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Sibling Abuse Laws

What is sibling abuse?

Sibling abuse seems to be more common than any other type of abuse and many times goes unnoticed. Sibling abuse -- often called inter-sibling abuse -- is any type of repetitive physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse of one sibling from another. Many times sibling abuse occurs more frequently in dysfunctional, neglectful or abusive homes.

If a teenager was a victim of sibling abuse and wants to talk to a therapist, can the perpetrator be charged for a criminal charge if the therapist goes to the authorities with information given from the victim?

Depending on how long ago the actual events took place, the age of the victim, as well as the severity of the sibling abuse, the therapist may handle the information given differently. Many states have differing statute of limitations and each situation would probably be taken on a case by case basis. However, in most situations any information that is given to medical practitioner by an adult is considered confidential and should not be discussed without consent of the adult. If the victim is a child, the therapist is legally bound to protect the best interest of the child, and in many cases that means reporting the findings to proper authorities.

Where can someone get help for past sibling abuse?

Depending on the situation and the age of the victim, usually the first step is to remove the victim from the situation. Reporting sibling abuse can be hard and can have many legal implications depending on who has the knowledge that the sibling abuse is going on. There are many child abuse hotlines that often deal in abuse and can point the victim to the right help specifically for their case.

How would someone identify sibling abuse and be able to tell the difference from sibling rivalry or sibling abuse?

At times, all siblings squabble and call each other mean names, and some young siblings may "play doctor". But here is the difference between typical sibling behavior and verbal mental and sexual abuse: If one child is always the victim and the other child is always the aggressor, it could be an abusive situation. Some possible signs of sibling abuse are:
• One child always avoids their sibling
• A child has changes in behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits, or has nightmares
• A child acts out abuse in play
• A child acts out sexually in inappropriate ways
• The children’s roles are rigid: one child is always the aggressor, the other, the victim
• The roughness or violence between siblings is increasing over time

How can a parent prevent sibling abuse from taking place between their children?

• Reduce the rivalries between your children.
• Set ground rules to prevent emotional abuse, and stick to them. For example, make it clear you will not put up with name-calling, teasing, belittling, intimidating, or provoking.
• Don't give your older children too much responsibility for your younger kids. For example, use after-school care programs, rather than leaving older children in charge of younger ones after school.
• Set aside time regularly to talk with your children one-on-one, especially after they've been alone together.
• Know when to intervene in your kids’ conflicts, to prevent an escalation to abuse.
• Learn to mediate conflicts.
• Model good conflict-solving skills for your children.
• Model non-violence for your children.
• Teach your children to "own" their own bodies.
• Teach them to say “no” to unwanted physical contact.
• Create a family atmosphere where everyone feels at ease talking about sexual issues and problems.
• Keep an eye on your kids’ media choices (TV, video games, and Internet surfing), and either join in and then discuss the media messages or ban the poor choices.
• In short, stay actively involved in your kids’ lives

There have been many studies that have shown that sibling abuse is more common than any type of other family abuse and by far is the least detected because many times parents and other family members do not recognize the signs. Most seem to think that sibling abuse is far less dangerous than other types of abuse because of the old saying “kids will be kids”, however that is not always the case.
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