How would you define sibling abuse?
Is it minimized because most see it as just brothers and sisters fighting? I'm writing a hub about it and would like to know your opinions and experiences.
Either the parents of the currently abused child do not get along and use the child to let out steam.
Or - one, or both, of the parents was abused by their parents and carries it forward - by habit (subconsciously) - to take out on their child, but they do not know why they do it.
Simply put on some level it happens in every household. Big brothers and sisters attempt to control their younger siblings when the adults are not around. Sometimes parents unintentionally encourage the behavior by insisting the older child "should know better" even when he or she is only one year older! They may even hold them responsible for their younger siblings behavior.
Most "abuse" goes no further than arm twisting or a threat of black mail of some kind. In the end most siblings stick up for one another!
It would be abnormal however if siblings had full on fist fights, stabbed each other, raped or sexually abused one another.
Any type of action, be it verbal, non verbal, physical, what have you, that makes the other sibling feel inferior, negative, or bad about themselves in some way is to me, abuse. I dont know about sibling abuse because I have a wonderful brother, but my father was abusive emotionally and mentally, which can leave lasting scars the same way physical abuse does.
I've seen a few cases of it; two are:
1st case: A mentally ill mom forced a 13-yr-old girl consistently to do as her 3-yr-old sis ordered, also forced both to watch porn films, required them to earn points to get each meal (rules kept changing), etc. Older sis was severely underfed & underweight. The girls abused each other in several ways until the younger one was removed from the home.
2nd case: Parents helped & encouraged a younger son (8) to abuse the older son (10). The younger boy attacked the bro. late nights with sharp finger nails, nail files, etc. in older boy's bed, leaving blood & deep scratches over face, arms, and abdomen; repeatedly striking the groin area as well. Younger boy bit older boy on the arms in public, drawing blood; parents laughed. Family and individual counseling largely failed. Younger boy became alcoholic, disappeared after high school, and died. Older boy left home, received counseling long-term. Child Services would not intervene, because their case load was reportedly already too heavy.
In both cases, parents were instigators of a sort, I'd say because of mental illness.
A case reported in Indiana was of a young adopted boy (age 5) that physically abused younger sisters (3 and 4), nearly killing one, and setting the house on fire in the middle of the night. Court records showed the adoption agency records stating that the boy had three Severe Mental Disorders that were not reported to the adoptive parents. Still, the judge in the case forced the adoptive parents to keep him. The case disappeared from the news, but I suspect that long-term hospitalization occurred for the boy. So, this abuse probably had a psychiatric base imo.
I have not seen a molestation abuse case between siblings in my own experience, but have read about such cases.
I've heard of some horrific ones, Patty. You've given a lot of detail that informs us just how serious and real the problem is involving siblings. The interveners as yourself and Galadriel above, must part-take in self-care. Thank you for answering.
I have investigations that may answer this question for you
In the first case, an older child was receiving unjustified abuse from his father for his and his younger siblings perceived wrongs; i.e. sticking his head underwater and releasing him just before drowning in the tub, whipping his back leaving welt marks, and electrocution using live wires any and everywhere].
After of years in silence the older child attempted to hang a younger brother using a rope and a tree in their backyard. Well that child screamed "bloody murder" and unbelievably a neighbor heard his cried and sent the police to the house. That child was rescued, and when the officer took the older child to jail, he noted the severe abuse evident. As a Child Abuse investigator, I removed the other children from the home and placed them in foster care with counseling. The older child was not charged as he was too young. He believed that brother was tattling on him and getting him more abuse. He was placed in safe harbor and remained in care until he was 21. The mental damage done to him was not something anyone seemed to be able to counsel away. He abused his younger brother.
There was another case that I investigated where the grandfather was the caregiver of his sons and daughter-in-laws two children; boy and girl. Over years in silence that girl suffered rape from that man and when they got to 6 and 7 the grandfather began having the boy who was older rape his sister while he watched. He videoed the sessions. All the while not one of the parents was alert enough or aware of what was being done. A male friend of the couple was put out of his apartment and he had no where to stay. This couple had two apartments in the back of the home. One was for grandpa, and they let this man stay in the other. Within a weeks time, that man contacted the police and Child Protective Services about what was going on. I removed both children. Police put grandpa in jail and he was sentenced for 20 years, and the children received counseling. The boy was never able to see the sister again. He never got over his abuse. She grew up safe and eventually married and has children. The older brother abused his younger sister.
