Sibling abuse is the physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of one sibling by another and typically takes place between family members that are closer in age and living under the same roof. Sibling abuse typically goes undetected as the parents, and mental health professionals dismiss abusive behaviors of children as a normal part of growing up. However, it is important to understand the various kinds of sibling abuse and its signs to properly detect and prevent them.

Types of Sibling Abuse:

Physical Abuse: Any willful act that results in physical injuries, such as slapping, kicking, hitting, choking, etc., can be counted as physical abuse. In its violent forms, an abuser could use objects or instruments to cause physical injury. As it happens inside a family, this kind of physical injury, which otherwise will be considered physical assault, is typically brushed off as normal sibling rivalry that simply got out of control.

Emotional Abuse: The most destructive among all kinds of abuse, emotional abuse is the one that is often neglected and brushed off because of the lack of physical evidence. Emotional abuse between siblings may manifest as name-calling, ridiculing and belittling, threatening or destroying the personal possessions of a sibling. The damages of emotional abuse are psychological and could impact a victim’s life well into adulthood.

Sexual Abuse: Sibling abuse is any kind of inappropriate sexual contact; this could be unwanted touching or fondling, or attempted intercourse. Sexual abuse is often followed by emotional abuse as the perpetrator tries to threaten and intimidate the victim into preventing them from talking. All parents like to believe that sexual abuse would never happen in their own home, which is precisely why sibling incest goes undetected.

Signs to Detect Sibling Abuse:

Listening to and observing your children is one of the ways to detect sibling abuse early. If your child complains to you about an older sibling, pay attention to the situation closely and not be quick to dismiss it. You can look out for signs such as withdrawal or self-isolation, the reluctance of one sibling to go near the other, changes in sleep patterns, a lack of focus and concentration, unexplained physical injuries, unbelievable stories around bruises or marks, low confidence and self-esteem and lack of interest in activities that were enjoyable before. Victims may also exhibit a lack of assertiveness, develop eating disorders or become overly aggressive or submissive. Some other signs that might require immediate medical attention are suicidal tendencies and frequent attempts to run away from home.

sibling abuse

Methods of Prevention:

You have detected sibling abuse in your home. Now how do you respond? And what are some immediate measures to take to prevent abuse in the future? You can start with not dismissing the victims’ complaints or overlooking abusive behaviors. Offering support and reassurance will help them to open up and speak more. Talk to your kid about healthy boundaries and encourage them to keep them with their siblings. Talking to your children separately will help you get things into perspective. As there are limits to what a parent can understand about an event that occurred when they were absent, keeping close supervision of your children at all times is a good idea. One method is to employ secret cameras throughout your home to ensure good behavior while you are absent. If the situation at home is getting out of hand, you can consult a professional and take adequate measures to separate the siblings in question- preferably to two different rooms.

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