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Our Voices Blog

by 5WAVES, Inc.

How Sibling Porn Contributes to Sibling Sexual Abuse

Updated: Jul 1


boy using a tablet


Our last blog ended by noting that the number of searches seeking information or help for sibling sexual trauma is dwarfed by the number of searches that appear to be seeking sibling porn: those using terms such as sibling sex, incest porn, brother and sister sex. There is no way to know how many of those searches were typed by children or teens. But based on the accounts of hundreds of parents who have turned to 5WAVES for help, we strongly suspect that online porn exposure is a leading factor contributing to sibling sexual trauma today.

 

When an individual exposes a child to porn, it is considered at least grooming and at worst child sexual abuse. The US Dept of Justice website* states that it is unlawful to transfer obscene material to a minor under age 16. Minors are prevented from purchasing tobacco and alcohol online through use of third-party age verification. Yet extreme online porn is readily available without payment or proof of age. The results are widespread and catastrophic:

  • Children become addicted to porn, even before puberty

  • Gender-based violence widely depicted in porn becomes normalized. Children are desensitized, sabotaging their ability to form healthy sexual relationships.

  • Children naturally imitate what they see. They act out what they see online, risking physical harm to themselves and other children and causing lifelong psychological trauma to both. If the children are siblings, they may never be able to live in the same home again. The family unit is broken.

According to research released this year by Common Sense Media, 15% of teens reported viewing porn before age 10, half had seen it by age 12, and 58% first encountered porn accidentally. If the centerfolds of our youth are comparable to a homemade joint, then the porn of today is like fentanyl. Children’s brains, naturally impulsive and curious, are no match for it.

 

Brandy, Fiona, and Hope, the three parent cofounders of 5WAVES, were each shocked to learn that our children had been sexually violated. We were even more devastated to learn it was caused by the actions of another of our own children. How did this happen??? We were all involved, conscientious mothers. We raised our children with moral values, taught them body safety, and monitored their internet use. Our first fear was that the child who caused the harm must have been sexually abused in some way. But instead, we all eventually learned that our children had been sexualized at a tender age–not by an individual, but by finding porn online. Innocent and unrelated searches led our children quickly and irreversibly to highly inappropriate and addictive content.


Parents have an important role to play in monitoring their children’s internet use. But expecting parents to do it alone is like expecting a sailor to save the Titanic with a bailing bucket. Tech companies have failed to take action voluntarily, and it is time to hold them legally responsible.

 

The Protect Children, Not Porn movement is advocating for some basic first steps. These will by no means end child access to porn, but they are a start:

  • Require websites hosting adult sexual content to verify users’ age with a government-issued ID, validated by a third-party platform

  • Require all devices with internet access to be sold with safety filters turned on as a default, requiring adult registration to disable them

  • Hold social media and tech companies responsible and accountable to implement safeguards protecting children from porn exposure

When a child sexually harms another child in the home, they are expected to take responsibility for their actions. We need the adults who host content, facilitate access, and profit from the system that exposes children to this trauma to take responsibility or face consequences as well.


Jane Epstein joins other RAINN advocates to lobby for protection of children online.

On 10 May, 2023, Jane Epstein joined other advocates in the RAINN Speakers Bureau's Congressional Day of Action. She carried a letter similar to this blog to members of the US Congress. Quite possibly this is the first time anyone has brought up the subject of sibling sexual trauma within the US Capitol. The RAINN delegation also advocated for Congress to pass the EARN IT Act, a step toward holding tech companies accountable for presence of Child Sexual Abuse Material online. Policies, legislation, and government structure may vary, but the problem is worldwide. Anyone who lives in a democracy can be a voice for children by joining these campaigns, similar efforts, or simply contacting your own leaders with your own concerns in your own words.

*From US Dept of Justice Website, https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/obscenity

Federal law strictly prohibits the distribution of obscene matter to minors. Any transfer or attempt to transfer such material to a minor under the age of 16, including over the Internet, is punishable under federal law. It is also illegal to use misleading website domain names with intent to deceive a minor into viewing harmful or obscene material… In addition, visual representations, such as drawings, cartoons, or paintings that appear to depict minors engaged in sexual activity and are obscene are also illegal under federal law. It is important to note that the standard for what is harmful to minors may be different than the standard for adults, and offenders convicted of obscenity crimes involving minors face harsher penalties than if the crimes involved only adults.





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