As I write in my book sibling sexual abuse is a silent epidemic. Part of the reason there is such silence regarding SSA is the intense toll that it takes on survivors. In fact, as Bertele and Talmon have written that one of the distinguishing factors from SSA and other forms of abuse is its intensity. Most SSA cases are marked by incidents of coercion, manipulation, threats, and deception. If these elements were not damaging enough the reality that sexual abuse was committed by a trusted sibling further complicates survivors’ feelings. Think of the issues with trust survivors of SSA may experience as they enter into relationships later in life. No wonder a large percentage of SSA survivors may choose to never marry. Imagine the difficulty in trying to truly trust again, after being violated and abused by the person they thought would protect them.
Further adding to the complexity of their trauma is when a survivor musters up the superhuman levels of courage it takes to disclose the abuse to parents or caregivers and they turn around and accuse the survivor or making it up, or experience victim shaming. Survivors often hear statements such as, “what were you doing in his room,” or “why were you wearing that, ” or “we all know how you are.” No wonder SSA is described as a lifelong trauma. There is a reason that thousands of survivors will refuse contact with their sibling again and often separate themselves from all members of the family.
The question becomes when confronted with all the severe mental health effects of SSA, how does one heal from such severe abuse. Certainly, there are no quick fixes. The most important step survivors can take is attending therapy sessions. I recommend finding an excellent trauma therapist. As survivors know, this is a long hard, road but healing can and does take place. We need to hear more of first hand accounts from survivors. As a global community we need to end the silence around this epidemic. In order to do this we have much to learn from SSA survivors.
The reality is that while SSA may be the most insidious and most common form of sexual trauma. We need to unite as a global community to support and create a safe space for survivors to teach us about SSA. Too many survivors don’t know what to do or where to turn in these situations. It is important for family members to also engage in therapy in order to a level of understanding on what survivors has experience on a daily basis. Parents and family members need to acknowledge how they failed the survivor as they work to repair and reconfigure their relationship.
We must commit to do everything in our power to shine a light on this insidious evil. SSA wreaks devastation on families unlike what most of us could imagine. We need to talk about SSA, in part to help others to receive the resources that can help promote healing and provide the survivor with a measure of peace. I know this is possible. I see it, and when I do see it, I’m always inspired by what can take place in survivors’ lives. Survivors of SSA are some of the strongest people I know and I feel thankful for the lessons that I learn from engaging in this work. Lets all join together to uproot the silence and suffering that SSA spreads across the world.
Written by : bradwatts44
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Brad Watts is the author of the book Sibling Sexual Abuse: A Guide for Confronting America’s Silent Epidemic. Brad is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider (CSOTP) who specializes in working with families where sibling sexual abuse has occurred. Brad conducts trainings with communities and groups about how to recognize and respond to incidents of sibling sexual abuse. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son. Visit him online at www.bradwattslpc.com.