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An empirical analysis of sibling sexual abuse: Examining offender, victim, and event characteristics in National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data, 2018-2022.

BACKGROUND: Sibling sexual abuse (SSA) is a pervasive form of intrafamilial sexual violence. A review of existing literature underscores ongoing challenges to comprehensive understanding of this offense due to definitional inconsistencies, small sample sizes, data constraints, methodological shortcomings including reporting practices, and a dearth of empirical scrutiny. Previous studies have relied on retrospective, non-representative, clinical, or homogeneous samples.

OBJECTIVE: The present work updates knowledge on SSA addressing several persistent limitations in previous studies and offering contemporary victim, offender, and incident-based profiles to promote avenues for future risk assessment, prevention, and intervention strategies.

METHODS: This study, both exploratory and descriptive, draws on the five most recent years (2018-2022) of data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the largest available dataset (N = 30,640), containing SSA incidents reported to law enforcement.

RESULTS: Significant sex differences were noted across age, race, victim injury, offense type, and relationship. Female victims were more likely to experience abuse from older siblings and were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be victimized as an adult than their male counterparts. Female victims were also more likely to report injury, yet less likely than male victims to experience forcible penetration during an SSA incident.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings substantiate the ongoing need for continued refinement of SSA definitional criteria, which, in turn, will lead to greater identification and reporting of incidents. Moreover, findings here underscore the importance of considering age and gender dynamics to guide risk assessment, intervention, and prevention strategies.

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