Going at it alone: more lessons from Josh Duggar

josh-duggar-reason-for-abuseRecently the Duggar family went on the record in an effort to lay to rest the scandal concerning Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters when he was fourteen years old.

In the interview the Duggar parents admit that Josh informed them of his behaviour three times across 2002 and 2003 and that each time the family decided it was best to deal with it from within the family boundaries instead of going outside of it.  When that did not work on the first attempt, they went to their church for help.  On the third time in 2003 they sent Josh to a faith-based camp for help.  But in all three cases it was dealt with entirely from the tiny confines of their close-knit community instead of informing the law and allowing the state to step in.

In 2012 I wrote a report for Yahoo Voices concerning rape and incest within the insular orthodox Jewish communities, a report that was re-posted into this blog before Yahoo dismantled Yahoo Voices.  In that report I called for an end to victim-blaming in religious communities.  Sadly with the Duggars his victims are also defending his behaviour, no doubt partially because the Duggar parents are in denial themselves regarding just how serious sexual violence is.

Until we start treating sexual crimes as serious, until we stop making excuses for those who violate the physical integrity of other people, and until we genuinely punish the perpetrators of these crimes while providing a strong and protective support system for those hurt by them then of course we cannot expect to stem this epidemic of violence and sexual violence.  Even in 2015 we treat rape as “no big deal.”  Women and men both do this, including victims of assault and sexual assault.  We keep making excuses and telling those hurt to shut up and “get over it.”

Now as a healed survivor, I am the first to say that experiencing assault and sexual assault does NOT BREAK YOU.  It doesn’t taint you.  It doesn’t make you less of anything.  In fact it becomes an opportunity for transcendence, to grow into something greater and be a better person — no different than any other form of hardship.  This isn’t lessening the horror of the experience; what I suffered WAS HORRIFYING.  A healthy human being MUST BE HORRIFIED by violence and especially sexual violence.  At the same time, our societies have this habit of not only dismissing survivors when we speak up (been there!), but also treating us as the walking dead.  So we are dismissed first for daring to speak up and second when the wounds heal — as they must heal.

It’s a culture that favours those who rape, beat, and kill and treats those who receive this treatment as surplus population who had better just die off quickly so our societies can pretend there’s not a problem.

Most alarming to me is the matter of the insular community.  Why?  Because I see its danger as someone whose insular community made it easy to continue these acts of violence and to continue dismissing me when I sought help.  Yet, unlike the Duggar girls, I went to adults for help — but they wouldn’t  help because of the insular community.  It was easier to call me “evil sorceress” or “seductress” (right because four year old girls instinctively know how to seduce men 10x their age into sex?) than place that phone call to social services that would have taken me to safety.

The larger problem is therefore not Josh Duggar — a man who doesn’t deserve to have his children grow up with him — but the communities themselves.  We can only help people in need when we go beyond our castle walls and allow the larger secular community to intervene, to enforce laws written to protect children and provide safe home environments for everyone.

Yes, our governments are not perfect; there has never been a truly perfect government.  But when we fail to trust others beyond the boundaries of our small communities we set ourselves up for exactly the epidemic of violence and sexual violence plaguing our societies.  Protecting the community becomes more important than what is right and just for the people being hurt.  This was the case at Penn State and it is the case with the Duggar family.

What is your take on the Josh Duggar matter?  Reply to this post with your comments below and let’s get a serious conversation going!

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