These are physical and sexual abuse stories about real events. There is also mental abuse which I could tell about, but you get the idea.
Thanks for answering, Galadriel. You've certainly given enough that I more than get the idea. The cycle of abuse is unspeakable in so many cases unheard. People don't realize that this type of trauma goes on more than we can see.
The sibling relationship is a complex one. It is oftentimes filled with envy, either overt or covert. Anytime there is more than one child in the family, there is going to be territoriality between and/or among children in that household. In multichild households, children compete with each other for parental resources whether it is emotional, psychological, and/or financial.
Then there is the issue of birth order. When a succedent child is born, the other child feels displaced. This feeling of displacement turns to envy, which can be expressed in degrees of negativity from emotional to physical. It is common in many families for oldest/older children to resent younger/youngest children for the seemingly preferential treatment the latter receives.
In many families, oldest/older children are oftentimes treated more differentially by parents than their younger/youngest siblings. Oldest/ older children are held to a higher standard of behavior than their younger/youngest counterparts. They are punished and chastised for offenses which the younger/youngest isn't. This breeds further resentment of the oldest/older children towards the younger/youngest child. Of course, many younger/youngest children use this as a leverage on the oldest/older children.
Many oldest/older children believe that becaues they are the oldest/older ones, that their power and might equals right. They feel that they can bully their younger/youngest siblings to do their bidding and to bow to their will. It can be quite de rigueur for oldest/older siblings to emotionally, verbally, even physically bully younger/youngest children because of the former's physical strength and mental cunning. However, the reverse can also happen, younger/youngest children can mentally and psychologically bully their oldest/older siblings because the latter is used to receiving the lion's share of parental attention.
There is the issue of favoritism, favorite siblings are often resented and oftentimes ostracized by their less favored siblings. The less favored sibling feels quite inconsequential in the family scheme of things and displaces this feeling towards the more favored siblings. The less favored siblings can be the black sheep or the anomaly in the family so they may be stigmatized and marginalized by other siblings because they are viewed as "the other" and "the outsider." I grew up w/people who had siblings and the DRAMA involved from parents, relatives, and friends.
Yes, gmwilliams, you've touched on some important dynamics between siblings that often lay the foundation out of which one abuses the other. Thank you for answering.
Quite welcome indeed. I wanted to say more but the space was too short. Should have written a hub. Perhaps I will write yet another hub on the sibling dynamic in the future!
gmwilliams, Excellent point regarding a parent's" favoritism" towards a child."If this house were on fire and Timmy is holding a gas can and a match you'd blame me!" Sometimes this is the driving force that causes their sibling to mistreat them.
jan.....I believe I am becoming hyper sensitive in my old age. I could barely read these comments reporting case histories without getting physically ill and on the verge of tears.
Sibling abuse is a concept I cannot even begin to conceive...although I am painfully aware that just like all forms of abuse, it does exist.
My only experience in life with my only sibling (older sister) was quite the contrary. We had a wonderful, close and very loving relationship. As adult women, we were the best of friends. For as long as I can remember, she was my "idol."
Sadly, I am using past tense jan, because we lost her 11 years ago. Every day of these past 11 years, I miss her...so very much.
As far as my 4 sons are concerned.....believe it or not, they all got along quite well. They "played rough with one another" (BOYS!) but never had serious fights and surely were not "abusive."
Apparently, I made it clear, firmly and often that abuse toward one another would simply not be tolerated ...but swiftly dealt with.
They're all married adults now and although living in different areas, they keep in touch, get together whenever possible and are "there" for one another when issues may arise.
My sister and I come from TWO (both Mom & Dad) long lines of "Family First" ...loyal & loving families who were all very bonded with their siblings......This has obviously been passed on through the generations.
I do feel this makes us very VERY lucky. I know what sibling abuse is or can be, but have not ever experienced it. In the cases mentioned here in the comments, it's clear the parents were either very sick or just ignorant. They not only encouraged abuse, but enjoyed it. TWISTED people are every where.
Appreciate your comments, Paula. Thank you for answering a very tough question. I admit, it was difficult for me to read some of the responses, too. But I asked the question and got the detailed answers.
LOL...Jan....I guess we need to be careful what we ask for.....like you said, people are willing to respond and include graphic details....but that's what makes for interesting reading & learning! Accurate reporting.
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