Therapeutic interventions with child survivors of sibling sexual abuse: The professionals’ perspective
Fiche mise à jour le 4 juin 2020
Sibling sexual abuse (SSA) is a continuum of childhood sexual behaviors that do not fit age-appropriate curiosity. SSA may be the most prevalent, longest lasting form of intrafamilial sexual abuse – and the least reported, studied and treated.
This exploratory qualitative study examined the experience of intervention with SSA survivors from the perspective of mental health professionals, and explored their major therapeutic challenges.
Participants and setting
The sample consisted of 20 Jewish Israeli mental health professionals working in private clinics or public social welfare services who had experience with SSA.
Semi-structured interviews focusing on the characteristics of SSA events, perceptions about the effects of abuse, intervention priorities and therapeutic challenges compared to other types of child abuse.
Professionals working with SSA survivors are preoccupied with the need to provide them with physical and emotional protection, as well as to help them process the abuse narrative. They also find themselves dealing with survivors who do not experience themselves as victims despite external evidence of abuse, or with the need to reconcile their perception of the sexual relationship as mutual, as opposed to the formal requirement to differentiate between “offender” and “victim”. In either case, the reality of these survivors can be just as painful as in other SSA cases.
The complexity of SSA calls for unique intervention skills, including working with survivor narratives that do not fit the victim/offender dichotomy on one hand and that do not minimize the potentially harsh consequences of SSA on the other.
- SSA: definition, prevalence and reporting
- SSA: characteristics and dynamics
- Therapeutic intervention with SSA survivors
- Data analysis
- Ensuring the survivors’ physical and emotional safety
- Creating a new narrative
- The grey areas
- When the survivors do not perceive themselves as abuse victims
- When professionals cannot clearly label one of the siblings as “perpetrator”
- Limitations and future directions