Childhood Labeling Sibling "Stuff"

ninja

Sponsor
I struggle with labeling things that happened between my brother and I (& sometimes, some of his friends), who is(are) ~6 years older, but since I also feel as though I should know how to label things, I tend to have difficulty asking for assistance with it.

More specifically, I don't know what is and isn't normal; I don't know what is and isn't trauma (I recognize that trauma is technically a spectrum, but the rigid parts of my personality tend to adhere to the criterion A definition); I don't know what is and isn't abuse; I don't know how to distinguish between physical 'aggression' involving genitalia and sexual aggression, and I'm not sure when sexual aggression turns into sexual abuse.

The labeling issue is further exacerbated by the fact that I just don't remember a whole lot. I have random (that is, decontextualized) bits and pieces of memories, and I have confirmation of the few memories I've been able to bring up with my brother, but some parts were definitely wrong or forgotten (i.e., I thought thing x happened at our third house when it actually happened at our second house, etc.).

I do know that memory is quite malleable, and since all of the "stuff" took place when I was 10ish and under (and most of it when I was under 8, beginning at 3-4), remembering is going to feel and be different than what I'm accustomed to, as an adult.

I'm currently trying to sort out how to differentiate physical 'aggression' involving genitalia from sexual aggression from sexual abuse between siblings. Here's what I'm thinking, and I'd really appreciate some other perspectives and/or feedback (there are going to be nuances I miss because I'm thinking about this in a regimented, black-and-white manner at the moment):
  • What separates physical aggression involving genitalia from sexual aggression and sexual abuse is that it may just be about asserting dominance, whereas sexual aggression and abuse might be dominance for/as part of seeking pleasure or sexual gratification.
  • Sexual aggression could be a one-time event, but sexual abuse describes a pattern of behaviour. If this is the case, I guess we'd also have a fourth category: physical abuse involving genitalia.
I apologize for the vagueness, and I hope this makes some sense.

Thank you.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Sexual abuse can be a one time event. Doesn't have to be more than once to be an abuse.

I don't feel equipped to answer your other questions, others might.
.but just wanted to say that sexual abuse can be a one off assault. It isn't the frequency of something that turns it into sexual abuse, but the nature of it?
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
What separates physical aggression involving genitalia from sexual aggression and sexual abuse is that it may just be about asserting dominance, whereas sexual aggression and abuse might be dominance for/as part of seeking pleasure or sexual gratification.
Brutal answer? this is absolutely irrelevant to whether or not something is traumatic or sexual in nature. Both are violent, and sexual. So they do constitute sexual violence. Call it aggression or abuse if you want and make a distinction if you want, but all the forms you’re describing are super traumatic in any universe.

And following your reasoning, completed rape would be physical aggression involving genitalia. However, it’s rape. You might have the sense of wanting to use such a tricky denomination to expand, but it seems to me is that it just tiptoes around the elephant in the room. I don’t think that physical abuse involving genitalia does anything else but confusing everything further. It was sexual violence. Interestingly, in French that’s a term you see often in legal or health definitions sexual abuse and/or violence (abus et/ou violences sexuelles), and it’s meant as a higher threshold in violence, basically meaning a form of any kind physical assault with any kind of sexual element to it, which still would fit your definition, but in an aggravating and really not in a mitigating way.

Another way to warp it around would be to phrase it sexual abuse involving physicality. For me that’s exactly interchangeable with physical abuse involving genitalia, and perhaps even a bit broader. And it does sound worse. Genitalia aren’t random parts of the body. Also to notice that in sexual abuse, which is even broader, you don’t need to touch the person to abuse them sexually. Sexual insults are a form of sexual abuse. Merely calling you a dirty whore or a dirty c*nt is a form of sexual abuse.

Also bearing in mind that physical aggression, regardless of if it’s sexual in nature, it in itself is already criterion A. Criterion A has some element of fluctuation. More on this later on my post.

Sexual aggression could be a one-time event, but sexual abuse describes a pattern of behaviour. If this is the case, I guess we'd also have a fourth category: physical abuse involving genitalia.
Again, this is irrelevant to your case, as your trauma does follow a very clear pattern of repeated acts and a general climate of fear. It’s very evident reading your posts that it’s the case. A single aggression would be sufficient in itself to cause trauma. But you had several. Many. Repeated.

at our third house when it actually happened at our second house, etc.
This is catching my attention. Moving is a major stressor, especially for children.

And this makes me come to what I do think is the blurry sides of criterion A. Basically, fearing for your life or somebody else’s sort of thing. However it’s very much seen that rape, while in most instances doesn’t kill anyone, is one of the biggest onsets of PTSD (even when it occurs only once), more than a close call on a crowded road. Rape and other forms of sexual aggression are valid criterion A because ah, we just noticed it does cause PTSD, even if technically it doesn’t seem to fit the imminent threat of death thing like a car accident or something.

