Reality show star Josh Duggar recently resigned from his position at the Family Research Council amid reports that he had previously molested five female children.
When we talk about child sexual abuse, our society talks some tough talk. Child molestation is widely regarded as one of the worst ills against the most vulnerable members of our society.
Engage in a hypothetical conversation with a parent around almost any dinner table in this country and most parents will tell you what they would do to a perpetrator if they discovered their own child was molested. As a result, our society calls for the most punitive sentences for grave offenders, and yet our collective societal talk doesn’t match the walk.
The media circus around Josh Duggar and his child molestation admissions seem to demonstrate clearly that we, as a culture, have a way of defusing the real issue.
To get to the crux of the matter, we need to discuss what this troubling issue is notabout.
These allegations and admissions are not about politics. If you feel compelled to check a known child molester’s political party affiliation prior to formulating an opinion, there is a problem with priorities. If you worry about how these allegations will affect your political party’s platform rather than the victims, you are part of the problem. These admissions of sexual abuse are not okay when admitted by Josh Duggar or Leah Dunham.
This is not about stated values. Values are not about words but actions. The sum total of an individual’s moral character is not determined by words proclaimed from a soapbox but from how that person acts when no one is watching.
This matter is about recognizing some truths.
1. Child molestation is not an innocent mistake. Youth is not a defense against heinous sexual crimes. This is not about a teenager who was truant from school or stole a pack of gum. This is about incestuous, repetitive molestation.
2. Child sexual abuse is most often committed by a person the victim knew.This is essential to discuss as child sexual abuse does not look like what we may imagine. It wears a familiar face. We talk about fearing the strange man in the car circling the neighborhood but statistics paint a different picture.
Sexual abuse happens in all races, cultures, religions, sexual orientation groups, social classes, and political parties. With approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault, the problem of child sexual abuse is quite common. Abusers are most often relatives, parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, priests, rabbis, and sometimes preachy reality show stars.
3. There are real, forgotten victims here. Remember who the victims here are. This is not about a known pedophile persecuted by the liberal media. There are at least four known victims. The law and its brief statue of limitations did not protect these victims. Jim Bob Duggar, the father of several victims and the perpetrator, and his decision to delay communication with the authorities in all likelihood did not protect these survivors. Jim Bob Duggar alternatively decided to confide in family friend and Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens, who is now imprisoned for child pornography.
4. The majority of sexual offenders remain free of conviction. The fact that many perpetrators remain free from conviction means they will never be listed on aMegan’s Law registry. As a society, we create such a stigma around child sexual abuse. It effects the ability of survivors to heal and fails to protect other youth against the same type of sexual violence.
We even defend the assailant as having made a mistake. Republican leader Mike Huckabee, who previously condemned President Obama for allowing his daughters to listen to Beyonce’s music labeling it ‘mental poison’, has come forward in his unabashed support of Josh Duggar. Huckabee calls Duggar’s actions ‘forgivable’.
5. Treatment matters. In this case, it is reported that Josh Duggar was never criminally charged but he received no psychological treatment. The research on treatment is clear. Cognitive behavioral therapy among other modalities of treatment do have an impact. Counseling is necessary for both perpetrators and survivors. We need to do better by our survivors and in protecting potential future victims.
6. Hypocrisy is a boomerang. As much as this is not about politics, this matter is about hypocrisy. The last time I checked, followers don’t get to decide who is selectively forgiven for their sins or even to decide who is sinning as that task is reserved for the Almighty. Perhaps this principle was missed while Josh Duggar’s mom, Michelle Duggar, was busy condemning the morality of LBGT families, even associating lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered parents with predatory behaviors after covering up her own son’s child molestation.
Apparently a little more introspection is needed to replace the hurtful, pointless finger-pointing.
The problem with hypocrisy is that it is often discovered. Like a fresh, budding flower that finds its way to sunlight through the cement cracks, the truth has a way of finding the light.
7. Assumptions are dangerous. Defenders of Josh Duggar claim that he has changed. Being a father of four children, riding a high horse of righteous morality, standing on a soapbox selling political rhetoric, and admitting a truth that has remained hidden for over six years when you are cornered, is not sufficient evidence that you have changed. Very few people know what happens behind closed doors.
What we do know from statistics is that child molestation has incredibly high rates of recidivism. Professionally untreated, child molesters remain dangerous.
8. As a society, we have power. If we decide that we do not want to bring this reality-show spewing judgmental rhetoric into our homes, we can change the channel. We can boycott the show. We can empower survivors by petitioning for stricter laws and the elimination of sexual abuse statue of limitations. We can educate our children on how to protect themselves.
In just discussing the matter with our children, we begin to shed light on one of the darkest issues in our culture.