A taboo topic that has been around for decades has been sexual activity or assault between siblings and what is a normal part of the human development process. A 2002 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services found that at least 2.3 percent of children have been sexually abused by a sibling. When this type of disclosure is made (or abuse) it is required to be reported to the Indiana Department of Child Services who must investigate by law. This blog post address some of critical legal issues parents should consider if they receive a call their family is subject to this investigation.
The first is the potentially conflicting legal/psychological needs between the parents to their children (and the rest of the children in the household). They have a duty to protect all their children from each other, get help for children who may need therapy from any harm, and protect the child who may have acted inappropriately from delinquency (criminal) charges. Other members of the household, as well as the parents, may need therapy. The parents may well need an attorney to help them sort through their legal duties.
For the child who is alleged to have had inappropriate activity with a sibling, they potentially have two distinct needs. The first is therapy to address any abnormal behavior. However, this child, presupposing there is merit to the claim, has committed an act that would be criminal if he or she was an adult. Therefore, talking about the act with anyone, may be legally incriminating (admission of a crime) and aid or make a juvenile delinquency case for a sexual crime. From a legal standpoint, this child needs a criminal defense attorney before he or she makes any statements to anyone. These are constitutional rights (to counsel and to remain silent).
Where there are other siblings who appear uninvolved, there is always the “unknown” and some type of safety plan is normally necessary. This depends on a wide array of facts and circumstances within each family. At a minimum, this would be ensuring the alleged perpetrator does not have contact with his or her sibling who he/she may have had engaged in inappropriate activity with, and perhaps the rest of the children of the family.
These cases are legally complex because all parents have a legal duty to protect their children, disclose an abuse of any type, which may, at times, make for “impossible” legal and psychological choices. Counseling versus remaining silent (for the alleged perpetrator). We hope this blog helps you understand the complex family, psycho-social and legal considerations parents face when there is an allegation of inappropriate inter-sibling contact. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle all types of DCS cases as well as those with criminal implications throughout the State of Indiana. This blog is written for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.