Sibling Abuse: Children Abusing Other ChildrenMarch 8, 2010 • By Roni Weisberg-Ross, LMFT, Abuse / Survivors of Abuse Topic Expert Contributor
Even though there can be life long debilitating psychological effects, sibling abuse may be the most ignored—if not accepted—form of domestic abuse (i.e. sexual, physical, emotional). Why is this kind of abuse ignored or minimized? There is a lot that is swept under the rug in the guise of “sibling rivalry.” And American law does not consider this a prosecutable offense unless a child is turned in by their parent(s). In other words, parents would have to be willing to file an assault charge against their own child. So parents keep this type of abuse within the family. And a lot of the time, they even blame the victim.
First some statistics: In an article entitled “A Major Threat to Children’s’ Mental Health,” Hart & Brassard reported that “There is evidence that brother-sister sexual relationships may be five times as common as father-daughter incest.” Finklehor and Baron, who are prominent researchers in the area of child abuse, state that “sibling sexual abuse is prevalent in a remarkably large quantity of individuals from virtually all social and family circumstances.” And a survey of 796 undergraduates of six New England colleges found that 15% of the females and 10% of the males reported having some type of sexual experience involving a sibling (Sibling Abuse – Wiehe). In this same publication it states that parents are aware of sexual abuse among siblings 18% of the time, emotional abuse 69% of the time and physical abuse 71% of the time.
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Sexual abuse aside, how do we define or recognize abuse among siblings? When there is an inequity in power between two adolescents and one uses control over the other to repeatedly hurt, threaten, or degrade, that is abusive behavior. Even name calling and ridicule can wear away at a child’s self worth and self-esteem. “Children are especially vulnerable to degrading remarks because it is during their childhood years that they are developing a positive sense of self.” Unfortunately, most parents see this behavior as sibling rivalry. And while most emotional and even physical abuse, should and can be handled by parents rather than the law, first parents have to recognize that it is abuse.
Sexual abuse is another story. Most incidents of sexual abuse by siblings go not only unreported but also undetected by parents. Most times, the siblings themselves recognize that what is happening is wrong and certainly it is recognized by society as wrong. So unlike physical and emotional abuse, this should be easier to detect by parents. But most kids don’t tell. They don’t tell because the older sibling is an authority figure, or because they are threatened or scared, or because they don’t realize that it is abuse because they blame themselves as much as their sibling for what is happening. And unlike physical or emotional abuse, it is happening secretly because the older sibling knows that they have crossed a line.
What causes one sibling to abuse another?
1. Acting out anger at parents on sibling or acting out anger at an older sibling on a younger sibling.
2. Parents overwhelmed by their own problems not paying attention.
3. Inappropriate expectations – older sibling given too much responsibility or freedom.
4. Mirroring parents behavior.
5. Viewing the behavior as normal by parents.
6. Socialization of males as dominant over females.
7. Contribution of victim. “Research supports the hypothesis that the behavioral patterns of the abused child tend to invite further abuse” (Wiehe). It becomes a vicious cycle.
8. “It is important to note that this interactional cycle theory does not blame the victim!” Rather it identifies a pattern in order to treat and help prevent further abuse.
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.
So how do parents and other family members distinguish between abusive and normal (sibling rivalry) behavior?
1. Is it age appropriate?
2. Does one child appear to be a constant victim?
3. Is the purpose of the behavior humiliation, sadism, to cause suffering, a result of a continual explosive anger?
4. Was the behavior planned, has it happened before, does the perpetrator feel remorseful?
5. Was property destroyed or animals abused?
6. The length and the degree of the behavior. One-time incidents, if serious enough (i.e. sexual abuse), can create a life long problem. Whereas name calling, ridiculing, and even teasing if done consistently and at certain vulnerable ages (i.e. between six and seven years and/or between eleven and twelve years of age) can also create life long problems.
We need to build awareness and educate families about the difference between abusive and normal behavior among siblings. Listen to children and believe them. Good supervision and encouraging openness about discussing sex while informing children to “own their own bodies” and respect others are simple, logical steps towards protecting our children from abuse by siblings, cousins and other children.
© Copyright 2010 by Roni Weisberg-Ross, LMFT, therapist in Los Angeles, CA. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
O'HenryMarch 9th, 2010 at 1:50 AM
This may also happen if one child feels that the parents pay more attention to the sibling than him/her. While most people may tend to think of the reaction as simple sibling rivalry, it has sometimes lead to kids doing things like even murdering their siblings! The only thing that can be done is to educate parents regarding this.
