Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) is announcing today that it is leading a national project on supporting survivors of sibling sexual abuse. It is the largest, Government-funded, project on sibling sexual abuse to date in the United Kingdom. The two-year project across England and Wales will be funded by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.
RCEW will partner with two Rape Crisis Centres and two universities on the National RCEW Sibling Sexual Abuse Project. Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) in partnership with the University of the West of England, Bristol will oversee research and work on the provision of specialist trauma-informed support services for historic adult survivors. West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (WMRSASC) in partnership with the University of Birmingham will oversee the research and work on the provision of suitable support services and pathways for children from the age of five and young people who are current victims and survivors of sibling sexual abuse. The project will include working with children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours and their families.
Sibling sexual abuse is considered to be the most common form of child sexual abuse within the family setting. Children are more likely to be sexually abused by their siblings – brothers and sisters and step-brothers and step-sisters – than by their parents. Yet, society’s awareness of sibling sexual abuse has trailed behind other child abuse issues and concerns. Sibling sexual abuse remains a hidden, chronically under-estimated and untreated form of child sexual abuse. It continues to be ignored, played down or denied by parents, professionals and authorities as harmless or nonthreatening childhood sexual experimentation that does not require attention. Support services and researchers agree it has received little attention and there is a lack of academic literature on the subject. This is in spite of the known life-time effects of sexual abuse on the health and happiness of victims and survivors.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said, “With Government backing, Rape Crisis England & Wales will be able to improve research and awareness of sibling sexual abuse, and provide the specialist support that victims and survivors need to recover from this distressing and seldom discussed form of abuse.”
The main aims of the two-year national project are to increase the provision of specialist support for both recent and historic survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales in order to enable them to recover, heal and rebuild their lives. And, to improve the continuity, consistency and quality standards of specialist support for recent and historic survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales.
Claire Bloor, RCEW Trustee said,
‘We warmly welcome the Home Office’s announcement to fund RCEW to increase the provision and quality of specialist support for sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales. Sibling sexual abuse is a complex and insidiously destructive form of child sexual abuse where a child is both the person harmed and the person doing the harm. We need to breakdown our entrenched cultural mindset and societal attitudes that exist around sibling relationships and sibling sexual abuse. This project is a great step forward in raising awareness of sibling sexual abuse and improving the knowledge and provision of support for survivors.”
Jocelyn Anderson, CEO of WMRSASC said, “We are very pleased to be working with RCEW on this project. We know from our current work abused children bury the secret of sibling sexual abuse deep within them and few will disclose what has happened. They fear the impact a disclosure may have on their family including their abusing sibling. This project will increase the provision and quality of specialist support to children, young people – and their families – across England and Wales impacted by sibling sexual abuse. It will help them all recover, heal and rebuild their lives for the future.”
Professor Kieran McCartan, Professor of Criminology, the University of the West of England, Bristol said, “Sibling sexual abuse is one of the most under-researched areas of child and adolescent sexual abuse, both nationally and internationally. The aim of this project is to better understand the reality and impact of this form of sexual abuse on the life-course development of those affected by it. Sexual abuse commonly happens in families, we need to better understand the reality of sexual abuse with families, especially between siblings, to better understand how to respond to it when it does happen and prevent it before it can happen.”
Dr. Sophie King-Hill, Senior Fellow, Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham said, “This project is vastly important in a field where there is very little research. The aim of the project is to support recent and historic survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales by providing and developing consistent, robust evaluation and support. The project will provide assessment pathways for those who are dual status using evidence based approaches to inform the actions taken. The project will provide much needed valuable insight into SSA resulting in better outcomes and understanding for survivors and their families.”
The project will have three stages with a national roll-out in early 2022 to Rape Crisis Centres and third-sector, criminal justice system, education, NHS and local authority partners. The project will be completed by March 2022.
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