Over a month ago, we learned that Josh Duggar, the eldest son and scion of the illustrious (and fecund) Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting reality-show fame, had been a very busy lil pumpkin indeed in his teens, sexually abusing and molesting four of his sisters as well as a fifth unnamed, underaged girl. He and his parents managed to keep the crime away from official authorities long enough for the statute of limitations to run out, so when the police finally got their hands on the information and opened an investigation in 2006, he had already gotten away scott-free with those years of attacking little girls. The news came about as a result of a tabloid site asking for information this summer regarding the 2006 police report using the Freedom of Information Act through completely legal channels.
Josh Duggar immediately issued a not-pology for his crimes, which the public immediately considered simply an attempt to deflect blame from himself. Meanwhile, his parents–their livelihood threatened by the revealing of this crack in their family’s holy facade–went into full spin-doctoring mode. They tried to hire a very big-name public-relations firm to help them and their son navigate the crisis, but the PR firm rejected them for reasons very likely related to their total lack of remorse over what happened–and maybe even their total unwillingness to do anything material by way of redressing their collective crimes. To hear them tell it in their disastrous Fox News interview with Megyn Kelly last month, plenty of families in their community have teenaged sons running around groping and fingering little girls much worse, and two of his victims themselves said the same thing in their own interview. The parents sounded downright baffled at why they’d been so unfairly singled out for attention when their son wasn’t even attacking girls as horrifically as other boys they knew about. Indeed, that’s been one of the most jaw-dropping defenses I’ve heard: aw shucks, haven’t we all been there? A Quiverfull wife called Josh Duggar’s sickening antics “playing doctor” while countless Christians online everywhere tell us heathens that we have no right to point fingers at Josh because “everybody sins.”
No, actually, we have not all been there.
Worse still, all three of them are condemning, judging hypocrites themselves. The mother of the family, years after helping her son escape the consequences of his attacks on her own daughters, recorded a robocall sent out to voters in one state hinting that transgender people were some kind of major risk to children–ignoring the risk to children that she had covered up in her own family. A couple of years ago, Josh himself went to work for the Family Research Council, a rabidly anti-gay evangelical Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group whose goal is preventing equal rights for LGBTQ people by painting them as dangerous–all while knowing what he himself had done. The Duggars are, as a group, one of the most potent anti-witnesses on the planet, but when asked about this shortfall of morality all three of them seem to have no problem whatsoever continuing to do their evil.
At this point, the Duggars’ reality show is off the air–though it might return, and we’ll cover in a second why that would actually be an unmitigated disaster–and a whole lot of people have a brand-new dislike of the Duggars’ brand of Biblical patriarchy and Christianity in general.
It’s ironic that those sorts of Christians only have one general response pattern to accusations of hypocrisy–deflection, silencing tactics, and spin-doctoring–but those are the tactics causing them the most grief right now because while such tactics might work great on fundagelicals, they’re less successful against other folks. Josh Duggar and his parents are going to deflect, silence, and spin-doctor their entire religion right into the gutter at this point. The more they try to pull these tactics, the worse the revulsion and disgust they inspire in those outside their tribe, so the harder they try to deflect, silence, and spin-doctor to counter that increased revulsion and disgust. They really are their own problem.
I wanted to recap everything before we get started on the next chapter in the Duggar saga, one that promises to blow the lid off the Duggars’ dark closet of skeletons.
Welcome to Reality-Land. Keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times.
The Duggars, like most Quiverfull/Patriarchal families, exist in a sort of bubble shielded from reality. The parents enter that bubble quite willingly–almost all of the current crop of Quiverfull parents are actually from outside the culture, since it only began a couple of decades ago, though their kids are now reaching adulthood. The bubble’s insularity is its main selling point. Inside that bubble, these parents are promised, their kids will grow up safe and their families will be happy, faithful, righteous, and strong. Parents will be able to totally control everything that filters into the bubble from the outer world, and can then carefully selectively present that information to their growing brood of children. Denied all access to the outer world outside the bubble, the children will then, the theory goes, have no choice but to grow up to be exactly what the parents want and believe exactly what the parents tell them to believe. And because this form of parenting is totally what Jesus always wanted for families, nothing can possibly go wrong by giving fanatically-overzealous extremist parents complete, godlike control over vulnerable little children.
