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. 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, another parent wanting to bring awareness in the UK, and with Hope, whose connections and experience with project management and web-based strategy have been invaluable in launching and promoting siblingsexualtrauma.com.
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 de-stigmatize this.
Hope Sittler (pen name)
The night I learned that there was sibling sexual abuse happening in my home, I felt as though the ground underneath me opened and I was free falling to nowhere. My husband and I were in complete shock. I can hear my own voice in my head saying ”We are a normal family. We are educated, have good jobs, live in a safe and wonderful community, are involved in our kids' education and activities, and love being together as a family with friends and extended family members. How did this happen? What did we miss? Where did we go wrong?”
I had so many questions, I didn’t know what to do first or where to turn. The nightmare I was facing was made worse by the absolute silence. Google had no information. Facebook had no support groups for parents dealing with what I was dealing with (SST). I felt intense isolation, as though I was the only person on the planet dealing with this situation.
For months I was 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. It is otherwise unfathomable. Since nothing existed, I (with another mom) created a private Facebook group: Parents Coping with Sibling Sexual Trauma & Abuse. In less than a year, the group hit 150+ members and was growing almost daily. I wasn’t alone anymore. And neither were the people joining the group. One member’s first post read in part, “We are 15 years post disclosure and I have been looking for 15 years for a group like this.”
It was almost a year after disclosure that I made contact first with Jane, and then through Jane with Maria, Brandy and Fiona. My goal in teaming with this unbelievable group of women is to help ensure that no other mom or parent is left to face this awful situation alone. I want to scream out to those who need to hear it, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Life is not easy and will never be the same. I work daily on accepting that things are not, and won’t be, the way I had once imagined my life. But, I have found hope through my kids’ healing and, through our family’s resilience I work to embrace the new life that is being built out of the rubble that laid all around us when everything came crashing down.
I love all of my children. Full stop. My husband and I will always love them unconditionally and do our best to provide whatever support and help they each individually need.
Life was going well until I was besieged by chronic physical pain at age 40. Two years later, I remembered that my brother had molested me when I was ten. Delayed recall often happens in survivors of traumas such as incest and childhood sexual abuse. Ultimately I discovered that sibling sexual trauma (SST) was at the root of my debilitating pain.
Throughout my healing journey, I felt compelled to write my story. 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.
In spite of ongoing pain, I wanted to use my 22 years of experience as an environmental health research scientist (MS Harvard School of Public Health) with my lived experience as a survivor of chronic pain and SST to help others. I created the website https://healingfromchronicpain.com in 2016, and published my first memoir, The Invisible Key, in 2020 (second memoir is in progress). Shortly thereafter, I joined the online community IncestAWARE where I met Jane. She connected me with Brandy. Hope, and Fiona—three mothers facing 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.
Fiona Ward (pen name)
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. It is my goal 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.