Sibling sexual abuse

Sibling sexual abuse

Mary Stathopoulos

ACSSA Research Summary No. 3 — October 2012
Sibling sexual abuse

Key messages

Sibling sexual abuse is more prevalent than other forms of intra-familial sexual abuse.

There are significant barriers to disclosure for children who are being abused by a sibling.

The impacts of sibling sexual abuse can be similar to other forms of sexual abuse.

Young people with problematic sexual behaviours require not only legal, but also therapeutic interventions.

Parental support of all children involved in sibling sexual abuse contributes to greater therapeutic outcomes.

Sibling sexual abuse is a hidden and often under-reported form of sexual abuse. Studies indicate that sibling sexual abuse is more prevalent than other types of intra-familial sexual abuse. Due to the mostly close relationship and physical proximity between siblings, sibling sexual abuse is considered an opportunistic form of abuse. Abusive siblings are often displaying problematic sexual behaviours or developmentally inappropriate behaviours that may be the result of victimisation they have encountered themselves - either witnessed or experienced. Abused siblings often do not disclose being abused due, among other things, to fear of not being believed, fear of upsetting parents, or confusion over their role in the abuse. Current therapeutic frameworks suggest providing counselling for the whole family.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Mary Stathopoulos was a Senior Research Officer at the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault.

The author would like to thank AIFS staff, particularly Antonia Quadara, Cindy Tarczon and Daryl Higgins for their guidance and feedback through out the production of this publication.

Publication details

ACSSA Research Summary
No. 3
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2012.
18 pp.
Suggested citation:

Stathopoulos, M. (2012). Sibling sexual abuse (ACSSA Research Summary). Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.