AmyMarch 9th, 2010 at 5:49 AM
My brother and I fought like normal brothers and sisters did but nothing like this. I don’t know how you can even get to that point of being so angry with someone who is your own flesh and blood. This has to be something that is perpetuated by the parents and allowed to go on in their houses. There is also something that tells me that even if the parents are not overtly acknowledging that it is happening they are at least allowing that on a subconscious level and the abusive sibling feeds into this, sees it as acceptance of the behavior, and continues doing the abusing and the harming of others in the home.
Samantha FlowersMarch 9th, 2010 at 7:22 PM
Littrle children do not know the results of their actions and are sometimes not even able to understand the negativity in some of their actions-this may lead to them committing errors that they might regret later in life and something that an adult may not dare commit,lest to a sibling!
ShadowChaserMay 27th, 2010 at 8:06 AM
I was abused by both of my older brothers growing up. The one closer to my age had some mental health problems and was very violent. We were all in and out of therapy through my childhood and teens because of the violence in our home. Now, as an adult, I’m finally trying to deal with the sexual abuse from my oldest brother.
Kids are very good at keeping secrets.
Helping raise awareness of this problem is key. But also helping parents to understand how to create a nurturing and communicative relationship with their kids is important. I have read Sibling Abuse by Vernon Weihe and would definitely recommend it, as well as a book he cites called How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk. by Faber/Mazlish.
bluebirdJune 29th, 2010 at 8:52 PM
Most people who haven’t experienced this kind of abuse tend not to believe it exists. There’s a clear line between normal sibling rivalry and abuse, though. One of my brothers has a pretty severe mental illness and, as a byproduct, has made the rest of our lives hell in the family. It’s easy to pretend things that go on inside the house with closed doors never happen. But no one who experiences it can ever really forget. Six years we have been dealing with the violence and physical/emotional abuse. The mentally ill sibling is still the “victim.” so who cares about the other siblings? we are “second priority.” It will always be this way, because he will never get better. So we go through every day stepping on eggshells so that the sick sibling can make it through the day.
The parents are victims too, in their own way. It’s almost impossible to find the balance between loving your family members and protecting yourself. I just wish there were more support groups/acknowledgement of this kind of very real abuse.
RyanAugust 10th, 2011 at 6:20 PM
This artical is very accurate. I grew up with a brother two years older than myself who physically beat me at least three times a week from the ages of six throughout my late teens. This went beyond the standard of sibling rivalry. As time progressed the beatings became more severe with blows to the head and kicks to the torso while I lay on the floor curled in a fetal position. Fighting back only made things worse and parents only intervened when my screams became hysterical. Their go to statement was” take it outside and settle it between yourselves. I grew up believing my parents would not protect me and condoned this behavior. At 43 I am still coping with avoidance and deep codependency issues as a result. I harbor resentments that manifest in my current relationships and continue to feel helpless since childhood is over and my parents feel that there is no sense digging up the past. I would like to know of any support groups that deal with this problem.
DevanNovember 28th, 2011 at 9:38 PM
I think that the public should be educated about sibling violence. Educators, childcare providers, and others who work with children should learn about the seriousness and prevalence of sibling violence so that they are able to support and assist victims, and perhaps identify abusers and abusive behaviors. Additionally, children should be taught about sibling violence. I think that abusers might be less likely to abuse if they knew people would take allegations seriously. The flip side of that is that victims would hopefully be more willing to come forward.
KaliaJanuary 21st, 2012 at 5:18 PM
Wow, I have to say that I am in tears right now. I am a sibling abuse survivor and I am so delighted to find people who have shared my past. I was abused by my older brother emotionally and physically. I was abused at home, at school, in public. It really didn’t matter where it happened, and it has had a really negative impact on my life. My mother who I repeatedly told about the abuse, did absolutely nothing to help me. She let the abuse and violence towards me go on, until my brother went to high school, and had to go live with my other older brother. Then when he was in his senior year in high school, he was back at calling me names and being really mean towards me. He would steal from me and when confronted, he would just tell me that he wasn’t giving my money back. He made me feel so helpless, my mother responses to my abuse made me feel hopeless. And now here I am at 26 years old and I still can’t figure out how to pick up the pieces. I need help I know I do, but I don’t what to do to get over the pain that is so deep rooted in my heart. I just want to know what real love and true companionship feels like.
