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SIBLING SEXUAL ABUSE. Why Might This Type of Abuse Be Unique. Interacts with family dynamics Victim and perpetrator will have ongoing relationship There will be issues around family separation and family reunification. How Much Do we Really Know.

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  2. Why Might This Type of Abuse Be Unique • Interacts with family dynamics • Victim and perpetrator will have ongoing relationship • There will be issues around family separation and family reunification

  3. How Much Do we Really Know • There is little research on sibling sexual abuse • Research limited, often not specific to sibling sexual abuse, and often quite old • Much of the information from studies of: • Incest • Juvenile Sexual Offenders • Sibling abuse (physical and sexual)

  4. Definitions • Includes stepsiblings, half siblings, and cousins • Nonconsensual • Severe

  5. Nonconsensual Age Differences • 3 - 5 years • Florida law Power Difference • Favored Child • Caretaker Child • Differences in strength, size, gender, intelligence, or developmental sophistication

  6. Nonconsensual Coercion • Threats • Force • Injury • Manipulation • Bribes

  7. Severity • Type of Activity • Frequency

  8. Severity Type of Activity • Intercourse • Oral Sex • Other Penetration • Can include “hands-off abuse” (ex. indecent exposure, forcing the sibling to watch pornography, taking pornographic pictures of sibling)

  9. Severity Frequency • Repeated instances • Compulsive and interferes with normal activities

  10. Models Nurturant or Psuedoconsentual Abuse • Repeated consensual contact over time • Sexual activity provides affection, contact and support (i.e. critical emotional needs) missing in children’s relations with parents • The behavior often begins with elements of loyalty, mutual satisfaction, and support Power-Oriented • May be to experience power in its own sake • May be to compensate for the abuser’s own sense of powerlessness or past abuse

  11. Prevalence • Little information is known about the specific prevalence of sibling sexual abuse • It is more likely to go underreported and ignored • Older brother, younger sister most common, although all possible dyads occur • Anecdotally, it appears to occur at all levels of income and education, and across all ethnicities • Court Sample – 2/3 Sex Batt 1/2 L&L’s

  12. What Do We Know About Sibling Offenders • No single “type” of abusive sibling • Sibling offenders have been found to have a diverse variety of personality characteristics

  13. Sibling offenders • often have experienced past trauma or maltreatment • have not always been sexually abused themselves • are very likely to have been physically abused • may have experienced neglect and isolation • may have access to pornography • may be isolated and not relate well with peers • average age of 15 ?! (Caffaro & Conn-Caffaro, 1998)

  14. Favoritism • They may be favored and feel immune from detection or consequences if they target a scapegoated sibling • They may feel rejected and retaliate against a weaker sibling

  15. Research Comparing Sibling with Extra-familial Offenders • The literature that does exist typically summarizes case studies • O’Brien (1991) compared: • sibling offenders • youth who abused peers and adult

  16. Behavior of Sibling offenders O’Brien found: • Committed more acts of abuse over a longer period of time • More likely to have penetrated their victims • More likely to have 2 or more victims • Less likely to have had court-ordered treatment • O’Brien speculated that opportunity and the nature of sibling and family dynamics may have contributed to these findings

  17. Characteristics of Sibling Offenders O’Brien found: • More likely to have been physically abused • Only a small percentage of O’Brien’s sample reported that they had been sexually abused by a family member

  18. Characteristics of Sibling Offenders’ families • O’Brien found: • Parents, especially mother’s, were much more likely to have been physically abused • 36% of mother’s of sibling offenders versus 9% of extra-familial offenders • 10% versus 5.5% of fathers • Rate of family dysfunction higher in sibling sexual abuse families

  19. What Do We Know About Sibling Victims • Average age of victim is 7 - 9 (De Jong, 1988; Caffaro &Conn-Caffaro, 1998) • Sexual abuse is likely to have been more severe and/or frequent (O’Brien, 1991) • Consequences especially severe and traumatizing if force or aggression involved

  20. Sibling Victims Laviola (1989) in a study of brother sister incest found: • Force and aggression more likely to be associated with intercourse • With force - victim likely to feel very negatively toward sibling and the behavior • But less severe abuse problematic as well • Less severe sexual behavior was likely to be associated with more subtle forms of coercion; Victim likely to feel ambivalent about the offender, and blame themselves for the incest

