Talking About Josh Duggar = Re-victimizing

There’s an article going around right now that basically says everyone needs to stop talking about Josh Duggar’s past crimes because it’s revictimizing the girls he molested so many years ago. ***see note at bottom about the article***

Articles like that one are coming from a place of concern and I appreciate that very much because too few people have acknowledged the hurt of the women who survived this situation, BUT these articles also miss the point in a major way.

For me and for most of the people I’ve seen speak out against what happened it’s not about shaming the Duggars or reopening their wounds. It’s about shedding light on the increasingly common abhorrent beliefs about obedience, consent, and sexuality that create a perfect environment for sexual (and other) abuses to flourish and remain hidden within. Allowing these beliefs and abuses to remain hidden would be a travesty.

I agree, of course, that the survivors of Josh’s molestations have been revictimized by this news coming out the way it did. I am absolutely sickened that the world knows their identities, which should have been protected until or unless a time came when they wanted or felt able to tell their stories.

However, that ship has sailed. Even if every single person on the planet stopped talking about the Duggar scandal right NOW, those womens’ names are still out there. The damage is done.

In my opinion, the focus now needs to be on exposing the underlying questionable theology so that perhaps future victims might be spared the experience altogether. That perhaps past and future survivors might gain the actual help they need and not be thrown under the bus by victim-blaming sexual abuse “counseling” materials the way that these most recently discovered survivors almost certainly were.

I’m not still talking about this topic to “heap hate” on Josh or his parents. Nor am I “dancing with glee” that the Duggars have been “brought down.” Actually, I’ve felt quite ill about the entire thing ever since it came out, in addition to being rather upset and baffled by all the people who continue to defend and minimize what happened initially and how it was handled in the aftermath.

I do have hope that people will start to examine the theology behind the Duggars and Gothard now that yet another story has come out of that camp. I have hope that enough Christians will listen to abuse victims/survivors; stand behind them and tell them that that what was done to them was NOT their fault in any way! I have hope that we can move forward and learn how to handle the issue of sexual abuse in constructive ways in our churches and through our legal system.

This issue is not going away and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

***note*** I don’t plan to directly link to the “revictimization” article in question. I find it both hypocritical and distasteful that they use the names and photos of the women involved, in a post about how those women are being revictimized, thus letting everyone who didn’t already know their identities know exactly who they are. Blatantly outing the abuse survivors yet again in order to have a sensationalistic “click-bait” title is utterly inappropriate in a post telling everyone else to stop talking about them.

This other article is linked above, but I wanted to say a bit more about it as well. It was written by a lawyer who actually trained at Gothard’s law school and was involved in Gothardism for a while (is not any longer, of course). He’s not excusing Josh’s actions – but he does an excellent job of outlining how their beliefs can set the stage for this to happen.

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Duggars

To be completely honest and up-front from the beginning of this post, I have never been a fan of the Duggars. Fairly early on, I learned too much about the Pearls, Bill Gothard, and ATI to really buy into the whole “sweet large Godly family” brand they’ve tried very hard to create over the years with the help of TLC.

That said, I’ve also done my best to give them the benefit of the doubt over the years and this is how my thought processes tended to go: Yes, they used to recommend the Pearls child abuse training manuals on their website, but they don’t any longer. Maybe they’ve changed their minds about them. Yes, they’re members of ATI and, as such, they had to agree to certain methods of disciplining their children and living their lives, but they do also seem like genuinely nice people on camera and maybe they rejected the more extreme bits of Gothard’s teachings.

Then, this week, news came out that the pervasive rumors about Josh’s alleged sexual sins had been proven to be true.

Most of the people I have personally seen speaking out about this on social media are Christians, which is a good thing. The Christian community (myself included) would do well not to minimize this or act as though this is an example of Christians being persecuted for their beliefs. The saddest thing about this coming out, to me, is that several of the victims’ names are known by default because the sickening information contained in the police report and the timing of everything don’t leave many doubts.

I feel the need to ask: how many extreme patriarchal families are going to end up with sexual assault/abuse charges before that specific community does something about it?

The Duggars followed Gothard and he recently stepped down due to sexual abuse/harassment allegations. They shared many similar beliefs with Vision Forum, and the ex-leader of Vision Forum (Doug Phillips) also currently has a case against him for having repeatedly sexually assaulted a young woman who was under his care. Doug Phillips’ transgressions were originally painted as an “affair” by his supporters, despite a clear power imbalance in the situation.

These do not appear to be isolated incidents, and for what appears to be a very logical reason. In my experience, any culture that teaches male supremacy, that women cause men’s sexual sins, that parents must isolate their children from the outside world, and also that they have to raise children very punitively while requiring “first time obedience” to authority figures is creating conditions perfect for incidents like this to take place and for the victims to have a very difficult time receiving any significant help.

The Duggar parents handled this extremely poorly at the time, and that’s an understatement. I’m sure they were blindsided and didn’t know how to handle the situation, but the lack of follow-through with the authorities, the apparent lack of actual (as opposed to Gothard-approved) counseling for Josh or his victims, and the fact that several of his victims lived with him for years upon years after this happened are all inexcusable, in my opinion. Not only did several of his victims have to live with him, but they were filmed with him while posing as a happy — some might say “perfect” — family.

Yes, people can be changed, but the adults in the situation sweeping this under the rug was inexcusable. TLC working with them if they knew about this and how it was handled was inexcusable. Those girls having to live and be filmed with him for years after they were molested by him is inexcusable. The fact that the girls were probably given to believe (possibly not told outright, but certainly subtly given the message) that they were at least partially to blame since, under their beliefs, women cause the sexual sins of men is also inexcusable.

As for the timing of the story coming out now, I suspect it’s very simply because two of his sisters are starting to have babies and past traumas tend to surface during pregnancy and childbirth. There’s also the question of whether or not someone in the family wanted to protect the smallest members of the family and brought things to light when Josh was first beginning to have baby nephews and nieces.

I don’t believe this truth becoming known is some elaborate scheme to discredit Christianity or their particular brand of such.  The timing doesn’t seem odd or sinister to me at all and it troubles me that people would use this horrific event to further the dubious cause of American Christian Martyrdom.

The facts I’m left with at the end of it all are that the Duggars — portrayed as paragons of “Godliness” and “Family Values” — harbored a known child molestor in their home for at least one year before saying anything to anyone outside of the family, failed to follow through with the police report that first time when they simply mentioned it to their friend, failed to get the perpetrator adequate help, and failed to get his victims adequate counseling and help.

I believe that the Christian community needs to soundly condemn the adult Duggars’ response as well as the molestations themselves. This kind of chicanery should not be tolerated in the name of Christ. Yes, forgive, but don’t forget. There is no excuse for the adults sweeping this kind of incident under the rug. For years and years.

My sympathies go to the survivors.

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