Sibling sexual abuse represents the most pressing hidden crisis in America. The Associated Press’s Lindsey Tanner wrote on a recent JAMA study that says 1 in 16 women in the U.S. were forced to have sex in their first sexual encounter. Often these encounters come within one’s family. Sibling sexual abuse serves as a rapidly growing, yet silent epidemic. This epidemic targets all segments of society. It spares no one. Whether you are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, rich or poor, it affects all demographics in staggering proportions. According to Rudd and Herzberger sibling sexual abuse occurs five times more frequently than any other kind of sexual abuse. While our society condemns the heinous acts of abuse carried out by the Jeffrey Epstein’s and Larry Nasser’s, the sexual abuse of children by children remains largely ignored in mainstream public discourse.
If as a community we want to safeguard our children from this scourge we must shine a bright light on this problem. With the relentless invasion of sexualized social media and exposure at earlier ages to seemingly normalized sexual behaviours, all children in families face increased vulnerability.
Sibling sexual behaviour becomes abuse when there is:
- An age difference exceeding two years
- Penetration or oral sex
- Coercion or bribery
- A failure to stop when asked
- A continuing return to sexualized behaviour
We must know the warning signs and step in when we suspect sexual abuse has taken place.
The latest research has shown that over 95% of children and youth who receive treatment for sexual abuse of a sibling will not continue their sexually deviant behaviour.
To protect countless children from falling prey to childhood sexual abuse there needs to be a national discourse on sibling sexual abuse. Adults must begin to talk about the subject, recognize when it occurs, and take action to end it. This is too important to allow our discomfort with the subject to prevent us from addressing this critical threat to the well-being of our nation’s children.