Wednesday 29th November, 2023
Like yesterday this survivor of sibling abuse has asked to remain anonymous:
“When I was a child I used to tell lots of silly, pointless lies and at the time I was never sure why I did it. Now I realise It was because I had to lie everyday, to hide a huge secret, a horrible, sordid secret.
It all felt natural at first. I shared a bedroom with my older brother, we shared baths until about 4 and being naked around each other was not unusual. At some point though things progressed and he started exploring & trying things with my body. I was often frozen still, pretending to be asleep.
Once we had our own rooms as teens it was obvious it was more than “curiosity” because it required effort & thought on his part to come to my room while everyone else was asleep or out. Still I pretended to be asleep. Just ignoring everything, this was just life.
Until I reached 15, when I didn’t pretend anymore, I stopped him before he got near the bed and said “NO, I’ll tell mum and dad”. I expected that he would just quietly sneak away and that would be the end forever.
He didn’t. He looked me square in the face and said “if you tell them, who do you think they’ll believe” and that was the point I became aware that I was being raped, it continued until we both left home & moved away.
It has never been spoken about because I knew who they would believe, I had been testing them all my childhood with my small lies. I tested them again and again to see if they would ever believe me
Just once I needed them to say “I believe you” (I wasn’t always lying!), or even ask “why are you lying?” Instead I was branded a trouble-maker, so I continued in silence.
Looking back I started to understand that behaviour, I was testing to see whether my parents would believe what I saw as the most unbelievable thing.. that I was in fact being raped by my own brother.”
Abuse from a sibling is considered to be one of the most common forms of child sexual abuse within the family in the U.K. A child is three times more likely to be sexually abused by a sibling or step sibling than by a parent or step parent, yet it remains hidden, under-estimated and largely unacknowledged. Sibling sexual abuse is often downplayed by authorities as harmless childhood sexual experimentation despite the fact that the harmful and long lasting effects on the health and happiness of victims are well known.
As with violent abuse, the most frequently occuring form of sibling sexual abuse is an older brother abusing a younger sister. Societal shame and stigma around girls bodies can make it more difficult for victims to speak up and seek help, and the minimisation and lack of awareness is also a barrier. It can be difficult for us to see children as capable of sexually harming other children, they do not conform to the stereotype of the “creepy old man” and equally, it is difficult to try to explain that you have been harmed in such an intimate way by a child.
Apart from the shame and stigma and the lack of understanding, victims can be scared into silence. Threats of violence can be more credible coming from a sibling because most siblings spend a lot of unsupervised time together. Complex power dynamics are also a factor, and when the victim is younger, they may be less likely to be believed than an older sibling, perceived as more mature and sensible. Finally, parents can struggle to respond well to disclosures due to their own shame and guilt around their parenting, it is hugely difficult for a parent to comprehend that their child is sexually abusing their sibling and often it is easier for parents to dismiss the harmed sibling, than to face such a traumatic reality.
If you have been affected by this story or simply want to learn more the following websites are good starting points: