5WAVES is a collaborative initiative founded by five women, living in five different time zones, with five things in common.
Sibling sexual trauma (SST) has changed our lives.
We carried the burden of sibling sexual trauma alone, finding scant support either in person or online, feeling isolated the entire time.
We each have a desire to reach out and help others affected by sibling sexual trauma, each in our own way. We know that others are suffering and we were frustrated at our inability to find them and connect to them.
With Jane as a common contact, we came together in late 2021. We quickly bonded and resolved to support each other and to combine our efforts and talents.
We share a passion and commitment to bring sibling sexual trauma out of the shadows, to speak about it and to end the stigma. We do not want others to have to go through this awful trauma alone, as we did.
The five of us are coming together, partnering with others working towards Worldwide Awareness, Voice, Education, and Support for anyone affected by sibling sexual trauma, and we will make WAVES!
We are excited to introduce our founders.
Introducing Jane Epstein:
I am a survivor of SST from an older sibling. I went very public about five years ago, started a Facebook page, a website (https://www.complicatedcourage.com/), and did many podcast interviews. The only response I got was, "You're so courageous!” Then silence. I knew I was not alone, but I kept moving forward, wanting to help others. I became a board member of Incest AWARE, but it still was not reaching others who had experienced SST. I found a support group for parents of SST and tried to join so I could check it out for a safe place to send parents. The moderator, Hope, turned down my request, but a connection was made. I kept messaging her my updates.
Meanwhile, frustrated at the press’s lack of interest in covering sibling sexual trauma, I took a chance and pitched a talk to the TEDx world–and they invited me to speak on sibling sexual abuse at TEDx Boca Raton in January 2022!
Soon after I got this news, I was contacted by Brandy, a parent who was creating a website on sibling sexual trauma and who wanted a survivor to look it over. I knew I was going to be swamped with my upcoming commitment to TEDx. I messaged Maria, who I had met through Incest AWARE, to see if she was interested in helping Brandy, and she jumped at the opportunity. I then messaged Hope to let her know what was happening, and she was interested. A day later, Fiona reached out wanting to connect and see how we could create change together. An amazing group of five strong and courageous women was born....all within a week! It was no accident.
My goal is to let survivors of SST, parents of SST and those who have caused harm know this: You are not alone, and we are going to destigmatize this.
Introducing Maria Socolof, MS-EHS:
I'm a survivor of SST. For me, SST was so traumatic that my conscious mind didn't remember it until I was 42 years old. That’s when I also discovered it was a root cause of my chronic debilitating pain. Subsequently, I felt compelled to write my story, and writing became a critical part of processing and healing from my trauma. For 12 years I was afraid to publicly share my story; then I decided I couldn’t stay silent any longer. Keeping this secret was wreaking havoc on my mind and body, and the thought of others suffering motivated me to want to advocate for change.
I created a website (https://healingfromchronicpain.com), then published my memoir, The Invisible Key, then shortly thereafter I joined Incest AWARE where I met Jane. She connected me with three mothers of SST, and the five of us, all equally passionate about stopping this silent epidemic, banded together.
I believe that the more we speak out, the more we will heal, and the more we can work toward prevention. My goal is to engage in activities that will support healing resources for all members of the family affected by SST, and that will also support research and education to promote prevention.
Introducing Fiona Ward:
I am a family member of two children who were impacted by SST. In our time of need I could not find any support groups, and little to no information. I started to do research into this area. Eight months later I connected with Jane and this group came to fruition, uniting our strengths, resources and skills. One of my goals is to set up workshops for parents who have been impacted by SST so they feel supported, connected, empowered, and are better equipped to navigate their way through this complex trauma. This will help minimize further adversity within families. I also want to work toward to providing more Connection, Collaboration and Cohesion between UK systems and families, bridging the gaps that currently exist.
Introducing Hope Sittler (pen name):
The night I discovered that my oldest son was sexually abusing my two younger sons, I felt as though the ground underneath me opened and I was free falling to nowhere. Trying to wrap my head around the nightmare that was happening in my home was made worse by the absolute silence. Google had no information. Facebook had no support groups for parents coping with sibling sexual trauma. It was isolating and I felt as though I was the only person on the planet dealing with this situation.
After making sure all of my children were in the right therapy and treatment, I started to feel as though I could put one foot in front of the other again. I was still desperate to find someone who could relate to what I was going through. You can only understand the internal conflict of being the mother of both a child who caused harm and the children who were harmed if you yourself have lived through it. Since nothing existed, I created a private Facebook group: Parents Coping with Sibling Sexual Trauma & Abuse. In less than a year, the group has grown to around 170 members. I screen carefully, and all are parents coping with sibling sexual trauma. Everyone’s story is unique and different, but we are joined by one commonality. I wasn’t alone anymore. And neither were the people joining the group, some of whom had been waiting 10-15 years for a support like this.
There are other groups online for survivors of child sexual abuse or parents of children who have been sexually abused, so I am very strict about allowing only parents of sibling sexual trauma and abuse to join, to preserve a niche for this group of parents who have nothing else available. When Jane contacted me to join the group as a survivor, I did not allow her to join for reasons stated above. We did connect privately and Jane explained that she had made connections with three other women, Brandy, Maria, and Fiona, all of whom also wanted to make a difference for others facing this situation, and asked if I wanted to join their efforts.
Almost 16 months after that awful first night, I still feel that I am free falling, and challenges continue to arise. Each member of my family is doing what they need to in order to get healthy and I am trying to live by the motto, one step at a time.
My goal in teaming with this unbelievable group of women is two-fold. One is support for myself. This was the first group of people I spoke with (live and not through text) about what was happening in our family, who could truly understand what I was going through. Two, I have a fierce desire to help ensure that no other mom or parent is left to face this awful situation alone. I felt so alone. And I want to scream out to those who need to hear it, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If I have no choice but to endure, I want to try and help make the situation a little more tolerable for others who find themselves in this unfortunate position. Together we are making change.
Introducing Brandy Black (pen name):
About two years into my journey of dealing with the sibling sexual trauma within my family, I began to envision a website where I could share what I had learned, through research and experience and connections, so that families traveling this road behind me would have a resource for guidance and support. I started writing, but I knew I would need help when it came to website design and SEO, that critical piece that would allow the people who need the website to actually find it. I also knew that I needed others with a broader view of the subject, and survivors in particular, to review the content I had written. I reached out to multiple professionals and organizations. A common answer was, ”That’s not really my area of expertise.” I realized that was the essence of the problem: although millions of people on the planet are affected by sibling sexual trauma, no one is truly an expert on the subject, because it is so seldom talked about, reported, or researched.
One day I went back to Google, found Jane Epstein’s website, sent her a message–and before I even left the coffee shop, she messaged me back. Soon she had me connected with Maria, an experienced writer and excellent editor-reviewer, with Fiona, who brought connections to systems in the UK, and with Hope, whose experience with project management and web-based messaging and strategy have been invaluable in launching and promoting this website.
One of my goals is to bring more resources and connections for parents of children who have caused harm, and for siblings of any age who live with the guilt of the harm they caused in their youth. Both of these are incredibly painful, lonely, and humiliating places to be. Instead of demonizing and discarding these people, we need to learn how to help them deal with their own trauma and find healing and self-respect so they can live positive lives and break the cycle of abuse for future generations.