Bright Futures Live Webinar - Stuart Allardyce on sibling sexual abuse

Exploring Insights on Sibling Sexual Abuse

Last July, I released Resolve, where I integrated insights gleaned from various research papers, articles, and reports to demystify sibling sexual abuse.

I have participated in some enlightening forums, webinars, and presentations in June this year to reconnect with recent developments since completing my book. Over the next few weeks, I will share insights from these invaluable discussions that I trust will resonate deeply with our community.

Let’s start with the Bright Futures Webinar on June 19, featuring Stuart Allardyce, hosted by the Daniel Morcombe Foundation—a cause close to my heart on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Stuart Allardyce, a leading advocate and director at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, focuses on preventing child and sibling sexual abuse. Here are my key takeaways from his enlightening session aimed at professionals:

The Prevalence of Sibling Sexual Abuse

Stuart opened his talk by emphasising the prevalence of SSA, presenting sobering data that underscores its commonality. Sharing the data that I haven’t cited in Resolve:

The prevalence is somewhere between 1.3% and 7%. However, most prevalence studies are retrospective studies of university populations. Larger population-based studies are needed. The prevalence is important as the impact of abuse is extensive as compared to that experienced by children abused by adult family members. There is often a significant impact on parents, non-abused siblings and even the sibling who has been harmed.

Stuart acknowledged that:

Sibling sexual abuse often goes unrecognised and is shrouded in societal taboo, which can prevent both children and adults from addressing it openly. Understanding that approximately one-third of sexual abuse cases involve adolescents harming their younger siblings is crucial.

The Importance of Self-Care

Self-care emerged as a significant theme in Stuart’s discussion. Addressing SSA can be emotionally taxing for everyone involved, and recognising the importance of self-care is essential. Stuart reminded his audience that taking care of one’s mental and physical well-being is a vital step in healing. Whether you are a survivor, a family member, or a professional involved in these cases, adopting self-care practices can provide the resilience needed to navigate this challenging terrain.

This reminded me of a valuable page from the website. I shared it in the Appendices of Resolve for parents. My mum didn’t know how to take care of herself after the disclosure. Check out the Appendices page on my website, and you’ll find it there.

Addressing the Family Dynamics

One of Stuart’s most compelling points was the need to address SSA within the context of family dynamics. He emphasised that responses to SSA should not occur in silos; rather, they should be holistic and family-oriented. Stuart argued that to effectively respond to such issues; one must consider the family as a whole, recognising the interconnectedness of their roles, behaviours, and emotions. This approach fosters a more comprehensive understanding of the problem and paves the way for more effective interventions.

After this talk, I followed up with Beth McNamara, National Education Manager at the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, querying: Are there the resources available throughout the country to address each family’s dynamics? She promptly came back to me, sharing the services doing the work in Australia.

We have a range of organisations in different jurisdictions:

  • in QLD it’s Bravehearts Turning Corners program and Griffith Youth Forensics
  • in NSW it’s New Street and Safe Wayz
  • in Victoria, it’s CASA and Australian Childhood Foundation
  • in the Northern Territory, it’s Australian Childhood Foundation
  • in TAS, it’s SAS
  • in ACT, it’s SAS and
  • in WA, it’s SARC.

Program delivery varies widely, and some jurisdictions use a public health model while others use NGO models.

Tailored Interventions and Support

Stuart advocated for interventions tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the individuals involved. He outlined that intervention plans must be:

  • Trauma-Informed: Understanding the deep-seated impacts of trauma is crucial when working with both the survivors and the child who has caused harm.
  • Holistic: Focusing not just on the abusive behaviour but also on developing better coping strategies and addressing underlying needs.
  • Systemic: Engaging not only with the direct family members but also involving schools and other systems around the child.
  • Developmentally Appropriate: Crafting age-appropriate intervention strategies that are sensitive to the child’s developmental stage.

Knowing that specialised, thoughtful interventions exist can be a source of hope for survivors and their families. Stuart’s encouragement to professionals to develop their skills in working with families and understanding the complexities involved is a reminder that with the right support, healing is possible.

As I listened to this my heart felt heavy, because I couldn’t help look back and see how our family did not have these intervention strategies available to us – or if they were they, we didn’t know to look.

Community: As we talk about starting conversations, this might be one conversation starter. What do you think?

Stuart also spoke of a Sibling Sexual Behaviour Home Safety Plan that Stop It Now! UK has developed. His recommendation was to please contact their confidential Stop It Now! helpline on 0808 1000 900 or visit to get in touch online.

Handling Denial and Minimisation

Stuart addressed one of the most challenging aspects faced by professionals and families alike: when a parent or family member is in denial about the abuse. He highlighted that denial can be an initial, natural coping mechanism, and it is important to approach it with empathy and understanding. Overcoming this denial may involve providing positive messaging, consistent support, and using motivational interviewing techniques to help parents come to terms with the situation.

As a survivor of a family where denial and inaction were a hurtful and ongoing re-traumatising issue after my disclosure, Stuart’s insights were reassuring that perhaps other families going through the same issues now will not be alone in facing these complexities and that help is available to guide them through these difficult conversations.

The Path to Healing

In conclusion, Stuart underscored the potential for healing and positive outcomes when SSA is addressed with the necessary care and expertise. He pointed out the importance of developing a shared narrative within families, restoring appropriate roles, and fostering open communication. This holistic approach not only aids in healing but also strengthens family bonds, making it possible for survivors to reclaim a sense of normalcy and safety.

Stuart Allardyce’s talk shone hope for survivors and their loved ones. It highlights that change is possible with a comprehensive, empathetic response and targeted interventions. By validating survivors’ experiences and underscoring the significance of family dynamics, Stuart’s message provides a roadmap toward understanding, support, and healing.

For survivors and their families seeking further resources or support, visiting any of the links I share on my website’s Need Support page can be an invaluable step towards finding resources, healing and empowerment.

Stuart Allardyce’s Amazon Review of Resolve:

Subject which needs wider public attention. Sibling sexual abuse is the most common form of intra-familial child sexual abuse, at least 3x more common than parent/child incest. Yet it’s rarely talked about in society or reported by the media. Charting the author’s experience of sibling sexual abuse over many years, her disclosure in adulthood and her journey towards healing and recovery, this powerfully written book should be essential reading for all social workers, counsellors and mental health specialists as well as anyone personally affected by this issue. Gritty, truthful and ultimately uplifting and redemptive – an outstanding work that deserves a wide audience.

– Stuart Allardyce, Director, Stop It Now! UK and Ireland, | Lucy Faithfull Foundation UK and co-author, with Peter Yates, of two publications: ‘Abuse at the Heart of the Family: The Challenges and Complexities of Sibling Sexual Abuse’ and ‘Sibling Sexual Abuse: A Knowledge and Practice Overview’ for the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse.

Have you already read “Resolve”?

If you found “Resolve” insightful, helpful or empowering, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. Your feedback helps other readers discover the transformative journey within its pages and supports survivors on their path to healing and empowerment. To leave a review, visit this “Resolve” product page on Amazon and click on “Write a customer review”. Alternatively, I know that more readers than not prefer to email me a review. I share those words with their name or anonymously on social media with their permission. To do that, please use this website’s Get In Touch form.

Shared with love,

Alice Perle

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