sibling sexual abuse and speaking out.
A new 7-min training film for professionals and practitioners on best practice responding to adult disclosures of sibling sexual abuse: Getting it right: the professional response to adult disclosures of childhood sibling sexual abuse
A new 2-min audio/voice training film for professionals and practitioners on working with adult survivors of sibling sexual abuse: Sarah’s voice: I hear you