Victims of childhood sexual abuse are faced with many emotional and psychological challenges as they age. Research also tells us that negative behaviors and self-care tend to underscore the lives of adult survivors.
Their early trauma making them more vulnerable to cycles of self-defeating talk and actions. If you were the victim of childhood sexual abuse, it can be helpful to understand these broader areas of concern. Even if you do understand how powerlessness or stigmatization applies to your own coping methods and behavior, how can you take that information and change for the better?
Understanding certain specifics of survivor psychology, however, can give you a clearer window into your own unique experiences and memories.
7 Ways Family Members Re-victimize Sexual Abuse Survivors
The knowledge can better prepare you to confront and overcome the very personal aspects of your own behavior and coping that, only you can best recognize, might be holding you back. Doctors John Briere Ph. Looking at each in turn can give you an up-close perspective and better understanding of hurdles you may struggle with every day. Children, like adults, internalize emotional experiences from their lives.
Their identities are formed by absorbing and thinking about how the attitudes, behaviors, and expectations of those around them inform their world. Abused children, however, find themselves in extremely difficult environments and surrounded by harmful role-models and caretakers. They are victims of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. Because of this, their perceptions of their own worth, and the goodness of others in their lives is skewed in a negative way.
As they grow older, childhood victims of abuse are prone to carry these negative assessments of themselves and others into adulthood. They may become aggressive, defensive, or overly shy when presented with social opportunities. As a result, many adult survivors of sexual abuse are unable to create close, intimate relationships with other people. Adult survivors may also experience intense emotional responses to situations and events that trigger their traumatic memories of abuse.
These triggers take many forms—specific words, for instance, or finding themselves in situations that remind them of their past. These triggers take root during their childhood years, and can make day-to-day adult living a whirlwind of intense emotion. There is often no way to avoid triggers during daily life as an adult. Adult survivors may find it draining, challenging, and often times impossible to act in routine ways if their triggers from childhood abuse affect them intensely and routinely.
Many adult survivors report intense and unwanted physiological sensations that appear during situations that evoke their past abuse. During childhood, children lack the verbal and mental skills needed to describe their experiences. Because they cannot mentally label and think about how they feel, their feeling of powerlessness, vulnerability, shame, and guilt manifest in the form of physical sensations.
Adult survivors may find themselves reliving, through bodily sensations, the intense emotional experiences they felt as a child. The story of abuse is one that is unique to every adult survivor.
Much of their lives unfold as a continuation of their history of abuse, which are very hard-won, personal narratives. Thinking in stories is a very human condition, and maintaining and referring back to a personal history of abuse presents adult survivors with many complex questions. Keeping their stories in mind helps guide them toward asking important, difficult, and fundamental questions about who they were, are, and wish to be.Counselors play a fundamental role in the well-being of children and adolescents, including serving as advocates against abuse.
We are trained to assess and intervene if clients are experiencing sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect. Children are a particularly vulnerable population given their size, power status and general lack of knowledge about how to protect and defend themselves against such threats. Yet abuse of children by adults may not be as prevalent as other forms of abuse that children experience.
For instance, they might suffer physical or emotional abuse from other children or peers, which is commonly referred to as bullying. A less frequently explored form of peer-to-peer violence is sibling abuse. Today, many researchers posit that sibling abuse may be more prevalent than other types of family violence.
InMark S. InDeeanna Button and Roberta Gealt reported in the Journal of Family Violence that 3 to 6 percent of children experience severe physical abuse which may include the use of weapons by a sibling. In addition to potentially being the most prevalent form of abuse for children, sibling abuse is often the least reported and least researched form of family violence. As a former school counselor and elementary teacher, I was very surprised when I first learned about the possible high rates of children experiencing maltreatment by a sibling.
I was researching the topic of teen dating violence for my dissertation, and one of the articles mentioned the possibility that teenagers who enter into violent dating relationships might have experienced violence with a sibling as a child. I knew there was a link between child abuse and dating violence, but I had never considered that sibling violence might also be a precursor.
Initially, I wondered if other counselors had already learned about sibling abuse; perhaps this was something I had simply missed during my training on child abuse and neglect.
However, as I examined the literature on sibling abuse, I found that only one article had been published in the counseling literature on sibling maltreatment the article by Kiselica and Morrill-Richards. My dissertation findings confirmed that school counselors were often unaware of sibling abuse and received little to no training on the subject, meaning that it might continue to go unaddressed. It seemed imperative to me that our field needed to start a dialogue and research around the topic of sibling abuse, especially as I continued to learn about the negative psychological ramifications associated with it.