The children raised within that bubble don’t know anything about what lies outside of it. One could say that to a certain extent of most fundagelical children, but that insularity is near-total for kids raised in the Quiverfull bubble. These kids’ lives are totally scripted and controlled, with the goal being no loose variables unaccounted-for. They are homeschooled with deeply religious (often pseudoscience- and revisionism-filled) textbooks to avoid coming into contact with any unapproved information. The result is kids who hit their young adult years acting like space aliens trying to pretend to be human to fit in with Earthlings. Everything they know is talking points that have been debunked, in some cases, for decades, which is why the kids seem so heartbreakingly ignorant and chirpily insensitive when they try to talk about stuff they really have no idea about, like evolution or reproductive rights–and why the daughters don’t seem fully aware of exactly what happened to them at Josh’s hands; as I noted about the daughters’ interview, they seem to think that only a full-on penis-in-vagina rape would qualify as sex abuse, probably because that’s what they’ve been taught in between changing diapers and cleaning house.
And they probably did and do a lot of that kind of work. Quiverfull families often have way more kids than the parents can reasonably care for, so in families like those of the Duggars and Douglas Phillips, a Quiverfull leader who recently fell from grace after a sex scandal, many parents not only draft their older daughters into various childrearing activities (to the point that many start thinking of their siblings as their own “babies”) but also must enlist help from other families’ daughters, who come and live with the larger, wealthier family as a sort of Cinderella. From the get-go there were rumors that Josh Duggar’s fifth victim was just such an underaged girl who helped them babysit the younger kids.
Josh Duggar clearly didn’t differentiate between his sisters and any other vulnerable young girls in his power; indeed, her lack of familial ties to him might well have been a bonus to the teenaged predator. Well, it also means the Duggars couldn’t coerce, groom, and mindfuck her into “forgiving” Josh like they did to their daughters. She’s the one bringing the lawsuit now.
And that lawsuit is going to rip the Duggars’ carefully-crafted bubble wide open.
It’s not a criminal trial. It’s a civil trial.
These are very different animals and that is what is going to doom Josh and his parents.
The statute of limitations is over. That means that Josh Duggar can’t go to prison for anything he did to any of his victims; the statute was run out well before the 2006 investigation, so the police couldn’t even really force him to testify (which is fine by the Duggar parents, who refused to produce him for the authorities to question in 2006, and fine by Josh, who filed a lawsuit against the state then to argue about the investigation’s findings–so much for how very very sowwy and repentant they all are).
But the thing about civil trials is that they have a much lower burden of proof. Instead of asking if there’s any reasonable doubts about the guilt of the person on trial, a civil case asks what the “preponderance of evidence” leads a judge or jury to think. That’s a huge difference and one that we cannot overstate in importance for the Duggars. Christians are very fond of apologetics arguments that amount to “well, it might be true so therefore you should all totally listen to us.” But they have traditionally been very reluctant to apply that standard to wrongdoers in their midst. In Reality-Land, the court system won’t let the Duggars get away with that line of common fundagelical bullshit.
A civil trial might not even involve a jury; sometimes a civil case is decided only by a judge, so there’s a lot more riding on a very persuasive defense for Josh and his parents. Nor is Josh going to get a lawyer paid for by the state if he can’t afford his own; that’s only one of the protections for criminal-trial defendants that simply is not available for civil-trial ones.
Other major protections that Josh and his parents won’t have are detailed here in this paper, written by what is apparently an absolutely famous law professor named Jonathan Charney. I know I’ve got some Constitutional Law layers floating around my readership, as well as lawyers of other specializations, so I hope they’ll forgive what is surely the biggest oversimplification ever (and correct any egregious errors). That said, when I heard about the major Constitutional protection that Josh Duggar and his parents would not get in a civil trial, I had to do some reading because damn, gang, this was something serious.
Namely, the big protection they won’t have is the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. When I saw that, I couldn’t even believe it, but that Charney paper does seem to support the assertion made by In Touch that yes, indeedy, Josh and his parents will have to answer every single question and will not be able to refuse answering on the basis of self-incrimination. In fact, In Touch relates,
The Duggars will face questions about how many years it took them to get Josh and his victims counseling, what type of safeguards they put in place in 2002 after first being alerted to Josh molesting female minors. “All the church elders who knew about this will have to be named.”