YvonneApril 10th, 2012 at 6:55 PM
I’m so sorry for all the abuse that us as adults have faced. I think everyone needs to look their abuser in the eyes and tell them how they effected them. My father abused my mother but I was too young to remember but I believe my sister remembers bc she mentally and physically abused me almost my whole life. So recentally my father wanted to apoligize to my mother for everything he put her thru.. which happened about 20 years ago.. which I think is great bc our family like all of the abusive families needs to hear what happened. My mother is scared not bc of fear of my dad but bc my sister and I will hear everything he did. I told her to bc it is what our family needs… my sister needs to hear what he did and my father needs to hear how his disicions negativly effected my child hood.. yes I still suffer from not being acceptedby my sister but I refuses to let it define me and I am truly lookin foward to looking my sister in the eyes and showing her that I’m no longer afraid! Let’s all take a stand and end this repeatitive cycle! God bless!
Susan NelsonApril 15th, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I have witnessed my 7 year old grandson physically and emotionally abuse his 4 year old brother for over two years. I intervene by insisting the older boy stop it at once. This occurs many times per day, each time I am with them, which is frequent. Parents are not consistent in trying to stop this behavior, and most often contribute it to sibling rivalry. There is no rivalry–but an angry, jealous older brother beating up on a younger, passive brother. Parents accuse me, grandmother, of being, “controlling”, rather than face the reality of what has been going on. This abuse has me extremely concerned that it will not end until the younger son gets seriously injured, physically and emotionally! I don’t know what to do!!
EmilyApril 19th, 2012 at 3:10 AM
I don’t think you should look your abuser in the eye and tell them how their abuse affected you because they don’t care. They will deny it happened or will make light of it and you will feel even more helpless. You don’t need them to validate your experiences. If you keep confronting the abuser and expecting them to see what they did wrong, you will be fighting a losing battle and they will have the power. It is best not to try to understand why they did what they did. You are putting the focus on them if you do, trying to get into their heads. They took enough from you, don’t give them your time and attention. Write letters, lots of letters and then shred them. Why send them? The abuser won’t read them or will deny everything and will feel powerful because you are spending your time writing to them, trying to make them understand and they will never understand. They don’t want to. I’ve sent letters and it made me more powerless. You can’t change what happened but you can say “No more, you won’t hurt me anymore”.
AngelaJune 13th, 2012 at 7:20 PM
I need advice.I am a step mom of a six year old boy who just confirmed my fear that he is being abused verbally and bullied by his teenage brothers ,as a result he has major anger problems when he comes for his visits ,he lives at home with these other brothers and sisters and only gets to come to us twice a month.We desperately want to help him deal with his anger and teach him to control it,he said his mom does nothing to help him or make the bigger boys stop,how can we help him?
B~June 25th, 2012 at 8:56 AM
I was abused for years by my brother 6 years my senior. He was larger (Fat) and much bigger then I was (I was 95 pounds going into high school). I remember being 5 (which made him 11 or 12) and going to my mom and telling her that he was making me touch him. I of course told her what I actual was made to do. She called me a liar and told me to go away. It didn’t stop with sexual abuse, it went on to verbal, physical, and emotion abuse. They saw it they had to of. My mother always ignored what he did wrong, still until this day she makes excuses for his behavior. I have been in abusive relationships as an adult, and just recently realized why. Yet I am the one that has been put aside and ignored. She recently informed me when I tried to talk to her about it, that if it was so bad when I was little, why didn’t I call social services? Really she is still blaming me. And I am the crazy one? I have two daughters and I am very protective of them because of this. I have recently been told by my therapist that I am wasting my energy on my mother and I need to accept that she will never acknowlege her part in my abuse let alone apologizes.
MollyJune 26th, 2012 at 9:37 PM
Hi my name is Molly and I’m 13 years old and need help. My sister whos 1 year older than me. She emotionally and physically abuses me. when I tell my parents that my sister is abusing me they usually think nothing of it. I know thats normal parents don’t relize whats really happening. But my sister is very abusive and has been abusing me for the past 5 years. I threantened to call the child abuse services. but there getting worse everyday like today she turned off my wii and she threatened to break it. but thats just part of it. Then I went to confront her and I said 1 word and she totally when ninja on me and she pushed me then punched me then she kicked me in the ribs about 10 times, i don’t remember i was in to much pain to count. But guess what my parents did, NOTHING, THATS WHAT!!!!! I go to theripy but it doesn’t do much good. The therpyst just makes me look like the bad guy.
CindyJuly 9th, 2012 at 6:43 PM
I’m 54. The youngest female child of 6 children. 5 girls, 1 boy. Me at birth, sister at 2, sister at 3, brother at 5, sister at 7 and sister at 9 years of age…not much room between us, but what a difference. They banded together and made my life a living hell. If they were not the ones being the aggressors, then they were the ones keeping “watch” to make sure they weren’t discovered. They were “getting their story straight” in case I told on them. They were threatening me with worse in the event I did tell.
