He slammed her into the corner and began to punch her in the chest. Screaming for help, her mother came running and immediately laid down the law that you do not hit a girl and even more so, your sister.
Sadly, this is more common than you think. So common that they gave a name for it – Sibling Abuse.
Now you may think that this is normal for siblings to argue, throw some swinging fists or say mean things, because after all, they are kids. To prove my point on this, my brother and I were major fans of the show, The Three Stooges. We loved it so much that when the commercial break came on, we practiced every move they made on the show.
Of course what we didn’t know is that it really does hurt after you just had a broom slammed on top of your head or your eyes almost poked out. Most importantly, we also still loved each other in the end. However, what I am sharing about is very real, very serious, and a growing problem of life altering proportions.
I never really understood the issue since I love my brother despite our tiffs until I came across Nancy Kilgore’s book entitled, Girl in the Water – A True Story of Sibling Abuse. Did you know that the number one cause of child abuse, domestic abuse and bullying is actually sibling abuse? Did you also know that 19 million children a year are abused by their siblings?
In her book, she details the cruel abuse she received from her sister growing up. We’re not talking about the kind in which sister’s pull each other’s hair. We are talking about when an older sibling plans torture, suffocation, bullying, and almost death. Today she campaigns to bring truth to this international issue.
According to a 2005 study by the University of Michigan, the number of assaults each year to children by a sibling are about 35 per 100 kids. The same study found the rate to be similar across all income levels, racial and ethnic groups. Researchers also noted that sibling incest was more common than parent/child incest.
When children experience sibling abuse in their younger years, it progresses into their teens where depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety issues, and relational problems occur more often. It can also most likely bring on other disorders such as self-harm, anorexia and bulimia and sexual promiscuity. Unfortunately it can also lead to future sexual abuses, addictions, bullying and violence.
As I mentioned earlier, sibling squabbles is different from sibling abuse. So how can you tell the difference?
– One sibling is more aggressive and less empathetic
– A child has difficulty sleeping, nightmares, changed eating habits
– A child acts out inappropriately (touching of others)
– Play between siblings become more violent with one child leading that violence
– A child hides from their other siblings
– One sibling gets hurt continuously
So what are some of the reasons why sibling abuse happens?
– Parents are not present enough around their children
– Competition among siblings for the attention of parents
– Parents favoring one of the siblings
– Parents encourage innocent rivalry between siblings and view this as normal
– A Child is not taught conflict resolution in a positive way
– Children are exposed to violence (television, videos, games)
– Parents in denial that there is a problem
– A child was sexually abused or saw sexual abuse as well as porn
– Older teens given too much responsibility over younger children
– Living conditions in which there is no room for physical or emotional space
So how can you stop sibling abuse?
– Set rules of how to resolve problems between siblings
– Have them play in an open area where they can be seen
– Show them different ways of expressing their anger, disappointment, fear
– Teach them that belittling, bullying, and teasing is wrong. There are great books on this as well as videos for them to watch
– Spend equal time with each sibling so that jealousy does not arise and to have an open door of communication if a child needs a parent to confide in
– Have each sibling do something kind for each other
– Give positive reinforcement – Each child must complement each other on something they did well or appreciate
– Teach them to say “no” to unwanted physical touch and to tell someone immediately
– Seek out counseling or family therapy
– If a child says that they were touched inappropriately, take it SERIOUSLY. Never doubt anything until they have seen a therapist or counselor. Sadly, because sibling incest does exist, you cannot ignore that this won’t happen. Better to find out quickly, get help and heal than to have a child suffer in silence thinking their parent didn’t understand or didn’t care.
There are many things you can do to keep sibling abuse from happening. The first step to taking control as a parent is to recognize that there is a possibility of it being in your home. Don’t be ashamed. Be pro-active in getting the support and help that your family needs.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica®.