It’s not shocking that the Duggar family’s bright, smiling Good Christian™ Image hid some terrible things. It was obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Christian patriarchy movement that all those shiny happy faces concealed some pretty harsh truths. I figured the wheels would come off eventually, but I didn’t anticipate Josh Duggar being outed as a child molester. Needless to say: content note for child sexual abuse.
Turns out that Josh sexually abused several of his sisters and another little girl. He started when he was thirteen:
Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.
Nope. The family did not see fit to report their son’s sexual attacks to authorities. I doubt the little girl (or girls) he was molesting got much help or support. I don’t even want to think about the harm later purity and abstinence teachings did to them, or how much pressure they came under to forgive their abuser.
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to find out that a stern lecture from Daddy didn’t solve anything:
Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.
Did Jim Bob call the police? Nope. He told the elders in their church. Did the elders – mandatory reporters, by the way – call the police? Don’t be silly. They all decided instead to send Josh off to do some manual labor for a few months. The elders thought the kid was getting counseling, too, but his parents later admitted they’d sent him to help a family friend remodel houses, not counselors.
When Josh got back, Jim Bob took him to a police officer friend of his, who gave the teenager a talking-to and then let the issue drop without investigation or charges. That policeman is now in prison for child pornography.
Let that sink in a moment.
Josh apologized to the girls, who of course say they forgave him, because he “turned back to God” and stuff. By the time someone tipped Oprah off and her staff alerted the authorities, the statute of limitations had passed, and Josh Duggar never had to face any legal consequences for his abuse.
Before we go any further, I want to ask you to pause for a moment and consider what a nightmare this is for the victims. I’m sure they’d made what peace they could with this, and moved on with their lives as best they could. Now it’s spread all over the headlines because reporters dug up an old police report, not because they themselves had come forward. I know at least one victim is so concerned about being publicly identified that she’s asked the courts to destroy any unredacted copies of the police report. So please, don’t speculate as to which girls were harmed. Don’t out them if you know who they are. As a sexual assault survivor, I know it’s important to be allowed privacy, to not be seen as nothing more than an abuse victim. There are productive ways to talk about this. Libby Anne has a list of important things to take away from this, and ways to approach it. Gossiping about the girls is not one of them. Keep the focus on the important issues, and on the perpetrator, where it belongs.
Now. There’s something I want to address here. I’ve seen it said in some comment threads that kids who sexually abuse their siblings are often abused themselves, and may be acting out what they themselves have been put through. People have been excusing him left and right, as he was young and sheltered and probably horribly warped by his family’s cultural isolation and twisted views on sexuality. And I’d possibly buy that if he wasn’t a teen, old enough to appreciate the difference between right and wrong well enough to know that one does not sexually molest anyone, and molesting sisters is right out. I’d even grant that maybe he was so sheltered he didn’t know this stuff was wrong if he’d stopped the first time.
But after he got caught, and knew what he was doing was not okay, he kept doing it.
That takes it right out of the “teenaged mistake” category and puts it into the “criminal predation” box. No more excuses.
Then, and this is the second bit that the “teenagers make mistakes” crowd needs to pay close attention to, he went on to pretend he’s a squeaky-clean Christian family man, and that it’s other, icky people *coughgayscough* who threaten the safety of children. Surely not upstanding family man Josh Duggar, who has been forgiven by God and the girls he attacked, and therefore is no threat to anyone. Well, except QUILTBAG people who are just trying to hold down jobs, use the public bathroom appropriate to their gender identity, marry the person they love, and raise families that they’ve no intention of abusing. He’s definitely a threat to them.
There are things you really shouldn’t do as a (hopefully) former child molester. One of them is joining the Family Research Council and spreading around a lot of hate and vicious lies, all while pretending you yourself are the epitome of the Upright Cis Het Christianist Family Man.
As for his parents, it might’ve been a really good idea for them to not howl about the imaginary predators who will attack all the ladies and girl children in the women’s restroom if trans women are allowed to pee there. Maybe, instead, they could’ve removed the plank from their own eye, and perhaps looked in to ways of combating child sexual abuse within conservative Christian families.
Now, this is the third bit I’d like all those excusers to pay attention to. Let’s look at the statement Josh Duggar just gave to People:
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh, 27, tells PEOPLE in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
Let’s parse a few things, here. First: “I confessed this to my parents” – no, he did not. He got caught. In the first case, one of his victims reported him. It’s harder to tell from the report what happened in the second case, but the wording, “Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals,” implies he didn’t confess a damned thing until his victims reported him again. Like many predators, he’s trying to paint himself as far more noble than he really is, but his own words (not to mention actions) give him away.
Now, here is the coup de grace: “I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.” Parse that language, and you see him minimizing what he’s done (“wrong road), and concerned only with the consequences to himself (“I would end up ruining my life”). The victims’ lives aren’t part of his equation. It doesn’t sound like he stopped because he realized he was hurting his young sisters and the other victim, but because he knew that if he got caught again, he would be in big trouble.
Teenage Josh may not have known better. Adult Josh absolutely should. No excuses.
Now that the mask has been ripped off of this supposedly perfect family, it’s time for people to educate themselves about Christian patriarchy and what it does to its victims. People need to face up to the fact that strict Christian values and pretty smiles on the outside often mask extreme abuse and desperation on the inside. If you’re tempted to defend Josh and his parents, stop. Educate yourself. Read survivor’s blogs. Read Love, Joy, Feminism; read No Longer Quivering, read Homeschooler’s Anonymous, for a start. Find out how the teachings the Duggar’s follow too often lead to child abuse, broken futures, and, yes, covering up sexual abuse. Listen to the people who grew up in families like the Duggar’s, and see what we outsiders can’t.
And don’t pretend a child sexual predator is no big deal because he’s famous and only molested children when he was a teenager. Past, current, and future victims of people like Josh Duggar need you to support them and find ways to stop and prevent abuse, not excuse their abusers for whatever reason. If any of the girls choose to speak out, listen to them, empathize, and respect them. And don’t ever stop trying to make it harder for people to get away with hurting children.
Hey, Duggar fans and Slymepitters! Welcome to ETEV. Please click all the links and read all the articles and posts. And please don’t bother to try slipping your abuse apologetics and gotchas past my comment filters. I’m sure your time is valuable, and you don’t want to waste it writing ill-conceived screeds that will end up laughed at and tossed in my spam bin. Have a nice day somewhere else!