Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Should childhood sibling sexual abuse be revealed to one's wife?

The following letter was forwarded to me by the recipient with permission to publish without identifying information.

Dear Rabbi

When I was a young child I was molested by an older brother over a  protracted period of time.  He was only a young teenager at the time  and therefore I do not harbor any resentment or bad-feelings toward  him now.  In fact, our relationship is very good.  I am now a happy  father and husband learning in kollel. The molestation affected and  continues to affect my life in many ways.  I recieved therapy when I  was a bochur, and have recently gone for a tune up over the last few  months because I was dealing with depression and other unwanted  feelings.  My wife knows about that I was victimized as a child and I  have been very open with her about many of the issues I have faced.  However, I never told her that it was done by an older brother.  However, there are times where I feel that her knowing that  information would be helpful in her ability to understand my  occasional difficult times.  I am very wary to tell her because  although she is very level-headed and understanding, I do not want her  to have negative feelings towards my brother.  It could be that if she  sees my lack of negativity, she would follow suit.  It is also a  lashon harah shayla whether it is permitted to tell her.

 Thank you.

My response to this letter is as follows

If he wants to maintain a positive relationship with his brother he should not tell his wife. However he in fact had no obligation to forgive his brother and even if he did forgive him - his wife doesn't have to forgive him for what he did to her husband.

If he feels that there is a need for his wife to fully understand the horrors of what he experienced - then he has every right to tell her as long as he accepts that she will have negative feelings to his brother. It is not likely that these will be eliminated by his positive attitude towards his brother.

However it is likely that his need for periodic tuneup indicates that he has not actually forgiven his brother and that he remains strongly conflicted over the matter. Adding his wife into the mixture is likely to make the situation worse - but might ultimately lead to a better resolution of the problem with a proper therapist.

The issue thus is the relative importance of his need for his wife to fully understand him versus the desire to have a positive relationship with his brother. It is not likely that he can have both. In addition there is the question of maintaining the status quo versus a more complete resolution of the matter. There is no "correct" answer to this question. The lashon harah question is subordinate to the above and does not exist as an independent issue.

1 comment :

  1. even if he did forgive him - his wife doesn't have to forgive him for what he did to her husband [before their marriage]

    On what halachic basis -- or lack thereof -- do you make this astounding claim?


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