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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Is Josh Duggar a child molester? Are his parents guilty of a cover-up?

This is not a gossip blog. Yet from time to time a child molestation scandal breaks into the news, and I am compelled to address it. This is one of those times.

On May 22, 2015, The Learning Channel pulled '19 Kids & Counting' from its Tuesday evening lineup on cable television. The reason for this arose directly from the outrage expressed over the revelation the previous day that Josh, the oldest of the Duggar children, had been investigated in 2006 for 'forcible fondling' of his younger sisters when he was 13-14 years old. Exactly what the girls accused him of was putting his hand under their clothing and feeling their 'chest and privates' while they were sleeping. Since the 2-year statute of limitations under Arkansas law had already passed, no charges were ever filed, but the day the news broke, Josh resigned his position as Executive Director of the Family Research Council, and published a second apology for his wrongdoing:
"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. 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. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."
 His wife Anna stated:
"I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock. It was not at the point of engagement, or after we were married - it was two years before Josh asked me to marry him. When my family and I first visited the Duggar Home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it. For Josh he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was -- even every difficult past mistakes[sic]. At that point and over the next two years, Josh shared how the counseling he received changed his life as he continued to do what he was taught. And when you, our sweet fans, first met me when Josh asked me to marry him...[ellipses in original] I was able to say, "Yes" knowing who Josh really is - someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. Someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right. I want to say thank you to those who took time over a decade ago to help Josh in a time of crisis. Your investment changed his life from going down the wrong path to doing what is right. If it weren't for your help I would not be here as his wife — celebrating 6 1/2 years of marriage to a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right. Thank you to all of you who tirelessly work with children in crisis, you are changing lives and I am forever grateful for all of you."
 and his parents chimed in as well:
"Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything."
 Now, the real story of what happened is found in the words I have highlighted. A boy fell into sexual bondage, resulting in the molestation of five innocent girls. His alarmed parents took control of the situation and led him to freedom. Once caught, he actively sought release from the bondage and made no attempt to hide his past when he met the woman he decided to marry. By 2006, everybody involved in the abuse was over it, beyond it, not suffering any lingering pain from it--until now.

When we ask if it was wrong for the Duggars to 'cover up' this story (i.e., not to make it a part of their official biographies), we should also be asking if it was okay for In Touch Weekly to dig it back up. After all, Oprah Winfrey's production company, which reported the abuse in the first place, has sat on it for nine years--why couldn't everybody else?  All the trauma which both the victims and the perpetrator are going through right now comes directly as a result of this public shaming undertaken by ITW. The victims are being victimized all over again, and I must say that this comes as a delight to those who hate abuser and abused alike for their stand against fornication.

Are the Duggars hypocrites? Absolutely not, if hypocrisy is denouncing something in public while practicing it in private. There have been plenty enough of those exposed lately, but their punishment for being found out-- often in flagrante delicto--is typically no worse than what is now being foisted upon the Duggar family, abused and abuser alike: the loss of their celebrity careers.  And it disgusts me that ITW and their sycophants are largely getting away with it. It's Bash The Duggars Day, every day, and everyone gets a turn with the stick. Well, not everyone. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee had this to say:
Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one's judgement is not mature. No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility. Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims. Janet and I love Jim Bob and Michelle and their entire family. They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.

So, the answer to the questions posed in the title of this post is "NO." But now that the cat is out of the bag, what next? Well, for one thing, an Arkansas judge has employed the classic "close the barn door" move of expunging the records that have already been released. Now THAT would have been a cover-up, had it been done in the previous decade. And it still would have been justified, for all the same reasons.

In the next post, I'll address another whole set of questions:
"Is what Josh did really all that uncommon?"
"Was the approach the Duggars took effective?
"What can be done to keep boys from molesting their little sisters?"
"What good could still come out of this disaster?"

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