Sibling Sex Abuse Or Innocent Fun?October 13, 2010 No Comments
Dear Madame X,
I have been away at school for the last year and have just returned home to my family. I have noticed something about my siblings that bothers me. I have a sister in her early teens and a brother who is around 5 (I’ll be vague because I want them to be anonymous). I have noticed that she likes to spend a lot of time alone with him. She likes babysitting and will cancel her own plans with friends, even when another sitter is available. She offers to bathe him and to tuck him in every night and has a fit when I want to. He is always on her lap and she is always tickling him (often behind closed doors). There is just something off here. Should I be concerned? Is there anything in particular I should watch out for?
Reading the Signs
Dear Reading the Signs,
First of all, let’s just say it to get it out in the open so there’s no miscommunication: you think your teenage sister might be sexually abusing your 5-year-old brother.
I understand that you’re worried, and you are doing your best to protect your siblings, and that is commendable.
Before freaking out, let’s keep in mind that there’s a chance that nothing untoward is going on here. Often siblings band together and get jealous of others infringing on their relationship. The fact that you’ve gone away for the last year to school might also have something to do with it. Maybe your sister feels abandoned and is worried you will take the brother away to school with you and she will be left all alone. Maybe they just enjoy spending time together and have their own silly games like all kids do.
Start by talking to your sister. Ask her why she has a fit when you try to look after your brother. Talk to her about what’s going on in her life, with friends, with school, with parents. Hopefully this will shed some light and allow you to see better what is happening. You can also point out the strange behaviours you have noticed to your parents and ask them what they think.
But what is missing is a picture of the entire family situation. How do your siblings interact with your parents? What is their relationship like? Does your sister look after your brother like a mother because your mother isn’t around most of the time? Do your parents think this behaviour is okay? Have your parents addressed this before or have they not noticed?
Just in case you are right, some signs that a child is being abused that you should keep a look out for are:
–he withdraws from normal activities
–he is afraid to be alone with her
–he has nightmares or sleep problems
–he has mood swings
–he has knowledge or behaves sexually in a way older than is appropriate
–he resists removing clothes
If you have any suspicions after doing a little further digging, you need to do something about it because protecting your siblings is the most important thing of all. And both your brother and sister will need help, should this be the case.
Contacting a child helpline, with experts who know the signs and symptoms of abuse, and know how these things are reported and dealt with, is probably the best option for you. The helpline can also provide support to you, because you probably are having a lot of emotional difficulties with this situation.
I sincerely hope you are wrong and that your siblings are just a jealous pair who enjoy spending time together.
But if not, please get yourself a counsellor who is familiar with child abuse and family therapy — you and your whole family will need a lot of support.
Madame X is a master of sex. She is adamantly pro-sex which she translates to pro-fun and pro-safety. An avid practitioner of the activity, she has also been trained in the technical dos and don’ts. No mere agony aunt, she knows of what she speaks. Send her your questions, comments, and concerns about sex and relationships here.