Therapeutic interventions with child survivors of sibling sexual abuse: The professionals’ perspective

Dafna Tener*, Michal Silberstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Sibling sexual abuse (SSA) is a continuum of childhood sexual behaviors that do not fit age-appropriate curiosity. SSA may be the most prevalent, longest lasting form of intrafamilial sexual abuse – and the least reported, studied and treated. Objective: This exploratory qualitative study examined the experience of intervention with SSA survivors from the perspective of mental health professionals, and explored their major therapeutic challenges. Participants and setting: The sample consisted of 20 Jewish Israeli mental health professionals working in private clinics or public social welfare services who had experience with SSA. Methods: Semi-structured interviews focusing on the characteristics of SSA events, perceptions about the effects of abuse, intervention priorities and therapeutic challenges compared to other types of child abuse. Results: Professionals working with SSA survivors are preoccupied with the need to provide them with physical and emotional protection, as well as to help them process the abuse narrative. They also find themselves dealing with survivors who do not experience themselves as victims despite external evidence of abuse, or with the need to reconcile their perception of the sexual relationship as mutual, as opposed to the formal requirement to differentiate between “offender” and “victim”. In either case, the reality of these survivors can be just as painful as in other SSA cases. Conclusions: The complexity of SSA calls for unique intervention skills, including working with survivor narratives that do not fit the victim/offender dichotomy on one hand and that do not minimize the potentially harsh consequences of SSA on the other.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)192-202
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Professional intervention
  • Qualitative thematic analysis
  • Sibling incest
  • Sibling sexual abuse (SSA)
  • Survivors of sexual abuse


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