Earlier this week a story broke that 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar had molested five children as a teenager. I've seen a handful of episodes of the show in passing, it never interested me. It still doesn't. The idea of profiting off of your children has always been morally distasteful to me, but I honestly didn't think too much of the show or the family, though I met several of them once upon a time... an interesting exchange, considering I'm an atheist. But that is a story for another time.
I actually live fairly close to the Duggars, they're probably 45 minutes away from me as I write this. And in general, they and their show have little impact on my life other than Robo Calls from the Matriarch of the Clan suggesting woe and ruin if homosexuals and transgender individuals be given anything resembling equal treatment under the law. Mostly, I follow a pretty strict policy of live and let live. If they don't bother me, I won't be particularly ill disposed toward them. But woe betide he who steps into my garden...
I don't think it's particularly controversial to suggest that people who molest children are basically human shaped sacks of excrement in general, but what about the people who knowingly cover it up? According to reports, Josh was 15 when he confessed his transgressions to the Duggar Patriarch, who then pulled some strings to ensure his kid wouldn't get in any trouble more than a scolding by a buddy cop (who coincidentally is now serving a lengthy prison sentence for Child Pornography charges). Holy balls, this story gets crazier as I read/write about it!
"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 Duggar
Twelve years ago is an interesting point in time, that's roughly around the time that Jim Bob Duggar the paterfamilias of the clan left his position in the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he was vice chair of the House Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee, he also participated in the Insurance and Commerce Committee and Judiciary Committee. Well that's a relief, I'd be worried if he was somehow involved in criminal justice while... oh. Shit.
Further, during the hushenning Jim Bob ran for the United States Senate, twice. Most recently in 2006 he lost by only 200 votes (which is a pretty narrow margin for a guy who hid his son's felonious philandering of kids, some of which were his own sisters). Additionally, Duggar and his wife have been very heavily involved in Conservative politics since then, as with the recently mentioned automated calls where Michelle lent her celebrity to the cause of protecting children from the gays.
Now, 15 years later the secret is out. And Josh Duggar has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council, because this incident would impact his ability to lobby against the rights of others effectively...
This isn't the first time that TLC (The Learning Channel, a network original created by NASA to promote learning, really) has had a mess like this fall in their lap. Remember John & Kate Plus Eight? Another family profiting off of their children, there was a lot of drama when John left the family. And now it's Kate Plus Eight. TLC apparently loves dysfunctional families as it's also the network that brought us the American Chopper, where we got to see a tattoo'd New York family basically fall apart every week for several seasons.
Then there's crap like Long Island Medium, where the producers decided to find a photogenic snake oil saleswoman and edit out all of her "mistaken readings". If Houdini were still alive he'd have gone after that show with a hatchet and a torch. But for real family values there was Toddler's in Tiaras, and it's popular spinoff/trainwreck Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. A show that was dropped when news that the mother's boyfriend was a convicted pedophile.
And interestingly, Mama June has already spoken out on the Duggar Family woes, and for once I have to say I agree with her; "I read that the Duggar family said, this happening with their son brought them closer to God and each other. So they're saying it's ok to have family touch time? Hell no." Hell no indeed Mama June, hell no indeed. Speaking as someone who was molested by a relative that lived in close proximity to me, I can tell you this... as a victim, it's not all right. It's not ok...
My story is similar to that of Josh Duggars, only I was on the receiving end. Growing up, I was always larger than most of the kids my age. I hit puberty early, and by the age of 12, I was physically much larger and harrier than my classmates. When I was around the age that my son is now, my parents divorced and my mom remarried. The man she married was a little younger than her, and he had a younger brother a few years my senior, Marty.
There was enough of an age difference between Marty and me that we didn't really play together, he had largely grown out of that "kid stuff" so generally speaking when we visited my step dad's family I played alone, which was fine as I grew up as an only child I was quite accustomed to going solo. Then as I got older the disposition of our relationship changed dramatically.
My transition from boy to man was met with the approval of my uncle, who molested me regularly for years. It's hard to type it, even as much as I have here. Which is telling in itself, as I am now a reasonably adjusted 35 year old with a wonderful wife and son. I told no one for a very long time, it wasn't until some years later that I confessed the deed to a girl I knew online, it had been my private shame for a very long time. It was an admission of utter vulnerability to someone I cared for in her own time of need. She was going through a lot of crap herself, and at the time was dealing with similar issues and I felt obliged to let her know she wasn't alone.
My mother found a copy of the exchange in a txt file on the computer, she called me at my friend Derek's to confront me about the situation. She was in a towering rage (understandably) and demanded to know more. I can understand where she was coming from, as a father now I can understand more than ever. If anyone hurt my son, I'd want to know exactly who it was. I'd want to know exactly how much vengeance to exact from them. Only, there's a problem here.
For me, as the victim in question. This demand to recount it all from the blindside was like a second violation. I had not come to her with this information myself for my own reasons. And now it was taken from me. For me, in that situation it was essentially denying my own right to agency yet again, and in a different way. It was a very awkward night there with my friend afterward, and I don't remember how much I told him with regard to the dramatic phone call, though I know I told him something. If you're reading this now Derek, thank you. Awkward as it was, you did nothing to make it worse and you've been one of my truest friends since.
I didn't go to the cops, I didn't even go to my parents. Because I was ashamed, and I knew I had to deal with that before I could deal with any of the rest of the situation. Now, it's many years past the point where any litigation would be possible. But I would be lying if I said that the boy who was mistreated long ago wasn't forever changed by what happened. I'd be lying if I said I don't sometimes wonder what I'd be like if it had never happened. It is like a scar in a place seldom seen, occasionally you'll find it again and remember anew and wonder at what was lost.
I don't have sympathy for Josh Duggar, I can't. Likewise, I find it hard to sympathize with a family that kept it hidden for 12 long years while speaking from a position of ineffable moral authority. Honestly, I can only say that when I first heard the story I was struck by the fact that there were no words from his victims. For someone like me, that silence is telling and it's deafening. We suffer quietly, because who wants to relive that pain? And besides, how can the general population understand the victim? We occupy a space that is entirely alien to 99.99% of the rest of the world. Or at least, that's how it seems.
So, before I go I would like to leave you with this: if you've suffered from sexual abuse, please understand you are absolutely not alone. There are people in the world who have suffered as you have suffered, there are people who will not judge you. There are people who genuinely want to help you. I recommend visiting RAINN Online for help, and to support the cause of victims of sexual abuse. These people are professionals, and they make a difference everyday in the lives of victims across the country. You don't have to suffer in silence anymore...