Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance, stated: “For Children’s Advocacy Centers across the country, many of the most heart-wrenching cases involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child while terribly worried about the legal consequences to another child. The anguish of parents as they struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child with sexual behavior problems is real and palpable.”
Our community is not immune to these issues. Foothills Child Advocacy Center, a member of the Charlottesville and Albemarle Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) of 14 local agencies, can help families navigate such situations. Such families are referred to the MDT and Foothills through local Child Protective Services or law enforcement. We would encourage any concerned parent, grandparent, or other adult to contact them for help and not try to handle these situations alone. We can serve as a gateway to services that can help victims heal and ensure youth with sexual behavior problems receive effective treatment and are held accountable for changing their behavior. For a directory of local providers, click here.
One excellent resource for parents and professionals is the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments, and technical assistance all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Helpful information for parents and links to treatment providers can also be found through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network of mental health experts in child trauma intervention.
Finally, and most importantly, at the heart of every child sexual abuse case are the child victims. We should not minimize the trauma child victims suffer as a result of abuse by youth with sexual behavior problems. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend, or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding. Similar to other forms of child sexual abuse where the offender is within the family, these child victims struggle with both their fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member that has harmed them. As a society, we have failed to protect these victims, and we owe them the evidence-based treatment needed to heal, as well as our support as they go through the challenging healing process.
This article is based largely on one sent out by the National Children's Alliance and has been minimally revised for our use, with their permission.