I honestly believed many times during my childhood that I would die. They told me they hated me and that they would kill me. I told my Mom. For awhile she tried to convince me, a baby child, that it wasn’t as bad as I was telling her. She didn’t know what to do. She cried with me. I felt so terrible for bringing this to her.
I remember one of the last physically horrible attacks was when my Mom was working a swing shift and my brother threw me over a stair banister to hit the hard-edged wooden stairs, about 10′-12′ below. I realized then how vulnerable I was; it was scary. I couldn’t breathe, was sure I was internally hurt, and thought I was done. They all laughed and said it was my fault. I was 10 years old. I wasn’t sure it wasn’t my fault…for some reason. Who knew? But I was so little.
I waited for my mother to come home by locking myself in a vehicle outside in the cold and dark. They waited with me and taunted me outside the vehicle for hours. They finally gave up right before she was to get home.
She was beside herself, exhausted and sad. We cried. She said she didn’t know why they hated me. The only theories she had was that my brother wanted another brother and hated me from birth. My 4 sisters? She thought they were jealous. Of What? I asked. She said I was prettier and smarter and maybe that was why they hated me. I didn’t feel prettier or smarter. That was the first I had heard that THEY might have felt that. My mother always told me I was pretty and smart. I so needed her protection and she just didn’t know what to do.
For several days after that event, I never stopped crying. At breakfast, through the day, lunch, dinner, and cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t stop. Somewhere and somehow I believed I didn’t have long to live, so nothing mattered. Mom tried and tried to get me to quit crying. I couldn’t stop, but I wasn’t trying to prolong it. The tears just wouldn’t stop. But they didn’t hurt. It gave my siblings something else to go at me for. What was strange was that that was the point where I realized the tears were not out of pain, but out of release. I didn’t start them. I didn’t stop them. They just were. I finally figured out what it was…all of a sudden, I was numb, unable to be hurt anymore. Boy, did that feel good. That long cry was such a release of pain and fear. I’m sure in the long run it didn’t help, but at that point, it was a huge relief. And I think it says a lot about me that I can remember that particular point in my life so well, as well as the emotions with it. It is not done, and it never will be.
The mental abuse continued whenever I was around them. The physical abuse dwindled as I became strong enough to defend myself. Throughout my life when around them, they almost magnetically drew together and verbally attacked. Even when they thought they were not “making hits” on me (this 2 later told me)they still put up a united front and tried. I think it was a learned behavior on their part. I think their behavior became as automatic as my reaction to it was.
Fastforward to today. Finally, 3 years ago I cut off all communication with my siblings. (I had done so with the entire family at several points during my life, sometimes as long as 5 years, by moving to another state and leaving them no way to contact me. I think I was trying to punish them, in a way. Somehow, I felt guilty for that.)
They always were able to make me feel 2″ tall. True mental and physical abuse.
My parents are now gone. I have never been able to afford counseling, but I will say that they no longer have direct power over me. They always knew where to hurt me the most. Now I do my best not to let myself be hurt. It affects me and the way I relate to others.
More information needs to be put out about sibling abuse. And not just about 1 sibling maintaining an awful power over another…How about 5 to 1? The only thing you really find online is about 2 siblings or 1 sibling and one or a couple of step siblings.
The insults, the denigration, the constant critiques. Those hurt as much, no, more, than even the tying me up to a fence post for hours, losing me in the woods, throwing things at me, strangling me, punching me, telling me today I was going to die and no one would care…scaring me. Those things, I might have had a way out. You know, that old “You’ll be sorry when I DO die!”
This is abuse. It has taken me many years to realize they will never cop to it. Several siblings have, to some degree at one point or another “fessed up,” but then ended back in their old behavior patterns.
To them, I, the youngest and weakest, “deserved” it. And in their minds, that is their story. If I were in their shoes, I would not want to admit it either.
I read this back and I almost feel worse. I don’t want to be a their victim any more, but I’m afraid, in some small way, that I always will be…otherwise, why still feel the need to re-state what should be history. Siblings can make life hell. And that is forever.
lost momJuly 23rd, 2012 at 9:14 AM
I’m living the nightmare that now will tear my family apart. I am a mom and I found out sexual abuse happened with my children. it was sibling.. instead of looking away I called the law myself…. it was and is hard cause both are my children.. it may b a break in my relationship of almost 10 years.. Right now my emotions are insignificant in the value of getting help for both children.. the hell that u go through emotionally and being in middle of two of Ur own kids… The has only been one appearence in court.. but I do know that when its all done I made the best and ultimate sacrifice choice for the love of both of my kids involved!!!!
