Image by lwpkommunikacio, used with Creative Commons License
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wasn’t quite sure what to say about the fact that Josh Duggar molested five young women several years ago. Now I know.
A lot of people criticized the Duggar family, particularly Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, for not immediately going to the authorities to report Josh’s actions. Jill Duggar Dillard and Jessa Duggar Seewald have also come under fire for forgiving their brother so easily for what he did.
This is normal.
This is not limited to insular religious communities, like the Quiverfull movement the Duggars are part of.
This does not just happen to Catholics.
This does not just happen to Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
This does not just happen in the Boy Scouts.
1 in 3, or 1 in 4 (depending on the statistic) women are sexually abused. 1 in 5, or 1 in 6 (depending on the statistic) men are sexually abused. Sexual abuse is not limited to any of the aforementioned organizations or communities. It transcends religion, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status – everything. No one community can boast that they have no history of this epidemic. And this is a totally normal way to handle it.
It happened to one of the people I suspect of molesting me (although I can’t know for sure if I was molested, because I appear to have repressed the memory). What I can confirm is that when this man was a teenager, he “got a little too familiar” with some of his cousins and they “kept it close to the chest, like any good Scottish family would.” I’ve had it happen to friends of mine who do remember the abuse. Quite often, when you love someone and have positive memories with them, you don’t want to believe they could do something so terrible. So you ignore it. Or brush it under the rug. Or deal with it in a sub-par way. Instead of focusing solely on the survivor or victim, you are also dealing with your own conflicting emotions about someone you love molesting someone else you love.
And that’s why it was so easy for Jill and Jessa to forgive their brother. That’s why, when I was dealing with the initial issue, before it looked like I had a repressed memory, I posted a note on Facebook around the time of the Penn State scandal wherein I played devil’s advocate and called for forgiveness on the part of offenders. My first reaction when coping with my own history of sexual abuse was to forgive the offender, because I loved them and had happy memories with them. I cared about them. They weren’t all bad, I reasoned. Maybe if I talked to them about it, they would admit it and apologize and we could get on with our lives.
Do I find fault with the way Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar handled the situation? Yes. But they did what most parents in similar situations do. So we need to stop vilifying them and start looking at ways to deal with this in other situations, because it does happen in other situations – not just with the Duggars. Do I thing it’s wrong that Jill and Jessa came out in defense of their brother? No. Whatever was a part of their own individual healing process is their business, and if it worked for them to forgive their brother (provided they weren’t forced into it by their family or Christian counselors with little training) then I think that’s fantastic for them. And I can certainly relate to why they chose to forgive. However, I want to stress that forgiveness may not be a part of everybody’s healing process, and that’s okay too. No one path is always right for every survivor or victim.
This isn’t just the Duggars. This is America. This is all of us. Please, let’s fix this for everybody instead of nitpicking a famous family who did what everyone else does.