The Duggar Sexual Abuse Controversy. Oh boy.

josh-duggarFirst off, I have nothing against the Duggars personally. I do not hate them, nor do I think they are terrible people. They’re imperfect human beings just like me. I don’t care that they believe in God and up until now haven’t really cared that much about their show or actions, other than their negative activism against the LGBTQ community and women’s rights. But even then, that’s their choice and I respect their right to choose their own beliefs and to fight for them. I certainly fight for my beliefs.

So why do I care about this scandal with the Duggars? (MUST READ: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2015/05/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-josh-duggar-police-report.html)

1. Because a crime was committed and the molester was never truly brought to justice. He molested at least 5 girls, including his own sisters while they slept, and he paid hardly any price for it. He wasn’t a child, he was 14 years old- old enough to understand that what he did was wrong. He was never charged with a crime, his record was wiped, and he had to work on houses for a few months and “repent of sin” as his punishment. What kind of response is that? How is that justice when little girls were molested? Instead, they covered it up until the statue of limitations expired and no charges could be filed anymore. He got away with sexual assault.  

I know this was a terribly difficult situation for the Duggar parents to deal with. However, Christians are not above the law. Josh committed a crime, and they purposefully stalled for time so the statute of limitations could expire without him being convicted.

By the time the police were ready to reopen the case, the three-year statue of limitations had already passed.

The police reports claims that Josh confessed to several sex offenses, including “forcibly fondling” of several minor females, stemming all the way back to 2002.

“When police asked Jim Bob to bring Josh in for an interview in 2006, he attempted to hire a lawyer and refused to produce his son for questioning. At least two lawyers refused to take his case,” In Touch reports. “Det. Hignite received a voice mail from Mr. Duggar stating that [redacted, Josh] had hired an attorney and would not be coming in for an interview.”

http://theashleysrealityroundup.com/2015/05/20/josh-duggar-named-as-offender-in-underage-sex-abuse-scandal-report/

This is not just a “sin” that he needs to repent of, it’s a very serious crime that directly harms and affects his victims. Christians can certainly repent of sin if they wish- but this does not negate the need for legal accountability and punishment.

The more abusers that get away with actions like these, the more that the church thinks they are above the law, the more abuse will occur because there is so little accountability and the punishments are laughable.

Why do you think so much abuse happens in the church? It’s no coincidence that the Catholic church regularly hides abuse, protects molesters, and also has a huge sexual abuse problem. The more they hide it, the worse is gets and the more innocent children and other people become victims. The Protestant church is no better; sexual abuse is practically an epidemic in so many Christian camps.

2. I care because not only did the crime occur, but they covered it up. Jim Bob waited a WHOLE YEAR before telling the church. And then the church waited THREE MONTHS to report it to the police. That’s 15 months of him walking around, unpunished, free to molest other girls. Since he sometimes did it while they slept, who knows what else he may have done in more sneaky ways? Did he peek at them while they dressed, while they bathed? Did he molest other girls that he didn’t admit to, perhaps girls that don’t even know because they were asleep? How do we know that all his victims and incidents of abuse are all accounted for, or that he truly doesn’t deal with those urges today?

Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victim services at the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), tells Yahoo Health that while some juvenile sex offenders continue their patterns of abuse throughout their lives and others do not, the long-term effects on children who have been molested by their siblings has “a lot to do with the factors and terms of whether [the abuse] was disclosed, how the person [to whom the abuse was disclosed] reacted, and whether the victim feels they received support from their loved ones and family” in response to the disclosure of their abuse. https://www.yahoo.com/health/the-worst-part-of-josh-duggars-child-molestation-119612235172.html

The girls he molested had to watch him walk around free. He molested them, and he gets to just go on with his life as though nothing happened while they have to live with the shame, hurt, and confusion caused by his actions. Crimes like this cannot be hidden away as though they never happened… they must be put out in the open so other potential abusers know that they will be held accountable if they give in to the desire to sexually assault or molest someone.

3. I care because these young girls, who were molested by their own brother, had to go on performing for a TV show after the abuse occurred. The abuse happened while parts of their show were being filmed, and the show continued on afterwards. These girls were molested and the show just goes on? I find this very disturbing! Did anyone even ask the girls if they were ok with it? And if they did, would they have actually felt comfortable saying no since the show is a major source of income for their family? Probably not. The parents needed to step up and stop the show so they could focus on their grieving and recovering family without cameras in their faces every day. I can’t even imagine what those girls went through, being filmed every day while trying to come to grips with their assault.