LilyJuly 25th, 2012 at 2:49 AM
Molly: I’m sorry you’re going through this. You’re right, even well-meaning parents often mistake sibling abuse for sibling rivalry. If your therapist “makes you look like the bad guy”, stop going to him/her since there’s not point.
Call social services and tell them. Be descriptive. Don’t just say “she abuses me”, describe events, say exactly what she does. For example, say “she kicked me ten times in the ribs and she threatened to destroy my wii”. Describe how she makes you feel: intimidated, threatened? Do you feel powerless because you cannot stop the abuse? Tell them how you feel. If they take you seriously (and they will-that’s their job) then your parents will be forced to also take you seriously. It might also help if you show your parents this article and other articles about sibling abuse. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’ll post again and tell us what happened.
anonymousSeptember 18th, 2012 at 12:07 AM
my younger brother has been verbally abusing me for as long as I can remember him being able to form sentences. I always get myself into abusive relationships. I am aware this is because it’s all I know, because that is how my family is. I’m trying to change the way I think, but I live with all of them and it wears me down. Nothing I do is ever good enough for my brother. No matter how hard I try, how hard I work, how much effort I put in, it will never be enough for him. He will always treat me as a second class citizen, he will never think of me as his equal, he will never treat me with respect. It doesn’t matter, I could win the Nobel Peace Prize and he would still hate me.
anonymousOctober 11th, 2012 at 6:29 PM
I need to add something,abuse by younger siblings is the most ignored type before going into sexual abuse. Because the abuser is younger many would think they do not have the strength to physically abuse the older sybling. I know that because I am a victim, and still am, of sibling abuse. My mother keeps saying that she is trying to find help. She is mine, and my younger brothers, legal gaurdian. When I TRY to tell others what is going on they don’t believe much of what i am saying because my brother is 6 years younger than me. No matter what age, when someone grabs your hair close to the roots they have almost complete control over your hjead and neck. Any resistance can cause serious harm or death in that situation. I am home schooled, and when my brother comes home he PURPOSELY distracts me from my work. When he hurts me continuosly i go into this stasis where i have no “fight or flight response” only fight. That is something that runs on both sids of my family. And i must ask, what would you do when someon has a fistful of your hair, has you bent on the ground on your hands and knees, can kick you in the jaw at any moment. and grab something sharp at any moment, this is what i did. I bit my brother to get him to let go, i could feel my hair starting to come out and i entered that “fight” stasis. I do not want to call social services because i don’t want to be in “the system”, once you go in it is nigh impossible to get out. I know this because i have friends that are or were in the system, they hated it. My options are very limited. I am suicidal and almost attempted once, i didn’t go through with it because of past expierence of people commiting suicide that i knew. I see no point in my life, i have no where to go, because of homeschooling i have no friends that i can tlk to. Thank you for reading, please pardon grammar and spelling errors.
L.J.October 14th, 2012 at 1:03 PM
I was physically and sexually abused by my older half brother. I had darts thrown into my backed and was stabbed in both my legs at the age of 4.
By the time I was 6, my parents sent him to live with his father, but he would come back time to time.
As a young adult, my parents would make me allow him to live in my apartment (they were paying the rent so), but eventually, that finally stopped as he spent most of his life, from the age of 14 to present day, in and out of jail.
He’s currently a drug addict and I have a plethora of mental issues including PTSD, Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.
I am hyper vigilant with my children, but do not see any of the signs, as I know most of them all too well.
The problem with my parents as mentioned in the article was they were too wrapped up in their own lives to pay attention to what was going on with me and when I acted out as a child and teen, they blamed me as a bad child instead of digging deeper to figure out WHY I was acting out and having issues.
I never received any help – not until I met my husband and he urged me to seek counseling.
My husband is a godsend and I am so thankful for him.
To this day, my parents do not believe me and still consider me the bad child and him the good one.