Through my review of the literature, I discovered that children who suffer from sibling abuse experience myriad negative consequences over time. Many of these harmful side effects are similar to those faced by survivors of child abuse.
Survivors of sibling abuse have reported problems with depression, drugs and alcohol, sexual risk behaviors, low self-esteem, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder and an increased risk of continuing the cycle of violence into their teenage years and adult lives. Counselors work diligently to prevent clients from experiencing adverse childhood experiences, but we may not be addressing sibling abuse because of a lack of awareness about this issue or a lack of reporting by clients and family members.
This could result in the possibility of clients being harmed, both in the short and long term. Further complicating this problem is the fact that there are currently no federal laws, and few state laws, to protect children and adolescents from abuse by a sibling, other than in cases of sexual abuse.
So, even when counselors determine that sibling abuse might be occurring, it can be difficult to protect children from this form of abuse.
Counselors have shared that when they call child protective services CPS to report sibling abuse, they are typically instructed to call the police. One problem with this scenario is that sibling abuse occurs at higher rates within families in which domestic violence or child abuse is present.
There is often a cultural silence that exists with all forms of intrafamilial violence, including sibling abuse, wherein children are told to keep family matters private. When family violence occurs, there are often threats made not to report it to anyone.
So even children who might recognize that they are being abused by a sibling may not seek help because of the fear of breaking family bonds or the threat of retribution. In addition, many people normalize violence between siblings, excusing it as sibling rivalry without fully understanding the damage that can be caused both short and long term. Counselors can take several precautions to ensure that they are advocating for all clients when it comes to sibling abuse.
First, counselors who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon should educate themselves about the topic. Sibling abuse can occur across the same domains as child abuse, including sexual, physical and emotional. Sexual abuse of a sibling is often referred to as incest and may include touching, fondling, indecent exposure, attempted penetration, intercourse, rape or sodomy. Physical abuse of a sibling might include slapping, hitting, biting, kicking or causing injury with a weapon.
Sexual and physical abuse may be the easier forms of sibling abuse to detect and report because of the physical evidence and a clear line being crossed. However, verbal or emotional abuse can occur along with or independent of sexual or physical sibling abuse. This psychological maltreatment might include name-calling, ridicule, threatening, blackmail or degradation.Society pays a huge price when sibling abuse is not given attention and goes uncorrected in lives of many adults.
The over-learned maladaptive coping skills generated by an abusive sibling can affect adulthood. Because of sibling abuse, victimization occurred again in their childhoods through bullying. Sibling abuse is often directly connected to the formation of the adult personality. Many adult sibling abuse survivors are unaware that they have experienced the abuse in their childhood and can have denial that the abuse occurred.
Repeated patterns of self-abuse, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, can be frustrating for many adult sibling abuse survivors. Many victims can suffer from mental reactions: panic attacks, sleep problems, difficulty with focus, chronic depression, or anxiety. In adulthood, they can have an unhealthy lifestyle that predisposes them to addictions, difficulty in work situations, unstable finances, negative relationships, substance abuse, overspending, disorganization, or overworking.
Difficulties in relationships and lack of trust can be a lifetime issue. Vast numbers of survivors treat themselves with disdain, extreme perfectionism, inappropriate feelings of guilt, and distorted sense of responsibility for the abuse.
Depression, loneliness, and rejection from their family of origin are common. Until recently, very little educational training attention has been about the issues related to adult sibling survivors. To implement human service work with survivors of sibling abuse, this course will provide participants with unique, valuable, and hopeful educational information. This well organized workshop fills the information gap that currently exists about adults with sibling abuse. It has been researched to be an informative and an interesting educational tool for targeted participants.
This framework can be augmented for professional audience concentrations of social workers, chaplains, ministers and counselors. These learning components will provide an effective and interesting format. This process will enable participants to individualize and receive information within the learning session. Written information is designed for future reference and can be incorporated on bulletin boards and newsletters.
It can also be utilized for future worksite, workshop, or conference trainings. Topic 1 Overview of adult sibling survivors- Offers a personalization and general account of research in regards to adult survivors of sibling abuse. Topic 2 Overview of sibling relationships and abuse of power-Offers statistics and research pertaining to childhood sibling dynamics and power issues. Defines sibling abuse and types of violence toward a younger child.I was My mom had gotten me my first bra a month ago.
I had my periods a total of 3 times. I was young and naive. I was only a child. This is going to be long, be warned. I will tell you how it happened. Not because this will make a good story but because telling this story to the world may help me finally forgive myself. This deep, dark secret of mine demands to be let out. I am going anonymous because it's easier this way. My abuser was a family friend, no surprises there. Our family has known his for a couple of years and we frequently visited each other's homes.