The Duggars had to know that someday the media would find this story. They had to know that if they stayed in the spotlight long enough that eventually this scandal would make the news. So what about how their girls feel, having their stories blasted on the news before they were ready to share them? I can’t even imagine how they must feel right now.

When you cover up stuff and then go on like it never happened, eventually the past comes back to bite you.

3. I care because the Duggars, as well as the Christian communities they come from, believe and teach that their narrow views of sex and morality are the only way to live- and they actively oppose LGBTQ rights and other rights because of those teachings. These groups actively oppose marriage equality and other LGBTQ rights because they see that as “deviant” and “immoral”. And yet even after raising their children in this atmosphere, sheltering them from “evil influences”, it did not stop sexual abuse from occurring in their own family and church. And isn’t it better to be in a consensual homosexual relationship than to sexually assault young girls?

If this was a rare story to hear of sexual abuse in the church, it would be easy to write off as an anomaly. But this story is sadly reminiscent of countless others. Sexual abuse and pedophilia is an epidemic in many conservative religious communities, which seems to confirm what many sex-positive people have been saying all along: When you repress people’s sexuality, it can easily backfire and result in the individual expressing and satisfying their desires in very unhealthy ways. (These communities that cover up sexual abuse also become targets for abusers who want to molest people without consequences or accountability.)

Which leads me to my next point:

4. Strict rules about sex and sexual desire often have very negative results- and people need to see the consequences of these teachings. Christians who were raised to feel ashamed and fearful of sex often have problems in their marriages when it comes to sex and intimacy, and sadly they often don’t get help for it. And that’s not even covering the damaging ideas of gender inequality that can and do result in spousal abuse as the man “controls his wife” in unhealthy ways- all according to Biblical principals of course (or at least that group’s interpretation of scripture). And as I mentioned before, it can also lead to sexual abuse when the person harmfully lashes out against the shame and inability to satisfy their desires.

…Utah, where the highest percentage of Mormons reside, has the highest rate of pornography subscriptions than any other state in the U.S. In addition, the LDS church continuously lists pornography as one of the biggest problems within the church (they even launched a dedicated website to deal with the problem). I don’t see this as a coincidence. The emotions we suppress and try to hide (no matter which emotions they are) simply build up pressure inside of us until they either make us sick, or we act out our emotions in unhealthy ways, either in secret or in public. And because we believe we have done something wrong, this results in guilt and shame. http://pearceonearth.com/healing-sexual-shame/

http://www.redletterchristians.org/the-damaging-effects-of-shame-based-sex-education-lessons-from-elizabeth-smart/

Wouldn’t it have been far better if Josh Duggar had not been raised to abhor masturbation and premarital physical contact? Surely masturbating and enjoying healthy sexual relationships with consenting girls his own age would be better than molesting his sisters and other underage girls! Perhaps if he was raised with healthier ideas of sex and was not cut off and shamed from satisfying his sexual desires and curiosities, he would not have turned to abuse and sexual assault. We cannot underestimate the power of being repeatedly shamed for our desires and being terrified of Hell lest we stray… it’s an incredibly abusive mindset, one that many people believe contributes to the rampant sexual abuse in the church.

I am certainly not excusing him, he and he alone is responsible for his actions against those girls and he should have been charged with the crime he committed. However, I am also pointing a finger at the community that raised him to be so ashamed of his sexuality, the community that may have unknowingly helped trigger this behavior in him by teaching him shame and depriving him of any possible healthy means of sexual release.

**************************

So what happens now? Some factions of Christianity will spin this into an “attack on Christians”, instead of the media just doing what they do to everyone. And to be honest I’m glad they do- because otherwise how many abuse cases would never have seen the light of day? Just because the truth is ugly or uncomfortable doesn’t mean the media is evil for bringing it to light. After all, they’re not the ones who molested these young girls. Let’s remember that as the Christian Right goes up in arms as the crimes of their members are brought into the light of day- Josh is the molester who got away with his crimes, the media is just reporting it.

At the same time, it grieves me to think of how this public scandal affects his victims. Situations like this are so difficult… which is why it should have been properly dealt with right from the start. If they had been open about it, they could have controlled how and when the story was made public. Their girls could have at least been more prepared. By hiding it and still choosing to regularly be in the public eye, they by default chose to allow the media to uncover it in their typical sensationalist manner, since that’s what the media does best. And by fighting against LGBTQ rights under the guise of “family values”, they made themselves a media target for hypocrisy. I don’t really blame the media… I blame the parents and other leadership for how this was handled. And as usual, the victims are the ones who pay the price.

Here’s more info on the story:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/05/21/josh-duggar-apologizes-resigns-from-family-research-council-amid-molestation-allegations/

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