Reluctantly, I’m sharing, but I somehow felt compelled this evening, and after seeking feedback from one of my brothers and a close friend, here goes…
I really haven’t said much of anything publicly about the Josh Duggar abuse situation, even though I was recently a guest on a local TV news show where this topic was discussed. In the studio, live cameras pointing at my face, I found myself very uncomfortable in the midst of the conversation. If you watched that night, you’d have noticed I said as little as I could during that part of the conversation.
As some of you might already know, either personally or through my writing at the newspaper or earlier, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My family and I went through a great years-long ordeal resulting from this abuse. In many ways, we are still working through the experiences of my childhood and that of my siblings.
As I’ve watched the TV coverage, the social media sharing and so much more, I’ve been so heavy hearted and felt so much affinity with the victims of Josh Duggar’s abuse. At the same time, I’ve been extremely conflicted on the judgment cast against Josh Duggar himself. Childhood sexual abuse is complex, and, though there’s no way for me or anyone else to know, I have pondered very deeply on what caused Josh, when he himself was young, to act in the way he did. Was it reactive behavior in response to some sort of abuse he himself endured — abuse that might have very well never gone addressed or solved? We’ll never know. Perhaps the family will never know, because his parents failed to provide adequate parental support and care, through insistence on therapy and other services, for, most importantly, their victimized children, but also, importantly, their perpetrating minor child.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are the true monsters here: for not adequately protecting and then providing proper care for their children who suffered abuse and for not taking the most appropriate therapeutic action for another of their children who also desperately needed help.
My advice to the world as a survivor: (1) Most importantly and chiefly, pray for the wellbeing of and hold in your thoughts the victims of Josh’s abuse; (2) Hold off on the condemnations of Josh, whose actions could have been prompted by any number of things and who was also a juvenile when the actions happened, and also had parents wrongly guiding him instead of seeking to help him; and (3) Place your judgment and scorn squarely where it belongs: on the parents who failed their moral duties and obligations to protect and care for all their children.
My advice to Josh: You’re not to blame for the wrong directions in which your parents steered you when you were young. But you do still have ultimate responsibility for acknowledging your abuse and the harm it caused your victims. As you aged and as you became an adult, knowing your own past, it was incumbent upon you to seek counseling. Perhaps your own childhood and the actions of your parents clouded your own assessment of your actions, but you have no excuse now. I’m sure by now you’ve been exposed to plenty of solid reason and legitimate criticism on what happened. It’s your responsibility to seek proper therapeutic counseling and make amends for your abuse. If, by chance, like me, you yourself were the victim of childhood sexual abuse, I hope that by seeking help now you can begin the process of healing and stopping a dangerous, hurtful cycle that often plagues families for generations.
Finally, my advice to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar: You can’t change the past. But you can make for a better future for your children. Abuse that runs in families is rarely a one-time occurrence; abuse is often reactive, itself a manifestation of earlier childhood trauma, creating a cycle that is endless unless forcefully stopped by intentional action. Where else are there problems? It’s your role to find out. You have 19 children. One of them we know has abused. Four have been victims. What else is going on in your family? It’s your moral imperative and obligation to know, to address it, to seek proper help and assistance and to fix it. You brought these children into the world and now it’s your responsibility to ensure their health and safety. Anything less is beyond monstrous.