Victim of sibling sexual abuse launches website to help others

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A victim of sibling sexual abuse has set up her own website to help other people struggling with the “taboo” subject.

Zoe Cunningham has launched The Willow Project to create awareness and give fellow victims a chance to speak out.

Now 42, she says she was abused by her older brother from the age of nine for more than three years.

“He told me it was a game and it had to be our secret, so I couldn’t tell my parents,” she said.

Zoe, who lives in Wolverton, suffered in silence for years before speaking out.

But her move had disastrous consequences and led to her family disowning her, she said.

“I turned to alcohol to try to blot out my past. I became a crazy drinker, and I suffered with mental health problems for years, even having to be sectioned on one occasion.”

Zoe’s brother has now died and was never the subject of a police investigation.

It is only now, after support from her boyfriend and an “excellent” GP, that Zoe has found the strength to help others.

“I believe sibling incest or sibling abuse is not as rare as people think. It’s just such a taboo subject that people never speak about it,” she told the Citizen.

The Willow Project website (www.thewillowprojectmkco.uk) was launched last week and has already received numerous hits from all over the world. So far two other women have come forward to tell their stories on the site.

“I just want to help others going through what I did. They are not alone,” said Zoe.

A 2006 study showed a large portion of women who experienced sibling incest abuse have “distorted” beliefs such as that the act was “normal” or their fault.

Any victim wanting to talk to a police officer about sibling abuse or incest should call 101. If they feel they are in immediate danger, they should dial 999, says Zoe.