He was much older than my own brother but not old enough to be called uncle. He was very huge, even for a guy. Everyone thought him a kind and helpful giant of a man. He talked a lot. I, like the rest of my family, was very fond of him.
As it happened, I was asking my mom if she would oil my hair when he came for a visit. He was a regular visitor and friend and when I went on badgering my mother to oil my scalp, he offered to do it for me. I was happy to let him. He was an Ayurveda practitioner and enjoyed sharing his trivia. As he thoroughly oiled my hair with his big hands, I told my mother to watch and learn! It felt good. He told me that I have strong curls and my hair needs oil specially prepared for its kind.
When he offered to lend me some from his supply if I stopped by his place, I was excited. I asked my mom if I could go, please. He assured her that he has a preparation that could tame my unruly hair.
One application was all it needed, and it would be no bother to him at all. Together, we convinced my mom to let me and my sister drop by his place on our way from Sunday school. That Sunday, I carried a box of homemade sweets with me for Aunty his mother and his nephew, who was barely two at the time.
Adult Survivors of Sibling Abuse
We knew each other very well after all. I expected him to give me a bottle of this precious concoction but he told me it should be applied the proper way. I thought he meant to just apply the oil to my hair while I would sit and chat with Aunty but was surprised when he asked me to climb on the massage table in his treatment room. He had an entire treatment room in his house, complete with a massage table, steam bath and shelves full of oils and Ayurvedic medicines.Twenty years ago when I first disclosed to my family that I had been sexually abused by my brother as a child, I never would have guessed it would mark the beginning of a long, confusing struggle that would leave me feeling misunderstood, dismissed and even punished for choosing to address my abuse and its effects.
The response from my family did not start out this way. Initially, my mother said the words I needed to hear: she believed me, she was pained for both her children, and she was sorry. My brother acknowledged the truth and even apologized. But as I continued to heal and explore the abuse further, my family members began to push back in ways that hurt me deeply, and only became worse as the years went on. Disclosure of sexual abuse can be the beginning of a whole second set of problems for survivors, when family members respond in ways that add new pain to old wounds.
Healing from past abuse is made more difficult when one is emotionally injured again in the present, repeatedly, and with no guarantee that things will improve.
'It Was Definitely About Power': The Horrendous, Hidden Impact of Sibling Abuse
And they may carry this pain alone, unaware that their situation is tragically common. Here are seven ways that family members revictimize survivors:. Many survivors never receive acknowledgement of their abuse.
Family members may accuse them of lying, exaggerating or having false memories. One might assume, therefore that recognition of their abuse would go a long way toward helping survivors move forward with their families. That is one potential outcome. However, acknowledgement does not necessarily mean that families understand or are willing to recognize the impact of sexual abuse.
Even when perpetrators apologize, survivors may be pressured not to talk about their abuse. In my case, I was chastised and directed to stop telling my brother that I needed him to understand and take responsibility for the lasting damage his actions caused me. Placing blame on the survivor, whether overt or subtle, is a regrettably common response.
Embedded in societal attitudes, victim-blaming can be used as a tool to keep survivors quiet. Because sexual abuse victims often blame themselves and internalize shame, they are easily be devastated by these criticisms. It is vital, for survivors to understand that there is nothing anyone can do that makes them deserve to be abused. These messages are destructive and backwards. In order to heal, survivors need to be supported as they explore their trauma, examine its effects, and work through their feelings.
Only by dealing with the abuse does the past begin to lose its power, allowing survivors to move forward. These dreams stopped once I began to consistently speak up for myself and I found people who wanted to hear me. Survivors may be accused of treating family members poorly because they call attention to the abuse, express their hurt and anger, or assert boundaries in ways they never could as children.
They are often told to stop making trouble, when they are in fact pointing out trouble that has already been made. Some families leave survivors out of family events and social gatherings, even while their abusers are included. This act has the effect intended or not to punish survivors for making others in the family uncomfortable, and is another example of the kind of upside-down thinking that unhealthy families engage in.
However, staying neutral when one person has inflicted damage on another is choosing to be passive in the face of wrongdoing. Survivors, who were left unprotected in the past, need and deserve to be supported as they hold abusers accountable, and shield themselves and others from further harm.
Family members may need to be reminded that the abuser committed hurtful acts against the survivor, and therefore neutrality is not appropriate.
