Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience by Jay Meg

Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience by Jay Meg

Author:Jay, Meg
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Psychology / Developmental / Lifespan Development, Self-Help / Personal Growth / Success, Psychology / Interpersonal Relations, Psychology / Developmental / Child, Family & Relationships / Life Stages / Adolescence, Family & Relationships / Bullying, Family & Relationships / Abuse / Child Abuse, Family & Relationships / Death, Grief, Bereavement, Family & Relationships / Dysfunctional Families, Family & Relationships / Divorce & Separation
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Published: 2017-11-14T05:00:00+00:00

Sibling sexual abuse is the most widespread form of sexual abuse within families—and the most neglected form, too. While most commonly occurring between an older brother and a younger sister, as it did for Rachel, any sibling configuration is possible, of course: Sisters abuse sisters; brothers abuse brothers; and sisters abuse brothers. Sometimes, there is a clear age and power difference between the offender and the victim, and sometimes the two siblings are very close in age. About half of adolescents who sexually assault another person, assault a sibling.

Though it can be difficult to distinguish from normal exploration or innocent sex play—or trivialized as a simple case of “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine”—sibling sexual abuse is sexual behavior between two siblings that goes beyond age-appropriate curiosity and that, often, is not transitory. Typically seen as less taboo than sexual activity between an adult and a child, sibling sexual abuse is hardly less serious. In fact, because they often have regular unsupervised access to one another, sexual activity between siblings tends to be more physically intrusive, more likely to involve bodily penetration, more frequent and more long lasting than that between an adult and a child. It may occur regularly over a period of many years, as it did for Rachel, until one of the siblings ages out of the home.

The more intrusive and frequent sibling sexual abuse is, the more likely it is to have lasting effects, yet the impact on one’s life is not predicted by the physicality of the abuse alone. Unwanted sexual attention from a brother or sister in the form of advances, stares, and exposure to pornography can be as damaging to a developing child as intercourse is. Yet perhaps what matters most is how one thinks about, or interprets, whatever it is that has happened. In one study of women who had experienced sibling sexual abuse as children, it was not the abuse itself that predicted depression and anxiety in adulthood, it was the beliefs one held about the sexual experiences that had occurred. Specifically, concluding that it is dangerous to let others get close, or that a normal life is not possible because of the abuse, was associated with worse outcomes in adulthood.

Many victims simply do not know what to think, partly because they are left alone to draw their own conclusions about what has transpired. Sibling sexual abuse is among the most unreported of all sex crimes, and for a multitude of reasons, victims rarely tell others about the abuse until many years later. Young children may not know what to say about what is happening between themselves and their siblings, or they may explicitly be told not to say anything at all. They may be uncomfortable with the sexual attention they receive, yet they may relish the special attention all the same, leaving them feeling confused. They simply may not know the behavior is wrong until they are older and the abuse has gone on for a time, leaving them feeling complicit.


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