This article on sibling abuse raises some interesting points on why it happens and signs to look out for.
It does seem to be focused mainly on sibling sexual abuse rather than physical or emotional abuse. All forms of sibling abuse are hard to get statistics for as in all the studies I’ve researched the sibling figures are included in “other family” general categories.
This quote from the article on impact for me is key for people to understand:
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF SIBLING ABUSE?
Time does not necessarily heal. Adult victims of childhood sibling abuse generally have lower self-esteem and are overly sensitive and insecure. They have trouble with relationships and repeat the victim role in their other relationships. They can have sexual functioning problems. There is continued self-blame at the same time that anger at their perpetrator is played out with others.
This article describes very clearly what it is like to be the family scapegoat in a toxic and abusive family dynamic.
This is a form of emotional abuse. Not only does it involve gas lighting where your experience of reality is denied and twisted, but it also can include collusion from all the family members. While they may not be as active at scapegoating, if they choose to be convinced and don’t take the time to reflect on what is really happening they are colluding with it.
How hard though is it for the person set up as the scapegoat to recover? The sad truth is very hard and this may take a lot of work and self-reflection. When these behaviour patterns get set into us in childhood we can take a lifetime to undo them.
If any of the points are resonating with you though, don’t give up hope. Because while it is hard work to recover, its worth it to find your authentic self and what you are truly capable of.
This article describes really well what happens with imposter syndrome.
In my experience it is very linked to emotional abuse; not just from parents and guardians but also siblings.
Siblings who resent the attention that another sibling gets can cause great damage with their jealously. When you end up feeling insecure and paranoid because of doing well at something it doesn’t help you grow into a confident and secure adult.
Gas lighting takes away a persons ability to trust in reality and they can end up blaming themselves for the appalling behaviour of another person.
“If I was better/smarter/slimmer/kinder/quieter/cleverer/etc then they wouldn’t be so upset and frustrated with me”.
Other people can get pulled into it as well and can see the victim in the way the perpetrators wants them to so they miss the abuse that is happening.
This isn’t limited to gender roles either, despite the most common examples being reported as men abusing women. It also isn’t limited to partners; its a form of abuse that can occur with any type of relationship. Family, friends, work. I have worked with sibling abuse in this form and also adults who were raised by parents who did this.
It takes the victim time and space to trust their own perceptions again; to stop self blaming. They may never heal completely, but it is possible to bring about a lot of change.
I have found this incredibly moving piece on being the parent of a perpetrator and survivor of sibling abuse.
What is most distressing is the judgement the parents are experiencing and the lack of support and action by authorities. When will people take this abuse seriously? Why should the victims horrendous experiences be dismissed in this way because of the fact her abuser was her sister. As long as this keeps being swept under the carpet in this way nothing will change to tackle this dangerous form of abuse.
I Am the Mother of Both an Abuse Survivor and a Perpetrator
One of the most distressing things for a parent will be the realisation that there is sexual abuse between their children.
This leaflet is produced by MOSAC, an incredible organisation working with mothers of sexually abused children.
There are as many types of emotionally abusive relationships as there are types of abuse. Parent to child, partners, friends, work colleagues, but one that doesn’t get a lot of attention is between siblings.
These can be full, half or step siblings involved and while it’s usually the older siblings abusing the younger it isn’t always the case.
Name calling and belittling, being excluded, being made to feel worthless. All this things will have long lasting consequences to the victim. Low self esteem, a need to put others first, a need to never make mistakes.
What doesn’t get noticed though is quite often the underlying message of not feeling loveable. After all, if your own siblings hate you and treat you so badly there must be something wrong with you? The child experiencing this is going to internalise this sort of message very young. They are being abused by siblings they love and look up to. They don’t have the ability to rationalise that the problem isn’t them.
So they will grow up with this message embedded deep inside as a self concept, even if they never name it.
There is a good chance they will never even realise that their experiences were abusive. After all everyone knows siblings can be difficult and sibling rivalry is normal.So it may well be downplayed and minimised by other members of the family whilst the low self esteem it created has a lifelong impact.
So what can be done to help? The first step is to really reflect on where you are? Do you find yourself always trying to put others needs before your own? Do you find it difficult to be with your siblings or have lost contact completely? Do you jokingly say my sibling always hated me and try and pretend that didn’t hurt!
Starting to explore that relationship can help you look at the current and past situations from a different perspective and give you the insights to change things in the future. It may be a painful experience but hopefully it will be worthwhile.
I came across the image below and I found it incredibly powerful.
While it applies to any form of suffering, it is very common for the abuse between siblings to be ignored or dismissed. Society tends to downplay problems between siblings and categorise them as normal family dynamics. They are not always normal though.
Emotional, physical and sexual abuse all have long term impacts on the victim and when people around you act as if nothing bad happened it can be devastating. On top of that you are also expected to remain in a relationship with your abuser by family and friends.
This adds another layer of violence to what has already been suffered.