“I Love and Hate Him in the Same Breath”: Relationships of Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse With Their Perpetrating Siblings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term sibling sexual abuse (SSA) captures a broad continuum of sexual behaviors in childhood and adolescence that exceed the threshold of age-appropriate curiosity. Based on a sample of 15 adult survivors of SSA, this qualitative study examines experiences of relationships with perpetrating siblings during childhood and adulthood. Thematic analysis of semistructured qualitative interviews reveals two continua that characterize SSA survivors’ lives: the “reciprocity–coercion” continuum in childhood and the “distance–closeness” continuum in adulthood. Findings reveal that regardless of how the relationships were perceived in childhood, most participants chose to distance themselves from their perpetrating siblings as adults. Thus, even in cases where the relationships were considered mutual during childhood, reconceptualization of the abuse in adulthood led to renewed understanding of its meanings and implications for the survivors’ personal lives. Research findings underscore the need to further study the experiences of SSA survivors to better inform policy makers, therapists, and welfare workers, to address the complex and multifaceted nature of SSA, and to provide adequate interventions to survivors and other family members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP6844-NP6866
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number13-14
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to my students for the time and effort they invested in conducting the interviews, for their dedication to deal this complex and difficult research topic, and, most importantly, for their help in giving voice to adult survivors of sibling sexual abuse. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • adult survivors of child sexual abuse
  • child sexual abuse
  • perpetrating sibling
  • perpetrator–survivor relationships
  • sibling sexual abuse (SSA)
  • survivors’ experiences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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