Sibling incest: A terrible under-reported social problem around the world
Sibling sexual abuse is a social problem that is far greater than acknowledge by statistics, governments and social service providers.
Cases of incest are horrifying but very real. It often leads to another problem with teenage pregnancy . At the end of 2018, reports emerged of a Malaysian teenage girl who gave birth after having sex with a relative.
The father of the child is her 13 year-old brother. The teenage mother was 15 when she had her baby. She gave birth in a toilet and says she had no idea that she was pregnant.
Incest is said to be among the most under-reported crimes in the world. This is due to the intense level of shame and social taboo attached to it. Furthermore, the victim is usually reluctant to expose the perpetrator especially when he is the father or brother.
The devastating and profound effects of incest varies for each survivor. Victims are likely suffer from guilt, shame and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
They also exhibit regressive behaviours. Behavioural problems include self-loathing, unworthiness and anxiety, Psychological effects include depression, suicidal tendencies and borderline personality disorder. Many will require psychiatric hospitalisation.
Unfortunately, sibling sexual abuse is the least recognised form of incest. Sexual abuse by related adults receives far more attention.
There are several factors as to why sibling sexual abuse remains hidden. Victims may not seem themselves as victims. Older siblings can also take advantage of the sexual naïveté of younger siblings to trick them into sexual relations.
This horrible act is usually camouflaged by play. To complicate matters, these young victims may find these activities to be pleasurable.
Incestuous behaviours are often invisible in stressed and chaotic families. As a result, relatives, teachers and health-care professionals often fail to recognise the abuse.
There are health risks for babies born to teenage mothers conceived from sibling sexual abuse. As they grow, these children will also suffer from more health and social problems. They also tend to have more emotional problems than children born to older mothers.
The very nature of sibling incest is so horrible. But greater awareness is needed. This is a key driver in combating this social problem.
What can the general public do? One way is to be able to identify red flags. Here are some signs that a child may be sexually abused:
- Sexual behaviour that is inappropriate for the child’s age.
- Bedwetting or soiling the bed, if the child has already outgrown these behaviours.
- Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers.
- Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe.
- Psychosomatic signs, such as mysterious tummy aches or headaches.
- Trouble sleeping including experiencing nightmares.