Was this rape?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: When a young boy becomes curious about sexuality and lives in a family where he has sisters is it normal for him to look to them for answers? Is it normal for a young boy to peak in keyholes at their sisters or hide their bras under their mattresses? If a young boy does these things is he “raping” his sisters?
My sister in law had this happen to her 45 years ago. She recently decided that she needed psychiatric care. She shared these stories with her doctor and was told that her brother raped her. Her doctor also told her to confront her brother and tell her only living parent. She has and the family is shocked and disgusted and stopped talking to her “rapist”.
I am having problems believing that the curiousity of an 11 year old boy can be classified as rape.
Any advice would be sincerely appreciated.
Thank you.

A: What a sad and painful situation. Either your family member has been unjustly accused and evicted from the family or there is much more to the story than you have been told. Rape is a violent sexual assault, where one person forcibly makes another do sexual acts through either the threat of injury or actual harm. The behavior you describe, although certainly a violation of privacy and boundaries, is not uncommon for an 11 year old boy living in a family of sisters and is not rape. On the other hand, it’s not impossible for an 11 year old, if he is bigger and stronger, to sexually assault a younger, vulnerable sibling. Before you take sides on this, I think you need more information. I suggest you have a sympathetic heart-to-heart with your sister-in-law and ask her to share more with you so that you can make sense of what is happening in your family.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jan 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Was this rape?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/01/13/was-this-rape/

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