Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ten Things I want to Say to the Duggar Girls

Dear Girls in the Duggar Family,

I don't know you. I don't even know the fictional versions of you, as I've never watched the television show about your family, "19 Kids and Counting." You don't know me, how could you? But we have some things in common: we've both survived sexual abuse. We've both had to sit at the same dinner table as our abuser. I'm a Christian, too, though I understand your family may not consider me one (I wear blue jeans, went to college, and don't hate people for being born gay.) I've been thinking about you a lot this week, as the word of your brother Josh's molestation of at least four of you has spread across the internet. I thought of you when Josh said he changed his ways because he knew that if he didn't, his life would be ruined. No mention of you, of your lives. I thought of you because over and over, in the things that I read, you, the victims, were left out. So here's what I want you to know:

1. What happened to you was not your fault. Not. Your. Fault. Not ever your fault. Not because of the way you dressed, not because of the way you acted, not because of anything about who you were or what you did or didn't do. It was NOT your fault. I know from experience how easy it is for assaulted children to believe they caused the assault; I've also seen crazy things such as this from the same man who promotes the homeschool curriculum your family has always used. I wish I could say this to you in person: no part of the evil that happened to you was your fault.

2. Normal men do not lose sexual self-control. It's not the job of women and girls to keep men from molesting or raping people. It is the job of the men themselves. Normal men are capable of seeing women in blue jeans, with short hair, in shorts, or even in bathing suits on public beaches without being consumed by lust, still less raping them. I'm not sure why the people surrounding your family seem different. The man who wrote and promoted the above blame-the victim tutorial, Bill Gothard, recently lost his job because he's been accused of molesting 34 women. Normal men don't molest women. Not at all, not ever, no matter what.

3. What happened to you was criminal. It was not normal. It was entirely wrong. A fourteen-year-old who sexually assaults his four-year old sister commits a crime. Sexual assaulting you in your sleep was a crime. There are no excuses.

4.. Asking for forgiveness for criminal actions is not enough. God can and does forgive all our sins. However, we also live in society, and must be accountable to society's laws as well as to God. If Josh had taken a gun, randomly shot someone, and killed them, he could certainly repent and be forgiven by God, but he would also have to answer to murder charges and spend time in prison. In the same way, when he assaulted you, the juvenile justice system should have been called immediately. In fact, both the elders of your church and the state trooper who gave him a "stern talking to" were legally mandated reporters: they broke the law by not reporting Josh to the state. I hope they are charged with that. (The state trooper has already been imprisoned for 56 years for child pornography.)

5. You should have gotten counseling. From the police report it seems that Josh was "counseled" by the church elders who didn't file their mandatory report, and the state trooper now in jail for porn. His "treatment" was to go work in construction away from the family for a few months. This was unfair to him and to you. He needed professional treatment in a facility for juvenile sex offenders, where trained counselors could help him and could also assess how likely he was to assault children again. You all needed counseling even more than he did. Sexual assault can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression; its effects persist for decades. It's a Big Deal. Treating it like it wasn't a big deal threatened your long-term physical and mental health. A good therapist would have helped you, and still will if you ever get a chance to see one.

6. I'm sorry this has been splashed all over the internet. At the same time, I'm g
rateful this has been splashed all over the internet. People who molest children rely for concealment on silence and shame. The only way to get rid of this evil, in the world and in your lives, is to expose it to the light. I know these last few weeks have been very hard for you. I also know that they've been easier than being sexually assaulted in the first place. You've got a chance for healing now; I hope you snatch it with both hands.

7. You need to keep small children away from your brother Josh. Most people who are capable of molesting children can never be trusted around children again. I'm guessing you already know to keep your younger sisters away from him, but you need to watch out for his daughter, too. Do whatever you can to keep your family safe. If Josh doesn't like it, ask him why not.

8.. God created you as an individual. When I read the police report written several years after Josh first assaulted you, I was struck by how similar all your answers were. All of you who were interviewed stated that your favorite activity was Broom ball or kickball. (One of you said you were attempting to get your GED.) I hope some day you will find the strength to explore whatever it is that you, personally, enjoy most--painting or gardening or photography or travel or fan fiction or whatever--whatever makes your soul light up. You were created as a unique and treasured person. Be one.

9. You were brave before. Be brave again. Whichever of you originally told your parents of the assaults--whichever of you told them again after the assaults continued for another year--you were astonishingly brave. You weren't even a teenager at the time. Whoever wrote the letter stuffed into a book that allowed the truth to break three years later--I don't know that it was one of you, but it could have been--that was brave too. It is very hard to say a difficult truth, especially in an atmosphere that expects your silent compliance. Keep telling the truth. Tell it every chance you have, as loudly and clearly as you can. The truth is the only way out.

10. It was not your fault. Do you hear me? It was not your fault, not your fault, not ever, not once and not in any way, your fault. It should not have happened, and it did, and it was not your fault.

I wish I had some way of getting this to you. I don't know you, but believe me, I wish you all the best.