  21. Consequences to the Sibling • More likely to become precociously sexualized, and act out sexually - including sexually abuse others* • More likely to exhibit disturbances of conduct* • May be come confused about their sexuality • More problems in family and romantic relationships • More sexual problems • Possible problems with emotional regulation

  22. Consequences to the Sibling • More likely to runaway • More likely to experience teen pregnancy • More likely to make suicide attempts, especially between ages 14 and 16 • Frequently re-victimized throughout life, including physical abuse, rape, and domestic violence • Lower self-esteem (Most of this from general incest research)

  23. What Do We Know About The Families • Providepoor supervision and little structure • Tend to have had a history of domestic violence and physical abuse • Secrets - Discourage open communication

  24. Sibling Abuse Families • May fail to provide appropriate boundaries: • Extramarital affairs (76% of the sibling cases of Smith & Israel, 1987) • Parent-child hierarchies • Sleeping arrangements • Privacy for family members • Family member sexual behavior (ex. allow children to observe adult sexual behavior) • Choice of surrogate caretakers (ex. allow children to remain unsupervised with/in the care of known sibling offenders)

  25. Sibling Abuse Families • Parental absence - physical or emotional • Divorce • Work • Parent dealing with own trauma • Substance abuse • Psychiatric illness • Dependent personality orders • Some researchers argue that this is the most important dynamic in sibling incest families

  26. Problematic Families • Deny the allegations of abuse • Ignore or minimize the abuse • Acknowledge the abuse, but blame and/or punish the victim • Acknowledge the abuse, but fail to protect the victim and stop the abuse • When abuse is disclosed, divide into teams, (victim versus offender) which compete for power resources, and support • In the end, problematic families can leave the victim feeling unprotected, helpless, rejected, and further blamed as the victim begins to act out

  27. Safety Planning • Assess victim’s comfort with the offender in the home • Assess parent’s ability to supervise appropriately • Identify internal and external risk factors

  28. Common Safety Plan Elements • Offender not to supervise other children • Offender not to be left alone with younger or vulnerable children or share a bedroom with them • Vulnerable children bedroom’s will be closer to parents • Alarms may be placed on offender’s door • Family members will not shower or bathe together • Family members will dress appropriately at all times

  29. Common Safety Plan Elements • Family members will knock if doors are closed • No babysitting • No changing diapers • No dressing, bathing or helping younger or disadvantaged children get ready in the morning • No sleepovers • No pornographic materials

  30. Treatment • Important to distinguish between mutually consenting among similar age siblings or even age-appropriate sex play before starting • NCSBY Handout on Sexual Behavior Problems from 2 – 12

  31. Cloé Madanes’ (1990) Model for Sibling Sexual Abuse Treatment • General Principals • Create a positive framework by emphasizing compassion, higher emotion, and spirituality • No secrets – Secrets allow abuse to continue • Emphasize blamelessness of the victim • Find outside protectors (for each child) • Emphasize offender responsibility and reparation • Steps can be modified depending on the situation

  32. Madanes’ 16 Steps: • Obtain an account of the sexual offense(s) moving from parents, to siblings, to offender, to victim • Ask each family member why it was wrong beginning with the offender • Therapist - it was also wrong because it caused the victim spiritual pain or “pain in the heart” • Therapist - it also causes a spiritual pain in the victimizer

  33. Discuss other sexual victimization that has gone on the family • Therapist – these behaviors also causes a spiritual pain in the family • The Apology – offender gets on knees in from of the victim and repents • The Apology II – other family members get down on their knees and repent for not having protected the victim • Discussing the consequences of any future abuse

  34. Find a protector for the victim (e.g. responsible uncle, 2 grandmothers, etc) • Individually with victim – work to place the abuse in context and orient victim to positive things in her life • Reparation – an act of long-term sacrifice for the offender that is beneficial to the victim • Reconnecting the offender to peers and appropriate social and sexual activities

  35. Restoration of the parent’s love for the offender • Restoration of the offender’s role as protective of younger sibling • Help offender to forgive him/herself

  36. Wes Crenshaw, PhD (Family Therapy Institute Midwest) • Has taken the apology step and broadly applied it to a broad variety of dependency cases • Appears to have worked more frequently with cases where victim, offender, and/or have been removed from the home • Madanes had the apology take place toward the beginning of treatment - Crenshaw’s model seems to build to the apology which is seen as the heart of the intervention

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