Nicole MarascoOctober 31st, 2012 at 1:58 AM
I have 3 older siblings which consist of two older sisters and an older brother. My sisters are 16 and 12 years older than me, and my brother is 7 years older than me. I always sort of felt like the family punching bag, physically and emotionally, because everyone took a shot at me at some point, but my brother was the worse one. He severely physically and emotionally abused me since the onset of his puberty. At lease that is when I noticed his rage and anger was out of control. We came from a very unstable household with a lot of verbal abuse from our alcoholic father. My parents turned a blind eye to the abuse and wrote it off as normal sibling rivalry. The ugly part is, here I am 41 years old, and I am still verbally abused by this monster. He is as disgusting a human being as God ever put on this earth. I hate him. He has crippled me. Our parents are both deceased now for quite a few years, but my sisters have decided to side with the abuser, and see me at fault for not defusing the situation with him. It makes me sick. I have since cut all my siblings out of my life because they are such toxic people, but the damage this crazy family has caused me has left me with deep seeded pain and a feeling of complete emptiness. I feel like I don’t have a friend in the world, and the fact that they have sided with him over me has made me feel like such a misfit.
AnonymousNovember 6th, 2012 at 4:33 PM
I am a fourteen year old girl that has come from a shattered family. My mother beat my brother and so did my step-after who is currently in jail. He was also sexually abused by him also. This happened when he was very young. Last summer I had to attend a court case against my brother. It wasn’t for sexual abuse though; it was for sexual battery. He had abused me in my sleep. I would wake up in the middle of the night and he would be in my room hiding. I feared he was in there and told him to get the f*** out of my room because I was afraid of him. I always thought it was a bad dream. When I was younger, I would take a shower and sometime during the shower he would barely open the door just enough that he could see me naked. I never thought much of it until he molested me in my sleep. Before that he would “accidentally” walk in on me while I was getting dressed. I told my abusive mother about this and she addressed it very fast and abused my brother for it. I felt terrible and never wanted that to happen to him again so I kept my mouth shut about anything abusive. Finally I got tired of waking up in the middle of the night from cracks in my room just to search my room for intruders. I told my dad about my brother. He didn’t do anything. Since my brother was a slow learner he excused it for his disability. I felt like nobody cared and thought about killing myself. I didn’t go through with it because somebody molested me on my public school bus and I was strong through it and I survived that bad memory so I knew I could survive this. I got some counseling and it helped me a little but we couldn’t afford it. We couldn’t afford both my brothers and my counseling. My father chose my brother to have the counseling. I feel like I need to talk to someone but my friends think of me as a third wheel and I don’t talk to my dad and I just recently accepted stepmother as my own mother because my mother is abusive and a drug addict. I want to be a counseled or a clinical psychologist when I get out of high school and college because I don’t think anybody should go through this without a friend.
Rosemarie WhalenNovember 14th, 2012 at 11:56 AM
My oldest grand-daughter (13), is being bullied by her step-sister (10), her step-sister is constantly telling people even sending messages on how much she hates her and these people are telling her to fight my grand-daughter and she replies back that she is waiting for her to do something, she is constantly taking her stuff, like clothes, and when confronted says she don’t know how they got there and her father believes her and does nothing, we told my grand-daughter to not be arount her to leave a room if she is in there, just the other day the younger step sister came home and started tormenting her, she left the room and we told her to have out in this other room and play play station and how she did the right thing by leaving the room, mind you the younger step sister hardly ever goes in this room, well this day she wanted to play the play station knowing that my grand-daughter was playing, well the grand-mother of the step sister told my grand-daughter to get off and give her a turn this enraged my grand-daughter and she just started flipping out, and in turn they all came down on my grand-daughter and said the step-sister did nothing wrong, this sort of stuff happens on a daily basis, I feel so bad for my grand-daughter and I don’t know what to do anymore, any advice you could give would be very much appreciated.
KTHNovember 22nd, 2012 at 11:55 PM
I was abused by my two older sisters. I was tormented, ridiculed, told I was worthless, etc etc. My father was impervious to it. I remember the first time I tried to tell him about a one occasion: he said “if that’s the worst thing anyone says to you you’re lucky.” He lit his pipe and walked away. I’m told I’m “too sensitive.” Yah, right.
I agree with the poster above: don’t confront them. They cannot see it and will not own it. Just take action to heal yourself.
JaneDecember 12th, 2012 at 4:14 PM
I was also a victim of my problematic older brother and I have kept the secret because I don’t want to hurt my parents . I know that their whole life will be destroyed if they know this . I always thought I was one of the rare foolish girls in the world who allowed it! But now I know this is not as rare as I always thought ! My parents never wanted to believe he is a devil . They always think he’s a poor simple unsuccessful person ! He is 30 and I am 23 now and he still receives money , home and support from my parents . I am considered the selfish cruel clever sister who doesn’t want to forgive her brother for previous brutality ( He always used to beat me very badly too )!
