The Surprising Prevalence of Sibling Sexual Abuse, with Nina Bertele

Season 4Episode 4March 11, 2022

When we think about problematic sexual behaviors in youth, we rarely think about sibling sexual abuse, but it's not uncommon. What can we do in these cases? And how can we address research gaps?

When we think about problematic sexual behaviors in youth, we often think of a neighbor child, or someone at school. Someone acting out in the community with a child of our own. But rarely do we think about sibling sexual abuse, which we think of as somehow very rare. As you’re going to hear in this episode, it isn’t. It’s not uncommon.

Some of the most difficult cases we deal with at Children’s Advocacy Centers are sibling sexual abuse cases. Mom and Dad come in, horribly upset. You have one child who is the victim, and they want to support that child. But at the same time they were terribly concerned about the child who had harmed their other child. The child who had thought it up and acted it out. And trying to think about how to prevent them from winding up and suffering all the pain and indignities of the criminal justice system.

What do we do in these cases that can actually be productive? How do we understand them moving forward? And how do we address the research gaps that leave us not always knowing entirely what to do?

Topics in this episode:

  • Why there’s so little research on sibling sexual abuse (2:15)
  • Key findings about the research (8:00)
  • Poor mental health outcomes (15:26)
  • Risk  factors in large families (23:50)
  • What can we do to protect children? (32:13)
  • For more information (35:36)


Nina Bertele is a research fellow at Charité – University Hospital Berlin (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin)

Anat Talmon, Ph.D.

Transcript to come.