Book Review: Sibling Sexual Abuse

As soon as I saw this book, I bought it and was excited to read it. Though that may sound odd to someone not in my field, there is so little published on sibling sexual abuse that any new readings on the topic catch my eye. 

The occurrence of sibling sexual abuse is not that uncommon.  However, it is VERY UNCOMMON for this type of abuse to be reported to parents, care givers or the authorities.  There are so many people in the world who experienced this type of sexual abuse who have remained silent for decades.  It is a taboo topic that is not talked about, though it should be.

In my continued effort to be totally honest, I am going to say that I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did.  Here are some of my struggles with the book. 

  1.  Most of the research cited is old.  Some of it from the late 1990’s, which, by research standards, is old.  There are only a few citations from the past five years or so.  In the author’s defense, there is not a lot of scientific research on sibling sexual abuse to draw from.  However, a quick Science Direct search reveals newer research from the past few years.
  2. Particularly in the beginning of the book, there is a heavy use of “offender” and “deviant” when referring to a sibling sexual abuser. While the term offender is technically correct, in our more trauma informed world, I had a personal struggle with what felt like the heavy use of the word when we are talking about children, some pretty young, who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior.  I own that the lens of my work is heavily trauma informed, so the use of words like deviant can hit my button for being very shame inducing.  Others may not see the use of these words through that lens.
  3. My final concern about the book is that the author expresses some ideas, that are currently theories, as facts.  Concepts such as pornography addiction shaping arousal templates of young people are not considered to be scientifically proven at this point and are rather controversial in our field.  While I do agree with the author’s thoughts about the influence of large amounts of pornography viewing on young people’s sexual attitudes and possibly behavior, I struggle to speak of them as absolute facts.
  4. I found the book a little confusing as well. Though I perceived the language in the beginning of the book as not terribly trauma informed, the author then laid out treatment options and philosophies that were very trauma informed.  The holistic, individualized, trauma informed treatment that he suggests is sometimes at odds with the language used. 

So, after I write my list of complaints about the book, I need to take a step back and check my perspective.  I do a large amount of forensic work which means I am steeped in research articles and science.  I actually love it too!  I realize that not everyone looks at what is basically a self-help book through a scientific lens.  I am, perhaps, being way too hard on this book and the author.

So, after I check my perspective and realize that this is a book that is not written for the scientific community but the lay community, I can then truly see the value in this book.  We NEED to talk about sibling sexual abuse.  The people who were victims of this form of abuse need a voice and this book is a starting point for them to understand that we see them, and they are not alone.  The book also offers some very solid treatment options, as well as very honestly looks at the issues that can arise for a family dealing with sibling sexual abuse.  This can include Children and Youth involvement, legal issues, family separation and possible placement of the child that has committed the sexually abusive behavior.

To order a copy of the book

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