Incest is sexual activity between family members or close relatives
For many years, it was ascertained that sibling sexual abuse was harmless and didn't cause any significant detrimental effects on adult functioning, health, or relationships. In fact, what can make sibling sexual abuse particularly traumatising for survivors is the two concurrent views that sibling incest is both a cultural taboo and at the same time not harmful. Leading child mental health experts not refute the claim that sibling sexual abuse is unharmful (Russell, 1986).
Following any type of child sexual abuse, adult survivors can experience:
My Youth in China: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution
Often, sibling abuse can start off seeming fun and exciting.....messing around with your brother / sister in a way that seems playful. As a child, we often don't have the cognitive ability to understand that something which may feel nice or thrilling can be wrong. Often, sibling abuse is more coercive than physically forceful i.e. you may have been gently persuaded that it would be fun; or you may have been bribed with sweets; and so even as adults, survivors are unclear as to whether what happened was abusive or not. A younger siblings cooperation does not suggest that they understood the nature of the sexual interaction.
Like all sexual abuse, behaviors which are regarded to be abusive are varied and numerous. Therefore sibling sexual abuse can include touching, kissing, masturbation, oral sex and penetrative sex. However, perhaps more frequently than found in adult – child sexual abuse, sibling sexual abuse is frequently non – touching. Non - touching sexual abuse may involve introducing a much younger child to pornography, or insisting on watching them in the shower, or telling them to watch them masturbate.
ISN'T SEXUAL ACTIVITY BETWEEN SIBLINGS JUST NORMAL EXPERIMENTATION / EXPLORATION?
It is true that children of all ages engage in some degree of sexual interaction between themselves, as well as self – exploration. In fact, it is considered that such behavior is healthy and necessary for normal sexual and social development. As siblings are generally close in age and locational proximity, it stands to reason that the opportunity for sexual exploration between siblings is fairly high - and that, if appropriate and based on mutual curiosity, then these activities are not deemed to be harmful or distressing, either in childhood or later in adulthood (Borgis, 2002). For the sexual exploration to be deemed "appropriate" then the interaction is between children of a similar developmental age, where prior knowledge and experience, and physical and emotional development are on a par with each other.
However, the line is crossed from sexual exploration to sexual abuse when sexual activity occurs between siblings where there is a significant difference in developmental age (more than 3 years), or where there is any use of force, tricks or coercion by one of the siblings.