Sunday, March 23, 2008

Scribbling Siblings? Well...

Did you know that
Sibling abuse is
One of the most common forms
Of family violence?

Can't help wondering... what you're wondering about?
I wonder if the net isn't providing a great way for some to talk about abuse and gain some healing in the process.

As with so many other things related to child abuse, the veil of secrecy enshrouds that of sibling abuse. It simply isn't a subject that comes up easily, even or especially within families.

My children were all grown before they began to tell me horrible stories of their experiences with each other when young. They told finally with the sense of safety that comes with time and distance… and the support of one another… and with a deliberate use of humor to lessen re-experiencing the degree of pain and actual cruelty of the experiences.

Had my mother lived past 42, would my brothers and I have eventually regaled her with similarly humorous stories about the ways we abused one another as children? We certainly never brought the subject up with Dad who lived ten years longr than Mom… but then it seems with Dad we never acknowledged the elephant of violence and abuse in any of its many guises.

From discussions with others my guess is that even as adults the subject of sibling abuse may not surface in many families…ever. I suspect the openness that developed in our family came as a result of me owning my part in it all with them, keeping the subject of abuse open, and subsequent discussions both personal and abstract as I strived to learn and share more about child abuse in general.

Not surprisingly, given that she received the most of the worst from me, the oldest was more often named as offender for perpetrating violence against her brother and sister during their childhoods. After listening to how she deliberately slammed doors on hands, held knives to their throats, and other clearly abusive actions, I asked, "But where was I?"

As a stay at home mom, aware that she was acting out her own pain and anger, and openly mean to her sibs in so many ways, I thought I did everything possible to protect them from her angry outbursts. "Oh, you were always there, Mom, but we didn't dare make a sound or tell. We knew she would make us very sorry if we did."

Sibling abuse is not often recognized as resulting in serious trauma yet. Too many well-educated people, immersed in the field of child maltreatment in one discipline or another, persist in minimizing the degree of frequency and further minimize any as "just kids stuff"… nothing more than sibling rivalry.

Recently, there is more interest in sibling abuse as a valid subject for solid research. But for now, those who endured it need to speak out in order to heal themselves…and to open the conversation so others may feel safe in doing so, too. There are places on line where people are sharing their stories on this abuse as they share about other abuses. Comments on a recent post on "Well," a health-related blog, show the depth of pain about sibling abuse and how some are dealing with it.

In it's simplest terms sibling abuse includes all the types of abuse...physical, emotional, sexual, and neglect. And it traumatizes children deeply in ways similar to that of other domestic violences. Trust is destroyed both by the perpetrator and by those who fail to protect the children…and this may be worse in many ways… by those who deny the sibling abuse when told of it.

I also think that eventually research will determine that sibling abuse has two victims…the obvious child-victim of the abuse, and the child abusing his or her siblings who is sustaining developmental damage that changes him or her, too. Abused children need our protection and help. Abusive children also need help and protection, not condemnation, and extra effort to stop them...for the sake of all.

Looking for more information:

Siblings Behaving Badly

Brothers and Sisters of Abuse Victims Often Help Cover Up or Even Commit Abuse
Beyond rivalry, a Hidden World of Sibling Violence

Sibling Abuse

Sibling Conflicts: Roughhousing vs. Abuse

Sibling Rivalry? Think Again...

What makes kids care? Teaching gentleness in a violent world

Selected Resources on Sibling Abuse: An Annotated Bibliography for Researchers, Educators and Consumers

Sibling Abuse Forums

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

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