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  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

TOXIC SIBLINGS: A Hidden Epidemic

Currently, I'm in the midst of writing my seventh book, Toxic Siblings. The purpose of my true story is to build awareness, to educate, to advocate, and to support those who have endured and suffered sibling abuse.

Today's blog post is the introduction to my nonfiction. Other than my husband and my name, all names and locations are changed for privacy. As a trauma-informed mental health professional, I believe my book will shine the light on the darkness about sibling abuse.

Our Stories are Someone Else’s Survival Guide

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.” ~ Anne Lamott

From the time I was 11 years old, I’ve been writing. I refer to it as my ‘great escape’ from being raised in a dysfunctional family. With pen and paper, instantly I was transported to a better place.

A safe space where I wouldn’t be mistreated, name-called, or bullied by my older sisters and my narcissistic mother. A reprieve when my mom wouldn’t stop screaming profanities at me, slapping me, or randomly chopping off my long hair. A shield from the chaos where I could catch my breath.

A place to explore my inner sanctuary. A sacred space where my vivid imagination ran wild. Where I could magically transform my painful reality into a delightful fairytale.

When I wrote, I wasn’t that innocent, helpless girl anymore. When I crafted my poems and stories, I did not have to walk on eggshells. I didn’t have to be paralyzed by fear for the next family fight erupting like a fiery volcano. When all hell broke loose. When I’d be physically and emotional abused.

Writing gave me the freedom to explore my creativity. It was my happy place where I relished momentary peace. In hindsight, I now see it for what it had been. The calm before the raging storm.

Reading and writing were my favorite ways to avoid my reality. Freedom to simply be a child. Freedom to sing, dance, and play. Freedom to absorb my childhood books where I savored the rare times of not being tortured by my toxic family.

It now makes logical sense how I grew up to love reading and writing. Every fiber of my being felt a magnetic force to read and to write. This is when I felt at my best. When I could shine my light with my special gifts.

There is no doubt that as an adult, it led me to fall in love with a variety of genres. Everything from fiction, to fantasy, to romance, to suspense, to drama, and to quirky romcoms. Like a sponge, I soaked up each page as if it were oxygen keeping me alive. Fueling me with motivation and inspiration.

While I am a big fan of reading different types of literary work, once I became a published author, my niche has been writing nonfictions, memoirs, and poetry. To tap into my innate abilities and strengths. To breathe life into my true stories.

To write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Even if it makes me frightened. Even if it’s rough for me. Even if writing about my past abuse slams me by triggers and terrible memories. Even if other people, including the perpetrators, don’t like it or approve of it. You see, my life isn’t dictated by what others think or say I should do. The opinions of others don’t affect my choices. Not anymore.

Why Write About Sibling Abuse?

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” ~ Ellen Bass

One of the most profound revelations I’ve had to learn is that nothing is ever wasted. Not our positive, nor our negative experiences. We have a choice in how we respond to both the good, the bad, and the atrocious situations we’ve survived.

I choose to not be reduced by what happened to me. One of the most inspiring, American memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, brilliantly stated, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

In 2018, I publicly disclosed that I had experienced psychological abuse by my sisters. Prior to uploading my first YouTube video on this sensitive topic, I had no idea if anyone else would relate.

Shortly after my video went live, I received hundreds of comments by strangers who shared similar stories of being bullied, manipulated, gaslit, and abused by their own siblings. Five years later, my videos now have over 163,234K views and thousands of comments.

Fast forward to 2023 in which I’ve gained much more credible facts, knowledge, wisdom, and trauma-informed education about the difference between sibling rivalry versus sibling abuse. There is a significant difference between the two.

At this point in my healing journey, I have hundreds of YouTube videos about the dysfunctional family system, narcissists, flying monkeys (AKA toxic siblings), intergenerational trauma, common trauma responses, and the trauma recovery process. In addition, I have dozens of YouTube videos on various subjects pertaining to unhealthy relationships with brothers and sisters, including the discard phase. I guarantee, if you have suffered it, you are not alone.

According to an article, Sibling Abuse and Bullying: The Hidden Epidemic on Psychology Today by Darlene Lancer, “Often labeled rivalry and ignored, sibling bullying and abuse cause real trauma. Sibling abuse is the most common, but least reported abuse in the family. Prevalence is higher than spousal or child abuse combined with consequences well into adulthood similar to parent-child abuse. Up to 80% of youth experience some form of sibling maltreatment; yet it’s been called the forgotten abuse.’’

Sibling abuse is underreported. It’s common for it to go under the radar. Typically, in early childhood, sibling rivalry can start out with squabbles, disagreements, name-calling, and competition between brothers and sisters. The rivalry is reciprocal. The motive can be for parental attention. Or a dozen other reasons.

Sibling Rivalry Turns into Sibling Abuse

The concern with sibling rivalry is when it turns into sibling abuse. The core root of sibling abuse is the intent to harm and control the other sibling. Instead of it being a periodic incident, the abuse becomes a repeated pattern. This could carry on for months, years, and even decades. Or it could last a lifetime.

It involves one or more sibling who takes the role of aggressor toward another sibling who regularly feels disempowered. Sibling abuse includes ongoing cruelty, harassment, and the motive to hurt the other sibling. Usually, an older child dominates a younger sibling who naturally tries to please his or her sibling. I have older four birth sisters and two younger stepsisters. Each of them took great pleasure to deliberately gang up on me. They went to great lengths to ostracize me, verbally attack me, publicly defame my name, and who wrote slanderous accusations about me online. In 2019, my oldest sister, Becky, claimed on Facebook, “It’s all of us against you. The problem must be you.” (Hello projection, gaslighting, and blame-shifting.)