JulieJanuary 27th, 2013 at 3:31 PM
I’m not sure what to say or how much to say. I’m still afraid that one of my family will somehow see this and confront me. I was abused as far back as II can remember by my sister. Family stories include her trying to suffocate me, feed me dirt, insects etc. I always thought it was because I deserved the behavior. I am 42yrs old and have lived an incredibly full, sometimes happy, but often tormented life full of ongoing nightmares, dreams of being killed and a full denial by my mother that everything that went on was a “family” issue and not for the public. I do have a few old friends who say they remember, my sister has been charged several times from teen to audult for assault (never me, always strangers who didn’t care if they charged her) I have had teachers and doctors ask about my bruising which again was a family ‘joke’ that I was a tomboy and always hurting myself. My memories include extreme violence with no parent or adults in the home to help me. I can list all the events in my life but it’s too horrific to discuss. I have never told anyone close to me other than one boyfriend years ago who called me a ‘victim’ after asking me why i had so many nightmares about being stalked and killed in an empty house by ……my sister. I have never written anything publicly but after something happened again with her a few weeks back it seems to have triggered some fear and phobia in me and I have to deal with this now. Has anyone here found any support groups? Thank you for letting me write this
Tom HaunJune 20th, 2013 at 10:09 AM
I am reasonably sure that many of the problems I have faced in adulthood are direct result of emotional/pyschological abuse from my older (now deceased) brother. I could not have been expected to know the reasons as a child, and I believe most of us are in denial in part because we “internalize” our abuse, and are “assured” by our abusers that what is “done” to us is something we deserve, that it wouldn’t be unless we encouraged the behavior. Bro was what we call a “golden boy”, though the terminology didn’t exist at the time. It was essentially a game with him from the beginning that the object to “getting along” in the world is to lie better than the other can tell the truth. Terrible accusations kept me constantly in a state of defensiveness and I was constantly on the “look-out” for deceitfullness and manipulations from him. I had always mistaken my “dysfunction” as a result of the alienation I got from my peers, whether in school or the park. However, I wouldn’t realize until well into adulthood that my problems began in the home. My brother and mother always had a tumultuous, Freudian love/hate relationship. (NOT his fault, of course!) Denial was the familial mainstay and I was disregarded as too “sensitive” and “high-strung”. I never felt that I could trust my parents, or anyone else for that matter. I (have) serious trust issues and to this day I battle the demons of low self-esteem. I became extremely rebellious at 17 and my rebellion never abated for several years. I am sure that my long-standing feelings of being ignored and distanced by my parents were the direct result of the emotional/psychological abuse I had suffered.
AnnAugust 8th, 2013 at 1:24 AM
My older brother, by 7 years, viciously beat me up nearly everyday of my life between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. I was a developing little girl still being pounced on by my much older brother. His abuse included, dragging me by my hair, punching me in the face and head,covering my face with a pillow, kicking me, stepping on my head, throwing things at me, slapping me, calling me names, threatening me, bullying me and scaring me, and when he wasn’t doing any of those things, he would antagonize me and tease me until I cried my eyes out. I fought him with my life. He was 3 times my weight and double my height and triple my strength, and I kicked, punched, bit, scratched and pulled his hair just to get him off of me, and no one in my family did anything to protect me ever, or stop the abuse, and though it has been years since he beat me up, his verbal assaults on me have continued to this day. I have finally cut off all ties to him and my family, and am getting the help I finally need to go on with my life. The thing that hurts the most is, he just hates me for no reason at all, and I paid dearly for his hatred. We have two older sisters, and he treats them with total respect. The whole situation makes me sick.
jleOctober 23rd, 2013 at 1:12 AM
I am the youngest of 3. My middle sister and I are exactly 3 years and 1 day apart. For as long as I can remember, she hated me. My parents joke that its because my mother had to cut her birthday party short to go have me, my oldest sibling thinks its how our parents pit us against each other, but to me it will always be a mystery. For as long as I can remember my sister has always resolved an argument by using her fists. I remember being in elementary school and her and I arguing in the house, knowing that my friends were all outside she drags me by hair to the front porch and begins to beat me. She not only dragged me through the front yard but all the way across the street so the whole neighborhood could see. Somehow hysterical, embarrassed, and beaten I got to the front door to yell for my father. He worked nights, he came and met me in the living room, my sister looking completely calm told him that of course I started it, he then began to whoop me and ground me for waking him up and making too much noise. Situations like this even continued all the way through high school. She was a senior, I a freshman. I can’t count the times she sent me into first period with busted lips, and bloody noses, how many times she would demean and beat me up in front of my classmates. A recent event has occurred which has made all of this come back up. I am 20, she is now 23. After promising to never put her hands on me again when I was 18, one month ago she punched me in the face making my eye swell shut on contact, and severely blacking it for two weeks. The physical pain of all of these incidents are NOTHING compared to the emotional pain that I have suffered from. I loved my sister my whole life, I just wanted to be her friend, I thought we were getting there. I can’t even express how upset I was. She came to me crying the next day, and I comforted her by saying it looked worse than it felt, and that it will heal. I accepted her apology and actually felt sorry for her. Not after a week was she threatening to black my other eye and that it was all actually my fault. Now she has discovered that she is two months pregnant, enabling my family to make light of my black eye saying it was her hormones. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive my sister, or my family for the things that the did or the things that they allowed to happen to me. I just hope the she is a better mother than she was a daughter or a sister.
