Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
“Hiding my pain and acting strong, afraid to cry and
show my tears, I struggle with all this years later.”
― Erin Merryn, Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness
I’m playing ‘catch up’ on topics and knew that I would eventually need to talk about the topic of the Duggar family. I know that a lot of media coverage has made hearing the Duggar name sound as comforting as snuggling with a pit viper. In all fairness, though, I’ve waited to talk about this topic in the blog for a while on purpose. I had a total system ‘shock and awe’ event that happened when details of the events were released. Talk about ripping a scab off a deep and very painful wound. Here let’s just start from when Mel and I began watching them….
Mel and I had been watching the Duggars’ program 19 Kids and Counting for a couple of years on and off. We usually watched them when nothing else was on because of their radical, fundamentalist views. However, when we did watch the show, I enjoyed watching the strange dynamics within the family like many of the other reality shows on television now. We usually have fun diagnosing or predicting future diagnoses of each member of the families we have the pleasure of watching them interact together. Yes, when both you and your spouse have counseling degrees and can recognize dysfunction a mile away, then watching reality TV tends to be so much more interesting.
Anyway, watching the children interact but also factoring in that networks need their ratings to remain profitable, you can just tell that with that many kids in one family, that all needs are not met for healthy mental development. Aside from the fact that I feel deeply sorry for the mother’s uterus for having to birth that many children, I still had a deep concern for the mental well being of the children. I would and do feel sorry for children who have to grow up in families where their religious beliefs are as abusive as any object or fist that’s thrown or used on the child. Where these families might have the best intentions for their children biblically, it’s not healthy physically or mentally for children to grow up with such strict “laws” imposed on them by their caretakers.
When you have 19 children, you are setting them up for failure. I have read and watched how the Duggar’s children interact and an older child is put in charge of a younger child. Ummmm…..did I say that they are both children? Yep, children should not be expected nor put in the position of ever having to be a parental figure to a younger child. I realize that this happens even in smaller families and even non-religious families and it’s still destructive.
When the news about Josh Duggar and the molestation began littering social media and other news sources, it didn’t take long for my heart to drop to the pit of my stomach. I had a gut feeling about what had been the probable cause of the events but I wanted and had to hear more. I was torn about isolating myself from the story because of how triggering it had already begun to be at the first mention of his actions. The only way to explain how I felt was completely emotionally confused but needed to know more.
I was correct in my assumptions that the children were not being taught about healthy sexuality. In many evangelical or other radical religions, the topic of sex and healthy sexuality are seldom discussed anything beyond “don’t do it or you’ll go to hell.” So, children grow up not understanding fully and thinking that it’s wrong or deviant for natural body exploration. Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the multitude, was quoted after walking in on one of his son’s masturbating that “idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” He then proceeded to punish his son by making him do chores with his hands tied. What this suppression will lead to is sexual frustration and confusion. Everyone has been around a teenage male at some point in their life. The last thing they need is SUPPRESSION!!!!! Heck, I would like to hand out extra sets of hands. I’d also like to point out that proving to the nation that you can produce a zoo just because you have the parts is not exactly an example of healthy sexual practices either.
The more I began to dig into the Duggar’s handling and subsequent minimizing of the situation is when I became so triggered that started becoming physically ill. Then, I began to watch as many members of other “Christian” religions also minimize the actions of Josh Duggar. I soon became enraged at what I was hearing and seeing. The attitudes I was seeing were collectively stating, “He said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness, now leave him alone. It was an innocent teenage mistake.” Are you kidding me?!
Standby as I paint the picture of the rest of the crimes that were committed. Keep in mind that Josh Duggar perpetrated 5 female children, 4 of which were his sisters. The initial crimes were committed in 2002-2003. Josh would’ve been 14 or 15 at the time. The behavior was done repeatedly and the parents, as well as, other church members were well aware of what had transpired. Josh’s parents stated that he was put in a program that consisted of physical labor and counseling. Ok, brace yourself for this next part….
The program that he had allegedly been attending consisted of being sent away for three months to do construction work remodeling a building with a ‘mentor.’ This individual has since been convicted and is serving a 56 year sentence for child pornography. Also, none of the adults that were aware of the incidences ever reported the abuse to the authorities. That in itself is a crime! Conveniently, the statutes of limitations had also run out by the time authorities were notified. No therapeutic counseling or treatment has been provided for Josh or his victims. If it sounds like I’m also taking up for Josh, make no mistake that I’m doing no such thing.
His parents minimization of the situation was clearly put on stage in an interview with FOXNEWS….” it wasn’t like this was some sort of terrible violation. It was just a little sexual groping of one’s sleeping sisters.” “There were a couple incidents where he touched them under their clothes,” Jim Bob said. “But it was a few seconds.” Now if that turned your stomach imagine how the children felt when their own father and mother described ‘sexual purity’ after their abuse. Engage in any kind of sexual activity before marriage and you’re as desirable as a banged-up bike or a cup of spit: This is the message the Duggar parents conveyed to the girls who had been sexually assaulted by their older brother.
The Duggar sexual philosophy is that girls’ bodies do not belong to themselves. They’re under the authority of another male figure, and then they belong to their husbands. There is no individual right of female sexual pleasure. There is no value placed on female bodily autonomy, ownership or control. The message is that girls’ bodies are never their own, that the girls themselves are simply vessels for male pleasure, male desires, and male authority, and the girls’ job is to preserve their bodies to hand over to the appropriate man. Ok, this was not their “husband” anyway. It was their brother for God’s sake. If you were raised in a home with these types of beliefs would you, as a female child, said anything already knowing that your fears and confusion would not be validated?
From someone who has been sexually assaulted as a child and later as an adult, the lasting effects reach far beyond most “non-touched” people’s minds. I must keep reiterating that just because I had sexual trauma does not correlate to my being gay. Seems like an elementary concept to some but it still needs to be driven home to others. I was also one that didn’t think that being molested had any long term effects because until my 30s, I had not remembered any lingering negative effects from the incidents. I was also in the middle of still surviving a very emotionally, mentally and sexually damaging marriage at the time that took every ounce of energy. I was also in college working on my undergraduate degree at the time of issues arising directly related to my molestation at a young age which helped to keep my mind occupied.
When our oldest son Marshall was born, I started noticing a lot of anxiety about giving baths; changing diapers and anything requiring basic care regarding hygiene and his genitalia. I would actually start to sweat while changing diapers. I would get nauseous and often times cry while not knowing why I couldn’t do basic “mommy duties.” I felt as if I were violating him in some way. I felt dirty and just wrong for simply trying to take care of our baby. The same type of “innocent teenage mistake” that I’ve heard Josh Duggar’s actions referred to was robbing me of the pleasure of being a mom.
The effects of the guys that touched me both as a child and adult reach far beyond just our son. This information is reserved for the brave souls that continue to work with us both as a family and a system. There’s many more statements made by the Duggar’s that absolutely turn my stomach. Josh Duggar committed a crime and was at an age where he knew that touching his sisters was wrong. To have the behavior reinforced by adults, two being primary caretakers, who knew the behavior was continuing and refused to report it to the authorities or get the proper help that their son needed says to me that there’s more than one perpetrator. What makes this situation even more hurtful was that their weapon of choice was the Bible.