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Rape Crisis announces ground-breaking national project on sibling sexual abuse

29 Sep 2020

Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) has today (Tuesday 29th September 2020) announced a new national piece of work on supporting survivors of sibling sexual abuse, which will be the largest Government-funded project of its kind to date in the United Kingdom. 

The two-year project across England and Wales will be funded by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. 

RCEW will partner with two of its member Rape Crisis Centres and two universities on the National RCEW Sibling Sexual Abuse Project. 

Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS), in partnership with the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol will oversee research and work on the provision of specialist trauma-informed support services for adult survivors of childhood sibling sexual abuse.  

West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (WMRSASC), in partnership with the University of Birmingham will oversee the research and work on the provision of suitable support services and pathways for children from the age of five and young people who are current victims and survivors of sibling sexual abuse.

The project will include working with children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours and their families.

Sibling sexual abuse is believed to be the most common form of child sexual abuse within the family setting. Children are more likely to be sexually abused by their siblings - brothers, sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters - than by their parents, but society’s awareness of sibling sexual abuse has trailed behind other child abuse issues and concerns. 

Sibling sexual abuse remains a hidden, chronically under-estimated and untreated form of child sexual abuse. It continues to be ignored, played down or denied as harmless or non-threatening childhood sexual experimentation that does not require attention. 

Support services and researchers agree it has received little attention and there is a lack of academic literature on the subject. This is in spite of the known life-time impacts of sexual abuse on the health and happiness of victims and survivors. 

The main aim of the two-year national project is to increase the provision of specialist support for both recent and past survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales, in order to help them recover, heal and rebuild their lives. 

The project also aims to improve the continuity, consistency and quality of specialist support for survivors of sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales.

Claire Bloor, RCEW Trustee said:

‘We warmly welcome the Home Office’s announcement to fund RCEW to increase the provision and quality of specialist support for sibling sexual abuse across England and Wales.  

Sibling sexual abuse is a complex and insidiously destructive form of child sexual abuse where a child is both the person harmed and the person doing the harm. 

We need to break down our entrenched cultural mindset and societal attitudes that exist around sibling relationships and sibling sexual abuse. This project is a great step forward in raising awareness of sibling sexual abuse and improving the knowledge and provision of support for survivors.”

Jocelyn Anderson, CEO of WMRSASC said:

“We are very pleased to be working with RCEW on this project.  We know from our current work that abused children bury the secret of sibling sexual abuse deep within them and few will disclose what has happened. 

They fear the impact a disclosure may have on their family including their abusing sibling. 

This project will increase the provision and quality of specialist support to children, young people and their families across England and Wales impacted by sibling sexual abuse.  

It will help them all recover, heal and rebuild their lives for the future.”

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said:

“With Government backing, Rape Crisis England & Wales will be able to improve research and awareness of sibling sexual abuse, and provide the specialist support that victims and survivors need to recover from this distressing and seldom discussed form of abuse.”

The project will have three stages with a national roll-out in early 2022 to specialist Rape Crisis Centres and other voluntary and community sector organisations, as well as criminal justice system, education, NHS and local authority partners. 

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