Friday, May 22, 2015

Thoughts on the Duggar News

It was big news on social media and internet news sites - it has recently come to light that the eldest Duggar child molested four of his sisters and another young girl when he was 14 years old.

The responses have ranged from moral outrage and demands, now realized, for TLC to cancel their show, to finger pointing with shouts of "Hypocrite", to exasperation that such a fuss is being made over a mistake made so long ago, to a presidential candidate expressing his support for the family at a time when the Duggars are being attacked by the blood-thirsty media.

I don't think any of them are wrong.

Should TLC continue to air the show? I've never watched it nor do I follow the Duggars. I think it would be morally irresponsible to continue the show without addressing the realities of child sexual abuse and its aftermath. Doing so might make obvious who Josh Duggars victims are and they may not want that known.

I don't watch cable, but to a large extent, from what I've read about the types of shows TLC produces, it's not a network that should be taking on any kind of educational or advocacy role regarding childhood sexual abuse in general.

For these reasons alone, and myriad others, canceling the show was the best decision on TLCs part.

Is Josh Duggar a hypocrite? He's certainly made a name and a substantial living for himself lobbying against civil rights while pointing the finger at homosexuals as a "danger to children" while not disclosing the fact that he was at one time sexually abusing children.

But, frankly, I think hypocrisy is part of the human condition. Josh Duggar just got caught being hypocritical on a HUGE issue that affects the lives of millions of children the world over and will continue to affect their lives in many ways for years to come.

Should presidential candidates be weighing in on this issue? It might be wiser if they didn't. Is Josh Duggar being attacked by blood thirsty media? Eh. Maybe. Maybe not. Most of what I've seen in the media is an honest account of what was done and how it was handled by the family and law enforcement and how it became public. The media seems to be relatively fair and balanced in this. Every news report I read from every news source I used (from cnn to huffpo to fox) reported the same basic facts in the same basic neutral tone.

The attacks largely seem to be coming from news readers commenting on the stories both on news websites as well as on social media. And for every attack against Josh Duggar, there seems to be support for him as well, calling out the liberal dems who, from one comment made, would apparently be praising Josh if he were gay and had molested his brothers instead. (Seriously, who honestly fucking believes that?)

Josh Duggar chose to live in the spotlight in a time and in a culture where no secret that involves a paper trail is ever safe from exposure. He had to have known that this outcome was not only possible, but incredibly likely, when the Duggars began their reality tv show, at a time when Josh was already 20 years old and could have opted not to be a part of the show, could have chosen out of the limelight. He didn't and his life became open to public scrutiny. He invited the American public into his life.

The reactions I find most interesting and disturbing is the jump to defending him and discounting his actions - "he was only 14," "he got help," (we can neither confirm nor deny the promise that) "he stopped," "he's apologized," "he's asked forgiveness." "At what point do we forgive people and let them move on with their lives?"

I believe in forgiveness. I believe in redemption. I believe in sanctification. And yes, Josh Duggar is forgiven by God for his sins. That's the forgiveness that matters.

But he wasn't "only 14." He was a 14 year old boy who sexually molested four of his younger sisters and another underage female known to the family. Though the police report released by InTouch magazine is heavily redacted such that the names of his victims remain unknown, his next four younger sisters would have been between eight and twelve years old.

This was not sexual exploration between two young siblings who wanted to know what the body of the "other sex" looked like. It was the repeated victimization of much younger children at the hands of their adolescent brother.

Josh Duggar clearly knew what he was doing was wrong. He waited until other family members were asleep and only when sure he would not be caught, Josh Duggar proceeded to repeatedly sexually abuse his younger sisters and an underage female known to the family.

Josh Duggar did, according to his statements and the statements of his father, get help. He was sent away for a period of time to receive therapy and do hard work. His mother's statement, however, clarifies that he was not sent to a therapeutic treatment center that helped him understand the nature of his actions and why they are inappropriate or how they harm others (a fact that stands today as made glaringly obvious by this statement to the press).

Rather, Josh was sent to the home a family friend who made Josh perform manual labor. Josh was given stern warnings, by a police officer known to the family, about what would happen if he didn't cease his behaviors. No official reports were filed and the family never followed up with the legal system in addressing the sexual abuse of four of their daughters by their eldest child. The same police officer who warned Josh about the path he was headed down is reported to be spending several years in prison for possession of child pornography.

Josh Duggar's apology to his victims may never be known. It was ostensibly made at least nine and as many as twelve years ago. But the damage he did is obvious in reading the police reports which indicate that at least one of his victims became visibly upset, burst into tears, and was offered a tissue by the investigation office when police did become involved four years after the incidents, at which time the statute of limitations was up and justice could not be obtained via legal channels.

The statement Josh Duggar made to press, and published exclusively by People magazine, however, makes clear that his actions and apologies were for himself alone. Yes, as Christians we're called to forgive. But we are also called to be accountable for our actions. Josh Duggar never in his statement accepts accountability for his actions. The words he uses do little to acknowledge the gravity of the crimes he committed.

Josh Duggar tells us that he "hurt others" and "if [he] continued down this wrong road [he] would end up ruining [his] life." Absent is any mention of the reality of what he did. He didn't "hurt others." He repeatedly sexually abused his younger sisters and another underage female known to the family. Josh Duggar perpetrated incestuous sexual violence against people younger and less powerful than himself.

Additionally, he makes clear that he stopped not because he recognized the extraordinary damage done to victims of sexual violence, but rather that, having been caught, he was concerned first and only about his own life and what would happen if he were caught again.

Finally, his family's response is a clear indication that the church needs to do a better job of addressing issues of sexual abuse. And the church needs to start by those familiar with and speaking in the midst of such situations naming the abuse for what it is.

Josh Duggar may have "humbled himself before God" as his wife claims, but he certainly didn't humble himself before "those whom he offended." Josh Duggar didn't "offend" four of his younger sisters and another underage female known to his family when he was fourteen. Josh Duggar SEXUALLY ABUSED four of his younger sisters and another underage female known to his family.

By failing to call Josh Duggar's action what they were, Josh Duggar is given implicit permission to continue minimizing his actions and denying the consequences in the lives of his victims.

Josh Duggar (ostensibly) stopped sexually violating his sisters and family friends when his abuse came to light and he no longer felt safe continuing in his behaviors. But what of the safety of his victims, four of whom remained living under the same roof as their abuser until he moved out and whom he continues to see on a regular basis?

And now that these revelations have forced Josh Duggar to leave his position with the Family Research Council and for TLC to cancel the show, how long until the Duggars fade from the limelight?

And with young daughters under his own roof, how long until Josh Duggar feels safe to begin sexually abusing family members once again?

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