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. Support services and researchers agree it has received little 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 nonthreatening 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.
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.
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.
RCEW will partner 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 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. SARSAS will also oversee the administration of the overall project.