But of course, I was not willing to accept his refusal to respect my feelings or grasp the weight of what he had done to me. Pressuring them to do so is an obvious repeat of the abuse of power that was exerted upon them at the time they were violated, and is therefore destructive and inexcusable. There are many reasons family members respond in harmful ways, which may not be ill-intentioned or even conscious.Help! I was abused, and then I abused my younger sister!?! - Kati Morton
Foremost is the need to maintain their denial about the sexual abuse.Sibling sexual abuse is one of the most closely-guarded secrets in the area of family violence. No one wants to believe that brothers and sisters are capable of abusing one another.
They want to explain away the abuse as normal childhood curiosity. But it's not. It is a violent form of control that leaves victims feeling frightened and alone.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Unfortunately, sexual abuse among siblings is much more common than most people know. In fact, kids are more likely to be sexually abused by their siblings than they are by their parents. It's also not limited to certain types of families—it occurs in many different kinds of households.
Additionally, sexual abuse among siblings can go on for a long time before parents are made aware of the issue. Here are seven facts about sexual abuse among siblings that all parents should know. But more than one-third of sex offenses against children are committed by other minors, according to the U.
Department of Justice. A study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that parents were much more likely to blame their child for the abuse or doubt the story altogether when the perpetrator was a minor.
The average age of a juvenile sex offender is 15 years old. Most registered sex offenders carry out their first offense before age of When females do commit sex offenses, they are much more likely to victimize family members.
Sibling sexual abuse is hidden and greatly underreported to authorities. Abused siblings often don't disclose being abused because they are afraid. They are afraid of the perpetrator.
They are afraid of not being believed; and they are afraid of upsetting their parents. They also may be confused and worried that they are to blame. Yet, the rate at which children are being abused by their siblings is significantly higher than the rate at which children are being abused by adult family members. For instance, a study by the U. Department of Health and Human Services found that at least 2.Many children do not see themselves as victims of sibling incest, and many families and professionals fail to recognize the abuse.
Their story startled the nation. In Februaryyear-old twins Kellie and Kathie Henderson, sitting on the stage with Oprah Winfrey, told their horrific story of 10 years of sexual abuse by two brothers and, eventually, their father. Motivated by the desire to inspire other incest victims to come forward and report such abuse, the Hendersons revealed the often-shocking details of their experience, six years after a neighbor in whom they had finally confided rescued them.
This story of sibling and paternal sexual abuse reflects a social problem that is far greater than acknowledged by official statistics, policymakers, and service providers Finkelhor, Known as incest, family sexual abuse is shrouded in secrecy and social stigma. Sibling sexual abuse is the least recognized form of incest, while sexual abuse by related adults in a family receives the most attention. Meanwhile, victims of sibling abuse remain unseen, waiting to be found and helped.
Social workers are in a unique position to lead the effort to uncover the injuries of sibling incest and promote a climate that supports victims in disclosing their experiences and receiving appropriate services. The prevalence of sibling sexual abuse in American society is not well documented. Researchers estimate that the rate of sibling incest may be five times the rate of parent-child sexual abuse Finkelhor, These rates are based on reported incidence, and incest is known to be underreported.
Numerous factors converge to assure that in many instances—perhaps most—sibling sexual abuse remains undisclosed and unaddressed.
Victims often do not see themselves as victimized, and families as well as professionals fail to recognize the abuse. The secret remains hidden, camouflaged by play and tangled in the complex dynamics of abusive sibling relationships. Incestuous behaviors are too often invisible in stressed, chaotic families.
Additionally, professionals who fail to recognize indicators and opportunities to foster victim disclosure may overlook the presence of sibling incest. Failure to Recognize Abuse, Fear of Disclosure Many children fail to identify themselves as victims of sibling incest. Sexual behaviors are frequently couched in the context of play, and young victims are likely to find these activities pleasurable.
The identification of themselves as victims is further compromised by the complex dynamics of the sibling relationship itself. Consistent with other forms of child sexual abuse, there is an evolutionary aspect to the abuse such that in the early stages of the relationship, the sexual nature of the behaviors is less apparent, hidden in special hugs and games and play wrestling.
Typically, there is a progression of the behaviors, evolving over time to increasingly explicit, invasive, and perhaps even coercive sexual activities. Clever offenders can use this sense of complicity to amplify feelings of mutuality and exacerbate feelings of guilt and shame for the victim, inhibiting the likelihood of disclosure and thus maintaining the secret.
As the abuse progresses and a victim grows aware of the meaning of the behaviors, he or she may become a reluctant participant and attempt to resist.
Victims who feel guilt and shame in the context of a nonsupportive family are unlikely to feel sufficiently safe to confess misbehaviors for which they feel responsible. There is evidence that many victims carry the secret into adulthood, remaining confused about issues of mutuality and consequently feeling ridden with guilt, shame, and low self-esteem Ballantine, ; Carlson et al.