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.
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.