Trigger warning: I’m talking about the effing Duggars today, folks, so if you don’t want to read my thoughts on this just back away now. I won’t mind.
So. After years of rumours and speculation, it has now been proven that Josh Duggar, oldest of the 19 Kids and Counting, molested five young girls between 2002 & 2006. Four were his sisters, one was a babysitter.
Josh Duggar was 14 at the time that his parents spoke to the police about what had happened. Charges were never brought. According to various reports now surfacing, the investigating officer “gave Josh a stern talking-to” and then handed him over to his parents. Josh was sent to a “treatment centre” for counselling. They have said that the girls went to therapy, but no specifics on what that entailed.
The statute of limitations on the assaults has now expired, so Josh gets away with a saccharine “apology”, and because the Duggars’ God forgives (more on that later) it’s all good! TLC, the network that has carried their show for well over a decade, has yet to make a statement about the situation or what this means for the future of the show on their network.
That’s the bare bones of what’s going on. Still with me? OK. My thoughts:
- I watched their show for years. Way back when TLC aired the first one-hour special – I think it was 16 Kids and Counting back then? Or maybe 15? I don’t remember – I watched it one rainy Saturday afternoon. I was fascinated in the same way that I am when I watch documentaries on National Geographic. Their lives were so different than mine! So many kids! Homeschooling! Working together! Eating Tater-Tot casseroles! ALL THOSE WASHING MACHINES! It wasn’t until they had firmly established a solid, rabid fan base that they started using their fame as a platform to not only proselytize, but openly work toward pushing an American theocracy.
- There have been rumours about Josh for years. I’ve known for a long time that in his mid-teens he was sent away to a “treatment centre” for some sexual issue, but it was always assumed that it was for something like getting caught with skin mags.
- That cop who gave Josh a talking-to and decided not to press charges? He’s currently serving a 50+ year sentence for possession of child pornography.
- The “treatment centre” they sent Josh to? Actually a job site belonging to a friend of JimBob’s where Josh spent a couple of months helping to build a house.
- The “counselor” overseeing Josh’s “treatment”? JimBob’s friend. Not a counselor, not trained in any way, not qualified to assess the situation. A Bible-thumper who probably thought “whee, free child labour for the summer!” Even Michelle Duggar admitted that he wasn’t a therapist. She used the word “mentor”. With that in mind, I really question the validity of the therapy the girls got.
- Josh is now a married father of three, with a fourth child on the way. He has a daughter and two sons. His wife Anna has been at his side through all of this, and made a statement of her own. She says that Josh told her and her parents about his “bad mistake” (her words, not mine!) two years before they were married, but that since God forgives, her family did too.
- Further to that last point, a “mistake” is when you break a dish, or drop your wedding ring down the sink drain, or send your kid to school with the wrong lunch. Child molestation isn’t even in the same country as “mistake”.
- At no point during any of this has anyone said anything about his victims. I’m not talking about naming them. If any of them ever want to break free of the cult they’re currently in and tell their stories, I will listen, but it’s not the media’s job to do that. What I’m talking about is that everything has been about Josh. Josh’s mistake. Josh’s prayers about it. Josh Josh JOSH GAAAA WHO THE FUCK CARES, he fondled the breasts and genitals of his younger sisters while they were both asleep and awake, and frankly I couldn’t give a shit how he feels about his journey. I want to know that those girls were cared for. That they received counseling from people trained to give it. That they weren’t blamed for somehow enticing him, or “defrauding” him as they call it when a woman wears pants and has breasts.
- The Duggar Army is out in full force on this, and man oh man. I took a peek at the Duggars’ Facebook page this morning and after ten minutes I wanted a shotgun and a bath. I’m still trying to decide which is worse: the people who are saying “he was a teenager and teenage boys are full of hormones, stuff just happens, didn’t you ever make a mistake?” or the people who are saying “this wasn’t really rape, you guys”. Um. I got as far as the woman who posted “the girls got touched while they were asleep, this didn’t hurt anybody” which is about the most disgusting thing I’ve seen on the internet outside of 4Chan, and then I gave up. Bonus points for insanity to the person who posted a response completely composed of emojis.
- The schadenfreude is wretched. One too many things I’ve seen are in the guess they aren’t so perfect after all and I knew there was something weird about that family vein, and that’s sick. Don’t be happy that you were “proved” right. For you to be right, little girls had to be sexually assaulted. Congratulations.
- I have many Christian friends. I have many homeschooling friends. I even have Christian homeschooling homesteading friends with big ol’ families. AND GUESS WHAT. They are horrified at this, too. They are horrified at the cover-up perpetrated in the name of their faith. They are saddened by the damage the Duggars are doing to the image of Christianity, grace, faith, and forgiveness.
Finally, a word on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is about the wronged person, not the perpetrator. If a wronged person decides to forgive, it just means that they are seeking a place in their lives (with the help of their faith or not) where they can find peace. A perpetrator can ask for forgiveness, but their victim has no obligation to offer that forgiveness because GUESS WHAT. It’s not about the perpetrator’s comfort or ease.
The Duggars, it would appear, are missing this point. They seem to believe that because Josh prayed and asked for forgiveness, that everything is OK.
I strongly disagree. The facts in the case appear to be that they knew a crime was committed; that they used their connections and influence within the church and the state government to cover it up (let’s not forget that JimBob was an Arkansas state senator from 1999 – 2002); that they misrepresented themselves in order to get a TV show and profit from it; and that now they are saying that “God forgives” and so everyone should just move along.
“Forgiveness” isn’t a broom that sweeps everything under a magical rug, but that’s how the Duggars are treating it, and as soon as anyone questions this at all the broom comes out again. It’s revolting.
I am bothered, myself, because I did watch the show for so long. I told myself that tuning in didn’t mean I was supporting their patriarchal lifestyle, their fundamentalist religious beliefs, their subjugation of women… but of course I was. I pretended that the kids wearing “I survived Roe vs. Wade” t-shirts didn’t involve me. That their active campaigning against gay rights was going to happen whether I tuned in to watch the train wreck or not. I was wrong.
I could go on and on, but I think I’m all done. I hope that now TLC does the right thing and cancels the show (what’s good enough for Honey Boo-Boo ought to be good enough for these knuckleheads). I hope that the proper authorities monitor Josh’s home situation, and assess risk to his own children. I hope that his victims are given the opportunity to have trained counseling now that this story has broken – I’m sure they are suffering all over again now that the story is public.
Please feel free to discuss this in the comments, but keep your points respectful. My comments are moderated and any obvious trolling will go straight to the dump pile.