Why anyone should care

I’m seeing people asking a lot of very strange questions about why anyone should care that Josh Duggar groped his younger sisters and his family covered it up and did nothing about it.

Are they serious? We should care because the Duggars think and say they are better than everyone who doesn’t think like them, and they have a very large public megaphone – and may still have it if TLC’s cancellation of their show turns out to be temporary. We should care because Josh Duggar was a higher-up in the reactionary homophobic Family Research Council until he resigned two days ago because the truth about his past came to light.

We should care because the Duggars are reactionary theocratic homophobic antifeminist Christian activists who pose as Nice and Smiley and Good. They do harm, so of course we should care that they covered up a crime against their own god damn daughters.

Libby Anne of course has a lot to say on this, and we should all be camping out on her blog for the foreseeable future. Yesterday she and a guest poster talked about the silencing power of forgiveness.

I’ve seen defenders argue that we shouldn’t be airing the family’s private affairs publicly, and that this is over and done with and water under the bridge, and so forth. The problem with these statements is that they ignore the role specific beliefs and doctrines played in the mishandling of Josh Duggar’s abuse. As I pointed out yesterday in my blog post exploring the sort of counseling Josh and his victims likely received, the story here is about problems with the Duggar’s worldview and subculture—a worldview and subculture many Duggar fans have praised as wholesome or quaint for years now, without understanding the deep underlying problems inherent to it (problems I have addressed previously here and here).

And now, without further ado, I give you the following excellent commentary by my friend Carmen Green, who like me, like Samantha, and like Kathryn Elizabeth, grew up in a Christian homeschool family and has personal experience with the Duggar’s worldview and subculture. (I even have mutual friends with the Duggars—the Christian homeschool world can be very small indeed.)

Now, Carmen on Anna Duggar, wife of Josh – homeschooled, married young and inexperienced, raised on “Biblical” ideas about sex, women, marriage…

They can’t use birth control (because sinful) so they start having children right away.

Anna now has three, with a fourth on the way. She is 26 years old. She was homeschooled her whole life and never went to college. She now claims that she knew when the courtship began that Josh was a child molester. But I very much doubt that Josh used those words — it is far more likely that he said he had “temptations” to which he “succumbed” but “God is good” and he has “asked for forgiveness.” And, in that culture, she would have had no choice but to accept that for face value, because to do otherwise would be to call Josh a liar and to doubt God’s ability to save. Now she’s found out the truth, she has a few more years of experience, and she’s more trapped than she’s ever been.

“Temptations” ffs – that could be anything – it could be masturbation, it could be wet dreams, it could just be erections. It could be, in short, victimless and harmless. It seems to be one of the worst blind spots (to put it no more harshly) of reactionary theocrats that they don’t even notice the difference actual harm done to actual people makes. Not surprising, I guess, when they think the 10 commandments=the summit of morality.

And then she gets to the forgiveness thing, which never fails to turn my stomach.

Forgiveness is a warped topic in fundamentalist Christian circles where abuse is concerned. Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh are using that language purposefully. They are tapping into the belief that no sin is too terrible for God to forgive and the mandate that we must forgive our trespassers as God has forgiven us. Together, these beliefs force victims in this subculture to shut up, sit down, and “make peace” with the people who have wronged them.

This results in victims having to act as if nothing ever happened. They still have to live with the perpetrator. They still have to speak to the perpetrator and show affection to them. They have to smile and pretend for years and years. No one gets real counseling. And the perpetrator is never punished.

My friend, Kathryn, wrote an excellent piece on why we shouldn’t let Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh dictate the tone of the discussion. I don’t care if Josh thinks the victims forgave him (what choice did they have?). I don’t care if Josh says he’s sorry. He’s a child molester who escaped punishment because mommy and daddy covered for him. Children in two different families (that we know of) were victimized. No other families were ever told about Josh’s behavior so that they could take protective measures for their own children.

This story is NOT about the power of forgiveness. It’s about a cover-up, a blatant disregard for children’s safety, and the appalling selfishness of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

Who are, don’t forget, held up to us as model humans via a popular tv show.


  1. xyz says

    As usual she is doing amazing work explaining the Gothard follower mentality to the rest of us. For the uninitiated, Bill Gothard* is a pastor who developed many of the teachings followed by the Duggars and company. He himself was recently forced to step down from his ministry after he was found to have sexually harassed and/or assaulted multiple minor girls.

    Along with the article you mentioned, I really appreciated this one explaining what “counseling” would likely have looked like for Josh Duggar and his victims: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2015/05/what-did-josh-duggars-counseling-look-like.html

    Note the victim blaming (trigger warning obviously):

    4. Why did God let it happen?
    Result of defrauding by:
    Immodest dress
    Indecent exposure
    Being out from protection of our parents
    Being with evil friends

    And then the counseling document goes on to quote an interview with a young man who molested his siblings, asking him what led him to offend and what could’ve prevented it. The victims’ stories and voices are nowhere to be found. This is some toxic shit, developed by an abuser for abusers.

    *yeah, that’s his actual name. No comment…

  2. dobby says

    And don’t forget that they have been pals with many of the Republican presidential candidates, and are still supported by Huckabee.

  3. luzclara says

    those people are so profoundly deluded, forgiveness is NOTHING when a crime has been committed. it sickens me.

  4. says

    Among the reasons we should care: it’s almost like the laboratory conditions. Sure, this kind of abuse happens lots of places, our cultures are rotten with it lots of places…

    But this is almost like someone’s trying to plate out a bug in a lab. What are the optimal conditions under which we can ensure it flourishes? Lessee… tell the abuser they are ‘forgiven’ by an imaginary all-powerful being generally found useful for this sort of exercise, compel the effectively powerless and trapped victims they must do the same, aaaaand sweep it all under the rug so the neighbours don’t hear…

    Oh. Look. Survives pretty well that way, oddly enough.

    Hell. Never mind lab conditions. Better metaphor might be: this is a bit like finding the natural reservoir.

  5. says

    The reason I bring up Savile is that it smacks of the same pathology. When discovering sexual abuse by people in power or those favoured by authority, the behaviour is to cover up, keep it in the family, deal with it amongst ourselves. No reason to get the authorities involved and ruin reputations.

    Victims never figure in this, of course. Except where they need to be paid off or threatened.

  6. RossR says

    No one gets real counseling
    In their environment I would guess the counseling would be along the lines of “He’s a man: you mustn’t criticise him”.

  7. johnthedrunkard says

    And of course, it matters because the Duggars have trumpeted their abusive micro-managing of their daughter’s lives all over creation.

    Their clothing, their reading, their (lack of) schooling, their interactions with ANYONE outside their parent’s control. This infantilization and isolation has been shilled as the peak of responsible parenting.

    And THIS is absolutely a core example of their real feelings toward their own children. These ARE ‘family values’ Republican style.


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