GoodTherapy AdminOctober 23rd, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Thank you for your comment, jle. I wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about domestic violence at http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-domestic-violence.html and additional information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
BridgetJanuary 26th, 2014 at 6:19 PM
I am a non survivor of sibling abuse. I am 56 years old and still wake to twisted ugly memories. I started to remember the emotional, mental and sexual abuse in mid 30’s. The first memories are no match for the problems caused in my life and family because of a sister who I believe is a psycopath. No one will or would believe me because they can’t believe an upstanding mother of the community could have done and continues to do to torment and destroy my life. At this point I know it is to hide the lie she has lived and cover up her disgusting actions and words. I started by saying I am a non survivor because of so much damage in a life that could have held wonderful things because of talent and intellect. Instead I still struggle to have a belief I exist as I really am when I do well. I believe sibling abuse can cross the line to psychotic in behavior when it never stops throughout your life. They have to hide their behavior from the past just like a serial killer. They are a differet kind of killer, killer of innocence, killer of self worth and killer of family relations to pin one relative against another to the point of vicious ugly sexual inuendo that has no resemblance to the truth of that family. Their lies are so woven that a web of lies doesn’t come close to the hatred, pain and damage their stories create. Their lies are so extreme that no one could believe a person functioning in society could create such mahem within a family. If only authorities could match the physical violence within one family to two members who were and are victims. It would take a genius detective to out smart or out manuever the pschopath in my family. This forum has allowed me to vent which may be at least one more step to allow me to function as an adult who is on the path to homelessness. How many more are out there like me but homeless or deceased or will never say out loud how sick they feel from the hell their life was at the hands and words of one family member.
SteveJuly 25th, 2015 at 4:35 AM
My brother was 3 1/2 years older than I and much larger and stronger throughout my childhood and early adolescence. My father was a decorated (two Bronze Stars, etc.) combat veteran of WWII who suffered from PTSD and was eventually granted a 100% disability status by the VA (they don’t give that for nothing). Despite that albatross, he managed a career as a technical librarian. My mother was a sensitive, intelligent, emotionally weak housewife living in my father’s disturbed shadow. There is evidence that both my father and my brother were sexually abused by my father’s mother. The family lore is that my brother resented me from day 1, but my memories of his physical and, more important, emotional abuse date from around age 6 (along with the rest of my memories, I suppose). His abuse primarily took the form of ceaseless, systematic name-calling, put-downs, tickling and poking sessions (to the point where I was gasping for breath), and occasional punching (and the constant threat of same). Every now and then he’d briefly turn nice and we’d be brotherly. The rest of the time I was the “stupid little snot.” I frequently complained to my parents about his behavior; they responded that there wasn’t much they could do about it, although they did once send him to a therapist, to no effect. Both my brother and I had great difficulties in school and with relationships. The physical side of things went on until I was about 15, when I became large and strong (and crazy) enough to engender fear in him. The mental abuse continued much, much longer (we are on friendly and even loving terms today, though—I am 59). Later on, he told me that he had decided that once he couldn’t dominate me physically any longer, he’d double his psychological torture, and so he did. (This was one smart guy, too—he became a Harvard Ph.D.)
The impacts on my adult life were in part as follows: chronic anxiety (treated sporadically with benzodiazepines and alcohol), bouts of depression, very low self-esteem, social isolation, engagement in a long series of degrading, dangerous homosexual relationships with poor, inner-city black men (I wanted to be with women but didn’t feel I was worthy of them), and failure to live up to my considerable intellectual potential—I became a copy editor but could have been a physician.
This is the gist of it. Don’t let anyone tell you that this sort of situation is just harmless, normal “sibling rivalry.”
Postscript: I was able to overcome some of the damage (for example, I finally, in my 50s, met the woman who became my dear wife), but I’m still pretty isolated socially and still have anxiety and depression.
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