I saw an article shared by several Facebook friends today, entitled, "A Christian 'Defense' of Josh Duggar" (you can read it here) and I made the HUGE mistake of going to actually go read it. I'd make a comment about how you can go read the full text of it yourself, but the article is so absolutely godforsakenly HORRIBLE that I feel the need to actually go through the entire damn thing and respond bit by bit to the drivel I've read. And I'm not holding back punches, either. So here goes. The article is in black; my responses are in red.
You were probably as shocked as I was to learn earlier this week that Josh Duggar had been accused of child molestation as a teenager. Shocked? Well, I was surprised that something had FINALLY come to light. To be honest, I wasn't shocked that someone in the household had done something completely deplorable, given that they are a very closed-off family that doesn't provide their children with a well-rounded secular education that includes comprehensive health and reasonable sex ed courses. Since this news became public, Josh has resigned as executive director of the Family Research Council.
Josh’s actions as a 14-year-old boy were inexcusable and wrong. I should hope they're wrong. He was fourteen - not two, not six, not even eight or ten. HE WAS FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. At fourteen a kid is already experiencing sexual awakening, is aware of masturbation and knows its purpose and likely how to do it (although in the Duggar household this is arguable at best; god only knows what awful things they told their children would happen if they touched themselves). A fourteen year old also understands the difference between right and wrong when it comes to touching the bodies of others, and SHOULD have a semblance of knowledge of the concepts of personal space and of consent. Josh knows that. Does he? Because up until today there has been absolutely no real backlash for his actions, no repercussions whatsoever. He and his father reported the incidents to the police over a year after the events occurred, and that officer was a family friend who also happened to be a state trooper, who failed to file an appropriate report or start an investigation, and who was then later convicted on several counts of child abuse, served prison time, then REOFFENDED and was RECONVICTED so I'm pretty sure that he was not the most reliable person to be reporting this information to, Josh and his victims received counseling Jim Bob admitted that the only "counseling" that Josh received was spending the summer one year with a family friend to help remodel houses, and absolutely NOBODY has stepped forward to give any information on exactly what counseling the victims received, who provided it, and whether or not that person was a licensed counselor who could provide adequate non-faith services, and Josh admits and accepts the consequences for his actions. And those consequences, up until now, have been NIL.
Once again, before we go any further, let us repeat: Josh was wrong. He was more than wrong.
For a third time, just to clear up any confusion, all together now: JOSH DUGGAR WAS WRONG. Okay? Okay. No, not okay, and oversimplifying this situation with a blasé "he was wrong" is EXACTLY WHY more sexual assaults aren't reported.
Josh was also 14 years old. Is there a point where we say, “You messed up. You were a stupid kid. But you corrected your behavior, turned your life around, and we forgive you. Let’s move on?” Yes. It's the point at which a child goes from an unassuming minor who is either pushing their limits or is experimenting for the sake of learning about life to a sexually awakened and aware adolescent/teenager who is purposefully and knowingly doing something inarguably WRONG to his SISTERS. If this was ANY OTHER FAMILY people would be outraged. But it's okay for the Duggars. Right.
Dare I say it? Very few in the mainstream media – very few – talked about Lena Dunham’s documented molestation of her younger sister. Even less called for any type of repercussions for her actions. I had to look into this because before tonight I had honestly never heard of Lena Dunham nor what she was accused of. I found that when she was younger, under the age of ten, she admits to have on occasion looked at, even touched, her significantly younger sister's genitals. I'm not saying that's okay, but I WILL say that my five year old and eight year old still try to poke one another's penises, and that child psychiatrists the world over agree and acknowledge that part of growing up is learning the differences about each other's bodies, finding similarities, and that while it may make adults uncomfortable it is perfectly developmentally normal for YOUNGER CHILDREN to touch each other or themselves in what is perceived as a "sexual manner" even if it is not done with the intention of initiating sex or sexual acts. Look it the fuck up.
Dunham was wrong, but she too was a stupid kid doing stupid, wrong things. The glaring difference between her and Duggar? Dunham laughs about her childhood incidents and shows zero remorse for them whatsoever. And that’s that. The majority of society wrote off Dunham’s incident as childhood stupidity, though it was very, very wrong. Because it WAS childhood stupidity. That's one of the big things here. CHILDHOOD. STUPIDITY. Kids doing kid things. Yes, you're right. I should go turn in my eight year old now. Jesus christ, seriously?
So it would seem forgiveness for childhood failures is completely possible in today’s society. Nope, childhood failures are completely forgivable as long as they aren't to the degree of abuse or murder. Unfortunately, Josh wasn't a child when he abused his sisters. Unless, of course, you’re from a Christian conservative family. I don't care if the family was a left wing Libertarian family. It isn't okay. Christian conservatives aren’t allowed to fail. Sure they are. We all are. But sexually molesting your younger sisters, who are as young as four, when you are FOURTEEN and are in a position of power over them, is not okay. Not at 14. Not ever.
