Understanding Trauma & Violence


When I was young, my younger sibling who was 6 at the time repeatedly engaged in sexual acts with me over the course of a week. I allowed it to happen because it felt good at the time and I didn't think it was wrong. Does this count as child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA)?


Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. What you've described is a complex and confusing situation that some children face, but aren't sure how to make sense of as adults. Developmentally, it's common for children, especially young ones, to explore their bodies and engage in sexual play with other children as part of learning about their bodies and sexuality. In this vein, some degree of exploratory play between siblings is also not unusual, particularly if there hasn't been a lot of education about boundaries. However, depending on the specific circumstances, duration, and aftermath of sibling sexual play, these experiences can sometimes fall into a complex area known as child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA).

There are many reasons a young child might initiate sexual behavior. In some cases, it may be a sign that they themselves have experienced abuse and are acting out what was done to them. However, even children who have not been abused may engage in sexual behavior due to curiosity, lack of boundaries, imitating something they saw in media, seeking physical closeness, or simply discovering that touching certain body parts feels good. At 6 years old, your sibling likely did not fully grasp the implications of their actions or have any abusive intent.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean the experience was harmless for you. Even when the other child is quite young and the touch felt physically pleasurable, sibling sexual experiences can still feel violating or traumatic, especially from an adult perspective. If you're struggling with distress, shame, confusion or other difficult emotions related to this memory, your feelings are valid. The events may have impacted you in ways that are worth processing with a compassionate professional.

You might consider reaching out to a counselor who has experience helping adults work through confusing or distressing childhood sexual experiences. They can provide a safe, non-judgmental space for you to explore your memories and feelings. If you feel safe and comfortable, you could also consider discussing the situation with your sibling to get a sense of their perspective and experience. They may be struggling with their own conflicted feelings and memories. However, don't feel obligated to take this step if it doesn't feel right to you.

Most importantly, remember that you were a child dealing with a situation you should never have had to navigate alone. Practice self-compassion as you reflect on and work through this experience. What happened was not your fault. Reach out for further processing and help if you need it. Thank you again for trusting us with this experience. 

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