Family Mobbing

Despite my being no contact with my toxic siblings since July 2018, they’ve spent over five years gang-stalking me, harassing me, creating smear campaigns against me, spreading vicious rumors about me, and triangulating my relationships with my parents, my other relatives, my friends, and even strangers.

This gives a whole new meaning to ‘family mobbing.’ According to author and survivor, Stephanie A. Sellers, Ph.D, who wrote the book, Daughters Healing From Family Mobbing: Stories and Approaches to Recovery from Shunning, Aggression, and Family Violence, “Family Mobbing is a group act of aggression that targets a family member. It can be typified by a single act of violence or a pattern of abuse over years. Whether isolated or long-term, mobbing enforces the family’s domination and control over another. As family members continue to tyrannize their target, the aggressive group may expand to include friends, neighbors, business associates, and clergy. Family Mobbing encompasses varied acts of aggression that cannot be understood by examining one motivation or cause. The pattern of behavior always isolates one family member and inflicts as much emotional pain as possible. Unlike sibling rivalry, the intention is to establish superiority or to provoke fear and distress. Factors to consider include the motives, the degree of severity, a power of imbalance, victimization element, physical injuries, and trauma.”

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons to write about sibling abuse. The one that stands out the most is the startling facts. Simply stated, sibling abuse is at alarming rates. This type of abuse is underreported. One reason why it’s underreported is toxic shame, which is dumped onto the abuse victim.

As a survivor of sibling abuse, the toxic shame is not for the survivor to carry. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were not the one to commit atrocious acts of violence. You have been victimized and traumatized. Today, release the stronghold of toxic shame. The toxic shame belongs to each sibling who abused you.

As a reflect on my life, here is what I have learned, how I have grown, and how I've been transformed. Little Dana as a child may have been a people-pleaser. She may have been a vulnerable, naive girl who was controlled by her mean-spirited family members. But that little girl doesn’t exist. Not anymore. After spending five decades of being beaten down, mistreated, and stabbed in the back, little Dana grew up. Little Dana fearlessly faced her trauma wounds. Little Dana cracked open that terrifying door to process and to address everything. And when I write everything, I mean ‘every rotten thing said and done to harm me.’

Everything from my early childhood sexual abuse, child neglect, psychological abuse, physical abuse, unfit parenting by my narcissistic mother, to my sister’s spouse who sexually assaulted me, to every imaginable covert scheme by my six toxic siblings (AKA Flying Monkeys) who sadistically enjoyed hurting me. They each took great pleasure in trying to destroy me, my life, my health, my relationships, my career, and my reputation.

The irony is those flying monkey siblings claimed to be ‘good Christians.’ I see through their hypocrisy. How they act versus how they live have huge discrepancies. The Bible has a name for this: Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

According to the website,, “In America alone, there are over 40 million sibling abuse survivors. Society pays a huge price when sibling abuse is not given attention and goes uncorrected in lives of many adults. The over-learned maladaptive coping skills generated by an abusive sibling can affect adulthood. Because of sibling abuse, victimization occurred again in their childhoods through bullying. Sibling abuse is often directly connected to the formation of adult personality.”

Sibling abuse didn’t just happen to you. It didn’t only happen to me. It has happened to millions upon millions of people worldwide. Let that sink in…

Little Dana Rescued Herself

Little Dana gradually blossomed into determined adult Dana. To become wiser, stronger, and empowered. She bravely learned how to rescue herself. One breath at a time. One day at a time. One year at a time.

One by one, she found the strength to tackle each layer of trauma. Like an onion, trauma contains many layers. Deep layers. Painful layers that sting. When one layer is healed, it’s common for the next layer to surface. Seeking emotional support to confront, process, and to heal each layer can ultimately help you to recover. It is worth it! Ultimately, I did what I do best. I invested in my recovery. I sought emotional support by trauma-informed experts and the holistic community. I invested in my educational endeavors.

I became a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, Intuitive Coach, and Certified Master Energy Practitioner. I've learned valuable tools to help me heal and to help other survivors to heal. Over the past two years, 95% of my clients have experienced sibling abuse and narcissistic abuse. They work with me because they know that I understand it.

I followed my passionate pursuits. I wrote books, blogs, and I recorded hundreds of informative YouTube videos. I focused on my soul purpose in life, which is to raise awareness about abuse as well as to offer encouragement to other survivors. I listened to my inner soft voice intuitively guiding me every step of the way. And I took all of the appalling things that happened to me and I transformed that into an uplifting message of healing, health, and hope.

I have spent the past five years taking my worst of the worst experiences and sharing a piece of my heart with our world. Skip the fairytales. I now write where it hurts. Because each book has been a steppingstone for me to not only heal my own trauma, but for me to help others recover, too.

With gratitude, I have become a healing balm to thousands of people who have suffered child abuse, sibling abuse, a dysfunctional family, narcissistic abuse, sexual assaults, and hellish traumatic events. Most importantly, other trauma survivors know they are not alone.

Stay tuned for updates on my book launch in 2023. My book will be available in print and an eBook. It is a survival guide to overcome abusive, backstabbing siblings and to heal trauma.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on my website is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, nor other mental health professionals. It shall not take the place of a medical evaluation, diagnosis, and/or treatment. As a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, Certified Master Energy Practitioner, Intuitive Coach, Author, and Speaker, I don't give legal advice or medical advice. I am not a doctor, therapist, pharmacist, an attorney, nor do I have a professional legal background. The information on my website is for educational purposes only. It is to help people to build awareness about practical, non-medical options for improving health and healing trauma. Furthermore, individuals are recommended to seek immediate professional medical care in the event they are suffering mental health and/or medical conditions, including suicidal thoughts, or engaging in destructive, self-harm behaviors.

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