The RCEW National Project on Sibling Sexual Abuse

Introduction

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. 

In March 2021, the project is interviewing adults, families and children affected by sibling sexual abuse – across England and Wales – and professionals working with impacted individuals and families.  These interviews are part of two academic research studies and pparticipants with lived experience will not be asked to recall or describe abuse or incidents of trauma.  More information on the research and details on how you could be involved can be found here.

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.

Project partners

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.

Project research

The University of Birmingham and the University of West of England, Bristol are undertaking academic research for the project.  They are interviewing adults, families and children affected by sibling sexual abuse – across England and Wales – and professionals working with impacted individuals and families.

The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) is undertaking research on the provision of specialist trauma-informed support services for adults (aged 18 and above) who were harmed as children by sibling sexual abuse.

The University of Birmingham is undertaking research on:

a) researching, designing and providing a risk assessment tool that will identify whether a child and young person between the age of 5 and 17 years, has experienced sexual harm as a result of sibling sexual abuse or has dual experience status or is a child that has exhibited Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) or Problematic Sexual Behaviour (PSB). This risk assessment will be designed for use by Rape Crisis Centres, the Third Sector, the NHS and Local Authorities etc.

b) identifying suitable referral process and support pathways to be used by Rape Crisis Centres, the Third Sector, the NHS and Local Authorities in order to support children and young people (5+) who have experienced sexual harm; or have dual experience status and is a child or young person who has Problematic Sexual Behaviour (PSB) or Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB).

In February 2021, we are recruiting participants from across England and Wales for the research and in March 2021 we will be undertaking the interviews.  They will be 30-45 minutes long and on a platform such as Teams or by telephone.  We will have a safeguarding framework around all adults, children and young people who are participants and have been affected by sibling sexual abuse.  More information on the research and details on how you could be involved can be found here.

Are you interested in this project?

If you are interested in being involved in this project or you would like more information, please email: rcewssaproject@sarsas.org.uk

Twitter: @ssa_rcew