217 SelfWork: When Brothers and Sisters Abuse One Another
Trigger Warning: If you choose to listen to this episode on sibling sexual abuse, please keep your own self-care in mind. I’ll have international sexual abuse hotline numbers in the show notes: But the US hotline is 1-800-656-4673.
Sibling sexual abuse is a complex and painful subject that’s vastly underreported. And it can happen in any home, anywhere. How is it different than normal sexual curiosity between siblings? What sets the environment up for it to occur? Why don’t they tell a parent? How does it affect its victims? What if they themselves repeated or even forced sexual activity on others in the family? I’ll use a case from my own practice to talk about how and when it can occur – and as always, what a parent or loved one can do about it. What’s important to know from the beginning is that sexual abuse isn’t only about sex; it’s much more about control and grabbing power.
In this episode sponsored by BetterHelp, we’ll go over in detail a very moving email I received – and I’ll point out the language used by the writer, a victim of sibling abuse. You’ll be able to hear for yourself her confusion about blame, responsibility, shame, and fear.
Listener email (bolded sections created by Dr. Rutherford):
What do you do if you’re carrying the guilt and shame of being sexually abused as a child, but also the guilt of taking part in the abuse? My abuse started when I was probably 2 years old by my sisters and cousins who were all older than me. Then I was taught to do things as a child and my first and only sexual experiences were us kids doing sexual acts to each other. This went on until I was about 11/12. Family member’s were involved and no one talks about it to this day but I suffer mentally with it. I feel like it was my fault, mostly because my sister’s (the two who abused me would say this to me, and that I didn’t speak up. And when I was 7 I was raped by a male family friend. I never told. Now as an almost 40yr old woman I still feel ashamed, like someone should have stopped it.
BetterHelp, the #1 online therapy provider, has a special offer for you now!
Facts about sibling abuse from a VeryWell Mind
SelfWork episode on the Karpman Triangle
Article on the cycle of sexual abuse and outcomes for victims; Article in VeryWell Mind
SelfWork episode on the shame associated with sexual arousal during sexual abuse
Sexual anorexia: What is it?
Healing the Shame That Binds You
Sexual Abuse Hotlines
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