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Archive for July 27th, 2010

Last week, I blogged about child-on-child abuse. It occurred to me that I have not yet covered sibling abuse directly on my blog, so I will rectify that today.

Sibling abuse is when a child abuses his or her sibling. The victim can be older, the same age (a twin), or younger, and the child abuse can be physical, sexual, and/or emotional. This form of child abuse is much more common than most people appreciate. In fact, three of my close off-line friends suffered from this form of abuse.

As with other types of child-on-child abuse, the victims of sibling abuse often feel invalidated because the abuser was a child (instead of an adult) and because the abuser was a sibling. In many cases, the parents had at least some knowledge of the abuse but dismissed it, minimized it, or flat out denied it.

I have heard many times that half of the long-term emotional damage of child abuse comes from the abuse itself, but the other half of the damage comes from the parents’ or guardians’ reactions to the abuse. If two children experience the same exact abuse, the one with a supportive family that got the child into therapy and sought justice will not experience the same amount of collateral emotional damage as experienced by the child whose parents knew and did nothing.

For sibling abuse to happen, the parents have to, at the very least, be somewhat detached from their children. If the parents are not part of the abuse, then they are clearly not supervising the children very well if one child is abusing the other. Even if the parents truly had no idea that that sibling abuse was happening, the victim is going to view the family dynamic as a conspiracy that threw him under the bus, and the victim has every reason to feel this way.

As I have shared before, it is not developmentally appropriate for young children to keep secrets. For a child to keep the parents in the dark about ongoing sibling abuse, there were, at best, dysfunctional dynamics going on in the family. Bottom line – It is a parent’s job to keep the child safe. If your sibling abused you and your parents did not intervene, then your parents failed you. Sibling abuse IS abuse, just as much as any other form of child abuse.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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