by Virginia Knowles cross posted from her blog Watch The Shepherd
My heart is so weary and grieved. Again. Reports of child molestation by a member of the Duggar family (19 and Counting reality TV show) have hit the national news, and my Facebook feed has been exploding. Again. Yet another representative of the large family & home schooling movement caught in a devastating sexual scandal. It doesn’t just hurt because I am a Christian mama of 10 who has been home schooling nearly 25 years. It hurts because the lives of so many of my dear relatives and friends have been badly wounded or utterly destroyed by pedophiles and other abusers.
It hurts simply because I am a human.
What happened to the five girls was bad enough. I can only begin to imagine what they have endured and are now reliving. This comes into even clearer focus because I have been diligently researching abuse issues in families, churches, and religious organizations for seven years and writing about them for five. My eyes have been opened far wider than I ever would want. The word millstones comes to mind.
And now. Now the response of so many Christians adds even more to the tragedy. I am beyond aggravated at those who want to blow off the trauma caused by sexual abuse. I am stunned at those who want to silence and shame anyone who wants to have a frank discussion about the very real issues. Many have claimed that those who speak out in protest are worldly God haters who are persecuting devout Christians. They use loaded language like vicious, malicious, rebellious, anti-gospel, knife-throwing, back stabbing, bitter, and slanderous. Then there are the platitudes…<
- I know what he did was inexcusable, but…>
- Boys will be boys. He was just exploring.
- They were playing doctor.
- At least he didn’t rape them.
- Fondling is not fornication.
- Who are we to judge? We are all sinners.
- This was so long ago.
- They dealt with it already.
- They took it to the church.
- It’s covered under the blood of Jesus.
- The girls already forgave him, so why can’t we?
- Why are you trying to destroy his life and his career?
- The family is so godly and wonderful… Let’s not hold this against them. It’s unfair to pull their TV show off the air.
- Where in the Bible does it say to call the police against your own children?
- Stories like this bring shame to God’s name. So stop talking about it.
I could write pages and pages on what is SO wrong about this situation and others like it: The minimizing. The hushing. The glossing over. The powerlessness of religious legalism to prevent abuse – and how it so often enables abusers instead of protecting vulnerable victims. The refusal of parents and church leaders to properly and promptly report abuse to the appropriate civil authorities. The lack of concern for the girls. Yes, the girls.
Josh Duggar is quoted as saying that he changed course so that he wouldn’t ruin his life. Say what? His life. His own life. What about the girls? They claim the girls got counseling and forgave him. What counseling? Certainly not on-going professional therapy! As they are longtime devoted ATI members, I’m guessing it was sessions with the “accept your mistreatment, smile with a bright countenance, submit to your authorities, reconcile with your abuser, and move on in victory” materials by Bill Gothard. (He too has been accused, with ample documentation, of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching against teenage girls over several decades.)
What choice did the girls have? I don’t know them personally, and I am conjecturing. However, in this type of closed religious system, of which I am all too familiar, there just aren’t many options. You suck it up and let it go. You wipe off those tears and put on the happy face. If you don’t, well, we are back to those loaded words: bitter, slanderous, divisive, godless, uncharitable, holding grudges. Abusers and their allies often seek to control the narrative into a tidy tale. It’s about them and their rights and reputation. It’s not about authentic and full healing for the victims, no matter how long it takes and how messy it looks.
Again, I could go on and on. But I can’t. This has taken a toll on my soul. Even interacting on a friend’s lengthy Facebook thread has worn me out emotionally. It’s not the first time I’ve taken heat for my stand against abuse in its many ugly forms. I try to be civil but firm. And I try to remember that I once thought just like that, and I am hopefully still growing in my understanding as I go.