I don’t think Josh Duggar or his parents are going to appreciate those questions much. And if they lie or refuse to answer, they’ll be in legal trouble in a whole new way. I’m guessing perjury is still a crime in civil proceedings.
Like the Freedom of Information Act request that provided the world with the initial revelation of Josh Duggar’s sex abuse attacks and his parents’ coverup, this lawsuit is also perfectly legal; the Duggars’ home state has a specific law that allows sex abuse victims to file civil cases well after the statute of limitations runs out on the crime committed against them.
At this point it seems unlikely that the Duggars will get their reality-TV show back either; advertisers are fleeing the show in droves. That’s actually good news for them. Imagine for a second just how amazingly horrible it’d be for the Duggars to get the show back while they’re giving their testimony on the witness stand about how they helped their son cover up his crimes. That’s going to be completely disastrous. The whole show is about this sweetsie-syrupy, true-blue, utterly wholesome family going about their weird days and their weird religious observances, which is probably why their show is in limbo while that Honey Boo-Boo hey-y’all-let’s-laugh-at-the-dumb-rednecks show got canceled immediately when the mother was rumored to be dating a pedophile who apparently never even got shown on the program. The audience watching the Duggars’ show is going to know exactly what kind of horrific hypocrites the parents are and how horrifically victimized those daughters really are. Some of that audience is going to be fundagelicals who have been staunchly supporting the Duggars ever since Josh’s crimes and the parents’ coverup were revealed (and one wonders if they still will after that bound-to-be-explosive testimony is given). That part of the audience might not care. But quite a few other people are not in that crowd and will be hugely turned off by the disconnect between the personae that the reality-TV show paints and the truth about this family.
I don’t think fundagelical Christianity handles the truth very well. There is a lot of dank darkness, cloudy and swampy, in that branch of the religion and none of it responds well to sunlight. And the Duggars are immersed in the worst of that cloudy swampy soup. Plenty of folks have long suspected that the Duggars have a lot of very dark secrets, and this lawsuit will expose quite a few of them.
The smart thing to do would be to settle out of court immediately and give that fifth victim whatever the hell she wants in terms of compensation for damages, but I don’t think that Josh or his parents are that smart. This whole time, all three of them have acted like they are totally convinced that they are innocent widdle victims maligned by the lamestream media. They’ve painted themselves as the righteously aggrieved, offended parties without fail every chance they’ve gotten. Hell, the parents have gone on the offensive every time, hinting about filing their own lawsuits regarding what they are loudly proclaiming (with no proof whatsoever, of course, but like you needed me to tell you that) is some kind of massive conspiracy to destroy their family and their TV show because, I guess, they are some sort of massive prayer warriors for Jesus and demons hate them for their freedom. As far as they’re concerned, the world totally owes them an apology–not the other way around.
Another major problem these sorts of Christians have is that they are totally incapable of telling when they are going to lose a fight disastrously, and even less capable of reading an audience that does not dwell in the bubble with them. Their usual mindgames will backfire in the real world. I will be completely surprised if they do end up settling, especially if they do so quickly. Someone smarter than Jim Bob might convince him to do the smart thing, but left to his own devices I think that he at least thinks he’s clever enough–or has Jesus-power enough–to persuade any judge or jury of his pure-as-driven-snow innocence in this case.
And the wild part is, this isn’t the only pecker-slap that the Duggar parents are getting from reality. While researching, I ran into this story about a possible future slander lawsuit against Jim Bob and Michelle filed by the police chief they publicly accused of accepting bribes to release the information about the 2006 investigation. I remember hearing that on the interview they did with Megyn Kelly–it was just so gobsmackingly stupid of them to say, so utterly self-serving and clearly deflective. It was like they were saying, “Ignore the pedophile sex attacker and the parents who covered up his crimes! Lookie the police chief who we’re accusing of allowing the news about the sex attacks and subsequent cover-up to get into reporters’ hands! That’s the real villain here and the real crime, not the sex attacker and the parents who covered up his crimes!” And I wondered then if they were going to face slander charges for saying such obvious lies.
That gossip site might or might not be correct in its assumption that a lawsuit is coming soon (the idea seems based on this confirmed story about an email the police chief sent speculating about being slandered), but at the very least people are starting to hold these dangerous fanatics responsible for the outrageous false witness they constantly present.
We needed to do that a long time ago, but better late than never, I suppose. Best wishes to the lawsuit’s plaintiff, and may she get her day in court.