“We took turns”: How do child victims of intrafamilial child sexual abuse perceive and experience their siblings?

Carmit Katz*, Dafna Tener, Inbal Hindi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Intrafamilial child sexual abuse (IFCSA) is a traumatic experience that occurs within the family system. Although it is recognized with respect to its widespread epidemiology, dynamic and adverse consequences, little is known about the sibling subsystem. The current study was designed to examine the way child victims of IFCSA experience and perceive their siblings. Method: A thematic analysis was carried out on 60 forensic interviews with children aged 10–14 who were sexually abused by a parental figure. Each child had at least one sibling and referred to his or her siblings during the interview in the context of the abuse they experienced. It is important to note that in all cases more than one sibling was being abused by the parent. Results: The children's narratives provided a unique glance into three interrelated domains in their lives: the “normal” routine in which no abusive incidents occurred, the abusive routine in which the abuse occurred, and the disclosure process. These three domains identified two family profiles. The first described IFCSA that occurred in the family context, where the perpetrator ruled in terror and the sibling unit became unified, despite the consequences. The second was a profile of family chaos in which the abusive parents acted alongside abusive siblings and the sibling unit was often damaged with the children sharing their loneliness in this tumultuous setting. Conclusions: The current study spotlights the central role that the sibling subsystem has in the context of IFCSA. Furthermore, the conclusions point to an urgent need to promote efforts to support non-abused and abused siblings following disclosure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106227
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume130
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Child sexual abuse
  • Disclosure
  • Family dynamic
  • Forensic interviews
  • Sibling subsystem
  • Transmission of trauma

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