A forum examining the complex issues that arise from sibling sexual abuse – and ways to help families recover – has been told most of the children and young people who abuse their brother or sister are victims of trauma themselves.
The forum – one of a regular series held by the Integrated Violence Protection and Response Service – was told research indicated sibling sexual assault was more prevalent than other forms of intra-familial sexual abuse and has lifelong impacts on family, peer and romantic relationships.
Sibling sexual assault is defined as “sexual acts between siblings that are initiated by one sibling without the other’s consent”.
“While sexual exploration is part of normal child development, some behaviours can be concerning if they become excessive, a preoccupation for the child or the behaviours involve other children in inappropriate ways,” a facilitator at the forum said.
“It is important to remember that children and young people who engage in sexually inappropriate or abusive behaviour against a sibling are not young ‘paedophiles’, but often themselves likely to be victims of trauma.”
Problematic sexual behaviours require specialised therapeutic interventions and the best outcome for everyone involved includes attempts to build strong relationships within the family, by finding a way to support both the child with the abusive behaviour and his/her abused sibling, the forum was told.
Collaborative interagency intervention is also essential in sibling sexual abuse interventions.
There are a range of health services available to support families who have experienced sibling sexual abuse, both within WSLHD and externally.
Counselling services for children under 10:
Where the sexualised or sexually abusive behaviour occurs in the context of a background substantiated abuse and neglect, including exposure to domestic violence, call Child Protection Counselling Services (9881 8787).
Where there has been sexualised behaviour along with a substantiated history of sexual abuse, contact Sexual Assault Services (9881 8700).
Where there has been sexualised behaviour in the absence of a disclosure of past abuse, contact Child & Family Community Health Teams (1800 600 681).
Counselling services for children over 10:
For 10-17 year olds with sexually harmful or sexually abusive behaviours, contact Sydney Metro New Street Services (9840 4088).