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New study will explore siblings’ experiences of learning about child sexual abuse

New study will explore siblings’ experiences of learning about child sexual abuse

A new study by Dublin City University will explore siblings’ experiences of someone in the family being sexually abused, the impact of learning about it and in particular the effect on relationships between siblings and other family members.

To date most research in this area has focused on the impact of child sexual abuse (CSA) on the individual child with some studies exploring what it’s like for parents to discover their child has been sexually abused.

Very little research is available regarding the impact on a sibling upon learning of the sexual abuse of their sibling; how they react and cope with learning about it and how it impacts on their relationship with the sibling who has been abused. It has been shown that the absence of information about siblings’ experiences suggests this is a group whose voice is “unheard”, when considering the full effects of this on the family unit.

Led by Dr Rosaleen McElvaney and Dr Simon Dunne from the School of Nursing and Human Sciences, the aim of the study is to explore the impact of sexual abuse on sibling and other family relationships, to identify the support needs of siblings and to offer recommendations on how best to respond to siblings in the aftermath of a disclosure of child sexual abuse.

In order to gather important information on the topic and to engage with what has been described as a “hard to reach” population, an online survey will seek information about the nature of the child sexual abuse experienced by the sibling; details of the disclosure, including who was told, when they were told and how the disclosure came about and the short and long term reactions to the disclosure.

Speaking about the new study Dr Rosaleen McElvaney, Assistant Professor in Psychotherapy said:

“This is a neglected population, yet siblings themselves and those working in the field are only too painfully aware of the ripple effects of sexual abuse on the family unit.

We hope that this study will raise awareness about the impact of sexual abuse on family relationships and give siblings a voice - sexual abuse hurts everyone.”

Dr Simon Dunne, Assistant Professor of Psychology added:

“Siblings of victims of childhood sexual abuse are often overlooked by support services and under-studied in research.

This means that very little is known about how disclosures of childhood sexual abuse have an impact on them and their relationships with other family members, including their relationships to victims of childhood sexual abuse themselves.

Our purpose with this national survey is to try find out more about how disclosures of childhood sexual abuse impact on siblings’ relationships in their families, and what can be done to address the support needs of these siblings in the aftermath of a disclosure of childhood sexual abuse.” -

The online link to the survey is available here 


8th March, 2019
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