However to mitigate this in criterion A it’s very well said that the situation causes an overwhelming distress that flood the capacities of the person who experiences the situation to cope, with overwhelming fear or a sense of helplessness. Therefore, seeing someone dying, being raped or being hit, even not being in the immediate reach of the aggressor, can also fit the definition of a criterion A. However people don’t respond systematically to this. There is some lag. Some are better equipped to deal with the traumatic situation, because they could see it coming, because they could try something, because the immediate aftercare and social support was available, because just their brain is wired in a way that is less sensitive to it. So criterion A isn’t something so etched in stone. If it were, everyone who had the same experiences would have the same results. There is no such a thing as trauma X creates condition Y. It really is a question of subjective experience of threat.

And so, stressing the fact you were a child. You hadn’t any means to cope mentally with what was happening. And as a child I think criterion A has some lower threshold as you don’t know which things are threats to your life and which aren’t. All you can know are inbound reflexes such as trying to maintain bodily integrity, which is under direct threat in a sexual aggression, or physical aggression with a sexual element. That person is much bigger than you, and you can’t tell what they’re gonna do, what’s happening to you is just completely alien and incomprehensible. What do we do when we see things we have no idea what they are and they’re coming towards us, would it be with the face of our beloved grandmothers? We overflow in terror.

And the trauma becomes chronic and complex when it happens and happens again, even in a few occurrences, but with a sense of unpredictability and ubiquity of it being possible to happen. You don’t need to do it three times a day for it to be completely overwhelming. A few times a year could be completely sufficient, because the subjugation and the helplessness are set in place. No one came to defend you, you had no tools to prevent that from happening, you got neglected in your suffering and on the top of it, expected to soothe things you couldn’t even know what it was, giving you the sense you were managing, but that’s a fallacy, even if yeah, we do learn stuff from being in that posture. But it’s very much dysfunctional.

So the trauma is chronic and there is no line of defense against it. And then its chronicity makes it cause dissociation and shit memory. And given things are so old, it’s logical that the timelines get wrong. It doesn’t mean that the core of what you remember is incorrect. What you remember is sufficient to constitute BIG FAT CRITERION A WRITTEN IN CAPSLOCKS. With the added gravity of not being believed and being expected to behave total opposite from what you feel. Instead of showing how scared and hurt you were, you were ought to be reassuring and reasonable; and you do that to your caregivers since you sense it’s the role they’re expecting of you because when you don’t, they don’t respond well. The message you’re sent is that your love is conditional, and that unless you fit a certain set of conditions, you risk being abandoned. This as a low-key threat because it’s not as if you did believe they’d leave you if you didn’t comply, but you wouldn’t even risk to try it out. And having moved several times might have also played a role in this sense of insecurity. Only way to fit this is to splinter your brains in four and shovel the whole thing in oblivion. Which works until it doesn’t.

I hope this helps you ninja. I understand however how we can just start to think but hell no this isn’t traumatic, this is instead. And seeing things as isolated incidents instead of seeing them as a pattern when there was a pattern, that also is a big fat fallacy with a big F. I did this in mind to justify D’s behaviour. In a sense, yeah, there are collections of isolated incidents. If you want to dither an image, you always can. But the trauma absolutely doesn’t rely in the perpetrator’s perceptions, but in the victims perceptions. And this, in a very basic level. Not what you think of it or label or rationalize it, but in how it affects you, how your sense of safety is f*cked up, how you’re angry and fearful most of the time.
 

Friday

Moderator
@ninja, these are exactly the same. They cannot be differentiated
Both are violent, and sexual. So they do constitute sexual violence.

Have to disagree with both of you, here

Play Fighting
Purple Nurples / Titty Twisters
Goosing
Zinged with a wet towel
Tickling
Wet Willy
Etc.

Actual Fighting
Countless softening techniques and various blows/ strikes/ distractions involve genitalia. They’re highly enervated areas that aren’t boney hand/foot breakers. Just like going for the eyes & throat.
 
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Purple Nurples / Titty Twisters
Goosing
Zinged with a wet towel
I would still count these as abuse if they were done by one sibling to show aggression or dominance against another. There's a huge difference between play fighting, which is playing, and aggression which is meant to hurt or humiliate.

I did not read ninja's account as play fighting, although of course I wasn't there.
 

Friday

Moderator
I would still count these as abuse
What I was disagreeing with wasn’t the abuse piece. I was disagreeing that all violence/aggression involving genitalia = sexual abuse …& one cannot differentiate between violence involving sex organs & sexual violence.

