"THERE IS A LARGE NUMBER OF UNKNOWN CASES - MANY PROFESSIONALS ARE OVERWHELMED".
Dortmund, 05 February 2020 - Sexualised violence by one's own siblings in childhood and adolescence is still an absolute taboo in society and the public - but these are by no means isolated cases, according to expert Prof. Dr. Esther Klees, Professor of Social Work at the IUBH International University of Applied Sciences and one of the few German researchers on the topic of sexualised violence by siblings. Because the cases are often trivialised even by professionals and because both victims and perpetrators suffer long-term consequential damage without timely treatment, Klees urgently demands that the topic be more strongly included in the training and courses of study of social professions. Her theses are:
THESE 1: SEXUALISED VIOLENCE BY SIBLINGS IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON FORMS OF SEXUALISED VIOLENCE.
When it comes to sexual abuse of children, most people think of other men as the perpetrators - but sexual violence is most often perpetrated in the social environment, and often within one's own family by siblings. There are no reliable research results on the extent, but we know that about 50 percent of the children and adolescents who are accommodated in specialised institutions for sexually assaulted children and adolescents have committed sexual violence against siblings.
In addition, in many cases sexualised violence by siblings does not just happen once, but is often perpetrated over several years.
THESE 2: SEXUALISED VIOLENCE BY SIBLINGS IS ONE OF THE MOST HEAVILY TABOOED FORMS OF SEXUALISED VIOLENCE.
If one's own child is abused by a stranger, the parents make the assault public. In the case of domestic abuse, no one is interested - shame, conflicts of loyalty, but also the silence of those affected play a major role: the child affected has a particularly hard time recognising the abuse, because he or she has to distinguish the assaultive actions from sibling love. At the same time, the affected child often has a positive relationship with the abusive sibling, which makes it difficult to disclose the abuse.
The issue is also often trivialised on the professional side. Regardless of whether they are educators in day-care centres, teachers in schools, social workers in youth welfare (in residential groups or at the Youth Welfare Office), professionals often have no specialist knowledge about the manifestations and dynamics of sexualised violence by siblings and speak mainly out of ignorance of "playfulness" and "playing doctor" instead of sexualised violence.
In addition, sexual acts by children under 14 years of age are not punishable by law and are therefore not prosecuted. Authorities generally only rarely become aware of such cases.
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About Prof. Dr. Esther Klees
Esther Klees is a professor for Social Work at the IUBH International University of Applied Sciences at the Dortmund Campus. Her focus is on child and youth welfare (child protection) and social work science. Klees worked for many years as a graduate social pedagogue in educational assistance, predominantly with boys with behavioural problems and children/adolescents traumatised by violence, before she took over the management of the "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Prävention und Intervention bei Kindesmisshandlung und -vernachlässigung e.V.". In the field of child protection, she has specialised in the topic of "Sexualised violence by siblings" for more than ten years.
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