Posted by: Hannah | 05/22/2015

it all falls down

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 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.

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Responses

  1. I’ve never watched the show and I’ve never been interested. Just not my bag.

    I will comment only as someone who has survived being sexually assaulted as a child, on your point about forgiveness. I agree completely. I have long said that forgiveness (for anything) is about the person who is doing the forgiving, not for the person being forgiven. And forgiveness isn’t saying what you did was alright, it is saying “I refuse to allow what you did to me define my life and hold me back.” Forgiveness is about setting yourself free. I think a lot of people miss the point on that…sounds like the Duggar family does, too. And that’s a very sad thing.

    • Thank you for sharing this, and for defining forgiveness so clearly (more clearly than I did!)

      I really do think Oprah and other talk shows have distorted forgiveness, possibly beyond repair.

  2. This whole thing has clarified the problem I have with about forgiveness, specifically Christian forgiveness. So, according to the Duggars, Josh asked God for forgiveness and therefore he’s good. Let’s assume that he did humbly and sincerely repent and ask God for forgiveness. That only takes care of the spiritual part of the problem. Even if his soul is now cleansed and pure and fast-tracked into heaven again, there is still damage done HERE. On Earth. That he needs to show remorse for and he’s not doing that. And I don’t get why that’s okay.

    This has always been a puzzling point for me about Christian forgiveness. Why isn’t anyone asked to right wrongs for their sins–like in AA? They are just forgiven? And it’s erased? It’s a problem.

    • Very good points, and I don’t know the answers. Even as a small child, I remember thinking “so, murderers get into heaven as long as they’re sorry and ask God to forgive them? How does that work?” I’m still not really sure.

      I also have a huge problem with the Duggars claiming that homosexuality is a sin that deserves hellfire but child molestation isn’t, but that’s likely a whole other blog post.

  3. I don’t talk about this on Facebook or beyond vague points on my blog, but I was assaulted as a child. This rings home for me because a lot of people in my life tried to tell me it wasn’t a big deal and I was overreacting. Some even suggested that I did something to provoke it. Mine was by a doctor, not by a family member, but still. I carry the scars to this day and the gaslighting I underwent really screwed me up for life.

    I’m glad you wrote this. I’ll be writing something soon. You hit all the nails on the head, as we discussed earlier ❤

    • I’m glad that you feel safe sharing this here. I am sorry that happened to you.

      I just can’t imagine disbelieving a child who told me they had been assaulted. I really do not understand the psychology behind people who cover it up, or blame the victim, or both. It’s horrifying.

      • It’s extremely horrifying. And it really does screw you up for life.

  4. I feel very sad about this disturbing turn of events.

    I can’t pretend to be surprised that this happened (which is sad, in and of itself), or to know all there is to know about this family, but I am deeply disturbed by the cover up and still strong sweeping-it-under-the-rug actions being taken.

    There is not – I’m afraid – enough therapy in the world.

    TLC had better cancel this show.

    • TLC is still not canceling it. They’ve pulled it from their schedule but that isn’t really the same.

  5. I’m just so sad and angry for those girls. No one protected them: their parents, the police, the system, just a complete and utter failure that I’m afraid happens more than people know and it leaves me sad and full of rage.

    I can only echo what you and others have said about forgiveness. To me it’s about the person who was wronged coming to a place where they have decided not to let something eat them up inside. The wrongdoer doesn’t get a free pass.

    • The more I think about the girls, the more upset I get. It’s just absolutely cruel to force them to continue interacting with their abuser and “keeping sweet” about it, day in and day out.

  6. Hear, hear! I completely agree with your assessment and analysis. It’s infuriating–and tragic for the victims. I hadn’t even thought about the risk he poses to his own children. Because the sad fact is that child molesters almost never stop.

    As far as how all this jives with my understanding of Christian forgiveness, I’ll have a blog post up by Monday, if anyone wants to come over and read my take on it.

    • I will read it, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

  7. Thank-you for taking the time to articulate this so well – I haven’t gotten beyond BLARGH myself, although your ‘shotgun and a bath’ describes my reaction to those comments on their Facebook page spot on. Along with all the various “oh, like you’re perfect, would you want YOUR family’s secrets splattered all over the tv?” (um, no, that’s why I don’t tend to go on tv and tell everyone how to live a more godly life, and also, my family secrets tend to revolve around my dad drinking a bit too much and wearing a tea towel on his head, not sexual molestation), someone actually said “so when you were fourteen, you never touched anyone inappropriately?” NO I DIDN’T, and if you did, may I suggest you turn yourself into the police? Jesus!

  8. I’ve had a really hard time articulating what I think about this whole issue, even to myself. I have never thought that the Duggar life or values were good or things that should be presented as uncritically as they have been. I have major issues with how they do things across the board.

    On the other hand… I’ve seen articles that refer to him as a “child molester.” I see child molesters as adults who have made truly evil choices, and I don’t think the average 14-year-old has the insight and maturity to earn that label. Fourteen is still young enough to think that they’re breaking a rule or doing something taboo without understanding the magnitude of their actions. I don’t think they have the ability to fully assess that kind of wrongness, even when they’re committing it.

    The Duggar parents had the ability to assess it, though. And I don’t think they had the mindset to deal with him appropriately or to give their daughters the help they needed when they found out. Their beliefs make them really unsuited to deal with this sort of problem–they very clearly under-responded, and I’m sure they’d do so again. But I also have a problem with people reacting to what he did as a 14-year old as if he was an adult who did the same things.

    All that said, I do think the show should be off the air. I always did. I would be perfectly fine with this being the reason it gets axed.

    • I do think that at the time, Josh also should have received appropriate treatment. However, I disagree that a fourteen year old is unable to realize the magnitude of the action involved in touching children as young as four in a sexual way.

  9. I think your post really articulates well the other side to a good point my mother made to me recently. We were talking about my husband, and how hard he is on himself, and my mother said, “the nice thing about believing in God is it becomes so much easier to forgive yourself. Because if you know that God can forgive you, then why shouldn’t you be able to forgive yourself?” I thought it was an excellent point towards the benefits of being religious. PH is so vehemently atheist that I know he could never find faith in a higher power, and it’s a shame because he could really use that self-forgiveness that is somehow fostered by a belief in God.

    But this is the other side. It is good to learn how to forgive yourself for things that deserve forgiveness – the little mistakes we all make. But on the other hand, what if it is more than a little mistake? What if you actually hurt another person? Should you torture yourself into insanity? No. But should you shrug it off just because God can forgive you?

    No.

    What I would like to hear from Josh Duggar is not “God has forgiven me” because the Son of Sam could say that if he were truly repentent, but “I am a different person now. I now respect women. I now respect their bodies. I wholly and fully understand that what I did was wrong – not because God would deem it a sin but because I caused pain and humiliation to other people.”

    But he won’t. Because the sinfulness is all he cares about and sins are easily forgiven.

    But right and wrong is not about sinful and not sinful.


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