Earlier today, I tweeted this:
Oh, good, you outed yourself as a disgusting apologist right away, great.
I received many responses along these lines:
That's the most common sense I've seen so far from this article and it wasn't from the author.
The thing is, you guys, they do. By 17-years-old, 48% of teenagers have had sex. And for the vast majority of those teenagers it was consensual sex with another teenager no more than two years older or younger than them. One out of every three teenage girls gets pregnant before the age of 20. Of course, this number fluxuates depending on the area of the country you're referring to; southern states, ironically enough, tend to have a higher teen pregnancy rate than EVERY OTHER STATE. And it doesn’t count as consent just because you’re both under 18. No, but the majority of kids under 18 who are having sex don't end up prosecuted for it because their parents or other caregivers understand that they are old enough to make decisions for themselves regarding their sexuality and that said "kid" doesn't magically become more responsible or more able to make wise decisions just because their 18th birthday rolls around. Never mind that most kids don't tell their parents, whether or not we want them to, that they're sexually active. So this is not relevant. You're basically saying that it's okay if you're under 18 and don't consent because pretty much half of everybody else you know has already fucked around, so you should just go along with it. Twenty-six and a half percent of 15-19-year-old girls are giving birth to kids which is a regionally specific number, so I'd love to know where in the nation this information is from – and those are just the ones that aren’t having abortions. Abortions aren't even relevant in this discussion. And 17% of those births are to unwed mothers who already have at least one other child! 1) I'd love to know where in the nation her numbers are from. Again. Also, so? Unwed does not mean unsupported, does not mean that they are not in a long-term relationship with a loving partner. This "15-19" arbitrary range is also pretty damn convenient because, even assuming only people 18 and up are getting married and having babies, that's two whole years of extra inclusion in which people are legal adults in ANY state but are still being lumped into this age range like somehow it's relevant. It isn't.
Yes, Josh Duggar was wrong. Stupid, dead wrong. Wrong. Josh admits his wrong. He and the young girls affected by his actions will live with the repercussions from those incidents for the rest of their lives. It’s an incredibly sad story that unfolds far too often in today’s society. Does it? Because I am not specifically aware of the number of sheltered 14 year olds who go around sexually molesting their SIGNIFICANTLY younger SISTERS on NUMEROUS OCCASIONS. No, I actually don't think this specific occasion happens often.
So what do we do now – 15 years later? Everything we legally can, right? That's the right answer? Now that all this time has passed and these girls have been completely let down by their families, clergy, and the law, we use our newfound information to help bring them justice. That's what you're going to say, right?
Is the answer to teenage failure, “OFF WITH THEIR HEAD!” because of something someone did when they were 14-years-old? Kids are stupid. They’re sinful. They do bad things. Criminal things, perverse things even. Yup. Sometimes kids steal some gum from the store or even some shoes, or punch someone that makes them really angry, or lose their handle on their emotions and say some pretty hurtful, dumb things. Sometimes kids make mistakes. Stealing is criminal. Threatening someone is perverse. But none of those things are.. Dammit, I'm going to have to repeat myself, aren't I.
How do we handle childhood sin? First, I need to get over the fact that you're lumping sexual molestation in with telling a lie. Yes, they should know better, but kids mess up. If we discipline them, they suffer consequences, repent, and turn their life around… What then? WHAT FUCKING CONSEQUENCES DID HE SUFFER?! How the fuck do we KNOW he has turned his life around, when his ENTIRE FUCKING FAMILY went so far out of their way to ensure that the undoubtedly NUMEROUS times he SEXUALLY MOLESTED HIS SISTERS were covered up until this happened to come to light NOW, over a decade later?! Do we show them grace and give them another shot at life? Or do we simply throw stones from our glass houses? Not much of a glass house when I don't fucking molest kids.
Could it be that pointing at someone else’s sin – especially if it’s someone from a family with *gasp* standards! – makes us feel better about our own? I'm pretty damn proud that my family doesn't allow an older child in a position of authority over their siblings to molest said siblings knowingly and repeatedly and then cover it up for years after not providing any counseling for anyone involved or any legal repercussions for the offender.
I also tweeted this today:
If I prayed, I'd sooner pray for his sisters, that they will find peace even with the knowledge that every single fucking person who was supposed to protect and shield them did the exact fucking opposite.
And got lots of this in return:
Do we not understand what was happening in the “first stone” story? A woman was caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning. Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!” Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin. I can't.. I can't even.
Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. No argument there. Wrong is wrong. Consequences are a different ball game. For example, the consequences for lying are quite different than those for murder. Josh Duggar’s sin will have a lifetime of consequences. FOR HIS SISTERS. For those who were molested by this man. THEY WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES of not being provided a loving atmosphere in which they were acknowledged as the victims and provided ample and adequate counseling from a trained counselor who can.. Goddammit.
I’ve never molested children or shot anyone or done drugs, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot. I, too, am imperfect and need forgiveness. I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you? No, but I can still throw the "I never molested anybody" stone and you can bet your ass I will.