Both play fighting and real fighting can be abusive… or not. Or a murky blend of both. It depends on the context of the situation.

Violence involving sex organs can be sexually abusive… or not. Or a murky blend of both. It depends on the situation.
 

internal

Sponsor
Sexual aggression could be a one-time event, but sexual abuse describes a pattern of behaviour.
did it only happen once?

What separates physical aggression involving genitalia from sexual aggression
i don't think it's as clear as intention-if someone targets your genitals over and over again in a certain way (beyond fighting, but perhaps even including fighting) because they are sadistic, that is sexual abuse, even if it's not about arousal for them.

but as friday mentioned there are plenty of physically aggressive techniques that involve the genitals that aren't sexual. kicking someone in the junk is often aggressive but not sexual, for instence.

it may just be about asserting dominance
and i'd be careful with this definetion as well. sometimes rape and sexual violence are just to assert dominence, but it's clearly sexual and not just physical.

the gratefication comes from sexual control. and you also cannot be certain that there was no sexual intent-you cannot read another human being's mind, so you simply can't say this with any certenty.
 

ninja

Sponsor
I was disagreeing that all violence/aggression involving genitalia = sexual abuse …& one cannot differentiate between violence involving sex organs & sexual violence.
I really think this captures the heart of what I was trying to express.

for example,
- being peed on
This involves exposure to sexual organs but is the act sexual? Maybe, maybe not.
- someone pushing their genitals on your face (clothed vs. not)
This is more physically aggressive than the last, also involves sexual organs, but it’s not entirely clear how much the point of it was sexual.
- being dared/made to touch another’s genitals
This could be sexually motivated or not. What if it felt like the purpose was humiliation rather than sexual?
- oral sex
Different kind of experience than the others. No intent to humiliate that I recall. Less physically aggressive. I was technically threatened but don’t remember it.
grief said:
that is sexual abuse, even if it's not about arousal for them.
Because it’s about power/control/domination/humiliation. I think part of me decided at some point that for something to be sexual abuse it has to be motivated (at least in part) by the desire for arousal. For some reason today when I think about it, that idea seems blatantly false.
I did not read ninja's account as play fighting, although of course I wasn't there.
When I am very clear-headed, I know that there were times where causing pain was the point because the aggression (just purely physical) continued despite clear signs of pain. there were also times where pain was caused accidentally because he was quite a bit larger. Sometimes he cared a lot, apologized, and encouraged me to hurt him back. Other times he was just annoyed.
and i'd be careful with this definetion as well. sometimes rape and sexual violence are just to assert dominence, but it's clearly sexual and not just physical.
True.

Now that I’m a little more calm, I also recognize that not all sexual abuse is violent—overtly physically aggressive.
 
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internal

Sponsor
This involves exposure to sexual organs but is the act sexual? Maybe, maybe not.
it's gratification (either sexual, anger, whatever.) through dehumanization and humiliation-which a lot of sexual abuse and rape falls under.

Because it’s about power/control/domination/humiliation.
correct. those are, in my experience, the primary motivations for sexual abuse. arousal is secondary-or those things are necessery for arousal (such as in the case of a paraphilic disorder.) otherwise you'd just masturbate, or find a willing partner.

for someone like my dad, who was diagnosed with ssd, it was entirely necessery for him to humiliate and control people. he did not experience arousal without those things, and it often occurred without any physical signs of arousal at all.

i tend to file it all under sexual abuse because it was intended for personal gratification and involved sexual organs.
 

ninja

Sponsor
.but just wanted to say that sexual abuse can be a one off assault. It isn't the frequency of something that turns it into sexual abuse, but the nature of it?
I think frequency was brought into the picture by clinicians/researchers who were trying to understand how to differentiate between normal sibling sexual curiosity and sibling sexual abuse. They said that normal curiosity tends to be associated with less extreme/sophisticated behaviours and is usually isolated to 1-2 instances; if a pattern emerges, it's more likely abuse. I think that’s why I’ve gotten a bit stuck on the pattern piece.
I don’t think that physical abuse involving genitalia does anything else but confusing everything further.
I guess I was trying to distinguish behaviours that felt or seemed more physical than sexual (even if they included peripheral sexual elements) from behaviours that clearly were sexually driven?

Sometimes I think adult-mind is trying to make the experiences more nuanced than kid-mind remembers or is capable of holding/understanding right now.

Rape and other forms of sexual aggression are valid criterion A because ah, we just noticed it does cause PTSD, even if technically it doesn’t seem to fit the imminent threat of death thing like a car accident or something.
Fair.
I hope this helps you ninja.
It does. Thank you. 🫂
 
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