My Sibling Was Abused as a Baby. Should I Share What I Saw?

The only thing we know for sure is that this revelation will destroy your family relationships. There will be recrimination, anger and pain. You do need to explain to your sibling why you kept this a secret for decades. Your parents (if you didn’t wait until your parents died) may remember the event differently than you do, or not at all. Your sibling may be permanently estranged from your parents. Or, for that matter, your parents may convince your siblings that you are delusional, and they may all distance themselves from you. But while the negative consequences (regardless of the specifics) are highly likely, the positive effects you mention — less stigma for parents, less anxiety for siblings — are speculative. If what matters is your family’s health and well-being, the expected outcome would not recommend disclosing what you know.

However, you could argue that the truth should be made public, because your sibling has a right to know what happened, and because your parents and you have an obligation to face it and apologize—for the abuse, for the silence. I like living in touch with reality. As I’ve often pointed out, there’s value in having the opportunity to deal with the core truths that shape our lives, even if it doesn’t make us happier.

This case does not depend on your guesswork as to what good the revelation will bring. It’s about what your siblings owe you. If you truly believe that your sibling has a right to know what you know, then you shouldn’t wait until your parent is gone, because you will be depriving your sibling of the opportunity to confront that parent — and your parent to resolve all chance for something to happen.

Your sibling’s right to this fact is, I admit, an important consideration. But when it comes to what you call a one-time event, over the decades, your first priority should be doing what’s best for your sibling. Try to stay conscious about it.Insisting on disclosure where knowledge creates only long-term distress would be following that old adage fiat justitia, ruat caelum —Let justice be done, though the sky is falling. I fear that would be a moral frenzy.

I am a woman in my 30s and my partner of two years is approaching 50. We are very much in love and want to start a family. But my partner used to be a long-term heavy smoker (he quit and is now very conscious of his health). His father and uncle both died of heart attacks in their 60s. Is it ethical to make children more likely to lose their father at an early age, and potentially inherit family health problems themselves? – name reserved

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