The RCEW National Project on Sibling Sexual Abuse


Sibling sexual abuse is considered to be the most common form of child sexual abuse within the family setting in the UK. 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. Support services and researchers agree it has received little or no attention and there is a lack of academic literature on the subject.

Today, it 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 non-threatening childhood sexual experimentation that does not require attention. This is in spite of the known life-time effects of sexual violence and abuse on the health and happiness of victims and survivors.

The project

Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) is carrying out a new and ground-breaking project to support victims and survivors of recent and historic sibling sexual abuse.  The two-year project is the largest, Government-funded, project on sibling sexual abuse to date in the UK. It is also the first England-wide and Wales-wide project on sibling sexual abuse. It is funded by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice and will conclude in March 2022.

Project aims

The main aims of the project are to:

  • increase the provision of specialist support for both recent and historic victims and survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales to enable them to recover, heal and rebuild their lives.
  • improve the continuity, consistency and quality standards of specialist support for recent and historic victims and survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales.

Our findings will be published in two stages – November 2021 and February 2022 but we are already clear on two actions that should be taken now.  They are:

  • Sibling sexual abuse should be named in all intrafamilial national and local child safeguarding policies, and in all intrafamilial child sexual abuse strategies, and acknowledged for what it is: the most common form of child sexual abuse in our homes.
  • The voices of the children, families and adults affected by sibling sexual abuse are heard – both individually and collectively – and fully acknowledged within society and by us as individuals.

Project partners

RCEW is working in partnership with two rape crisis centres and two universities on the project. Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) in partnership with the University of the West of England, Bristol is overseeing 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 is overseeing the research and work on the provision of suitable support services and pathways for children and young people who have been harmed by sibling sexual abuse, children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours and their families.  SARSAS will also oversee the administration of the overall project.

The First National Conference on Sibling Sexual Abuse – February 2022

The RCEW SSA Project is hosting a virtual conference on Wednesday, 2 February 2022 to share the findings of this project with audiences across different relevant sectors and, to share knowledge and best practice on working with and supporting children, young people, families and adults affected by sibling sexual abuse.  It will be the first national conference on sibling sexual abuse in the UK to date.  If you would like to attend or require more information please contact us.

Are you interested in this project?

If you are interested in being involved in this project or you would like more information, please email:

Twitter: @ssa_rcew