Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Stupidity

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.

On Homeschooling (and why it isn't "the problem")

I've seen a couple of articles going around about Josh Duggar and the situation in his family, and it seems like there's a good one from Patheos that seems to condense the information into an easily understood list of information that makes perfect sense.

Except for the last point.

"Homeschooling can limit children’s ability to report abuse."

Now, to a degree, that's a statement that kind of makes sense. In a traditional school environment kids interact with all types of adults all day long - teachers, administrators, counselors, assistants, etc. They see all sorts of people who might notice a change from the norm and who might ask questions or probe enough to get a shy or threatened child to talk about what's going on at home. The ideal situation, of course, is that if a child is subjected to abuse at home that they will eventually feel as though they can or should open up about it to a trusted adult, and if they go to a public or parochial school, they will inevitably encounter more adults who can be told. Unfortunately, this ideal is pretty much irrelevant, for a couple of different reasons.

1) How many children out there either never told anyone and nobody found out about the abuse until it was too late, or are being abused and are too afraid to come forward to ANYBODY? The problem is, we don't really know. Abusers either threaten or condition the children they prey on, and all too often kids won't open up to anybody about anything - and when the abuse is emotional or sexual but not physical, kids often are brushed off as either lying or exaggerating their experiences. (Especially when the abuse is sexual and the abuser is a close friend or family member.) Given the ages of the girls involved and the subject matter at hand, there is a VERY good possibility that being in a traditional school never would have made a difference. You cannot coerce or force a child to admit to something with a serious social stigma attached when they sincerely believe that they or their family will be at risk if they reveal sensitive information.

2) How many kids anymore seriously get the chance to open up to their teacher and befriend said teacher enough to feel comfortable sharing something this intensely personal? Class sizes have exploded over the last ten years and teachers often have little down time with their children to sit and talk. Kids are ushered quickly into classrooms where they immediately begin their days and are ushered out just as quickly at the end. Older children may well be able to find the time and comfort to sit with a teacher they've known a while, but younger children rarely get this luxury and honestly don't often bond much with any of their teachers. Not to say that teachers of younger children don't make a difference, don't bond with students, and don't report incidents when they're made aware of them - they do, by all means! - but unfortunately teachers just aren't given the opportunity to learn enough about their students anymore to notice when something is off. I'm fairly sure that every single teacher I came in contact with during my time in public school would have immediately reported any sign they encountered of a child at risk of abuse, but in all honesty, I think unless there is obvious physical damage present, a teacher may not notice or be made aware enough to report it.

3) People are easily swayed by money and notoriety. Say a teacher had been made aware of what was going on - there is ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEE, be they mandated reporters or not, that they would have reported the incident in a timely fashion to someone who would have followed through, especially when the family involved is one that involves a former state representative and a well-known and publicized family who is espoused for their morality and spiritual belief. And even if they had, who's to say that the person who they reported to would have done anything about it? Everyone in the line of mandated reporters must follow through without question and immediately in order for something to be done in time to prevent further abuse. If just one link in the chain is weak, multiple children can be swiftly shoveled through the cracks. The possibility is there, yes, but assuming that things would have been different if they weren't homeschooled is tragic and places blame where it doesn't belong.

I want more than anything to only consider the good in the world, but assuming that this would have come to light sooner if they were in a traditional school setting gives even more bad light to homeschooling parents. There are thousands of families who homeschool out there who are NOT doing awful things to their children, who aren't abusive, and who aren't withholding information or purposefully teaching their kids incorrect information just because it adheres to a specific religious belief. (There are unfortunately also a number of families with children in public or parochial schools who are systemic abusers.) I would even go as far as saying that Christian homeschooling isn't the problem here (despite my disagreements with the general lack of evolutionary/scientific teachings) - it's the fact that these parents aren't teaching sex ed, they aren't teaching kids bodily autonomy. They teach an environment of "I'm in charge and you do not say no to me or your older siblings" and that fosters an unhealthy "I must say yes/comply" attitude that leaves young children thinking they can't say no to someone who is an authority over them. They don't teach kids what touches are okay and what aren't, who is okay to touch and who isn't. It's when you teach a child to be ashamed of their body and think that anything they do to themselves is sinful that you get children who grow up with an unhealthy bodily image. And given their supposedly unwavering fundamentalist upbringing, you certainly can't blame it on a lack of morals - so the fact that they are staunchly religious in and of itself isn't a good excuse.

Homeschooling, though, is not the problem here, and it should not be blamed, nor even brought up.

(General disclaimer: I am aware that the vast majority of parents, either homeschooling or making use of public or parochial school systems, are not abusive in any form. I am aware that there are and hopefully always will be more families in every environment who are loving, nurturing, and attentive than those who are not. I am aware that generalizations do not help either side and am not intending to vilify or generalize anyone into a single category - the only exception being the severe and standard lack of sex ed and mainstream scientific information and education in the fundamentalist religious homeschooling community. I do not wish to vilify public schools, as my entire family has attended public school, and I have loved and respected nearly every educator that I or my children have come into contact with over the years.

The point of this? Being in public school would not have guaranteed that this situation would have been appropriately reported and dealt with within a reasonable time, nor that the outcome would have been any different, and I am very tired of seeing people suggest otherwise.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

On The Duggars

After a long, LONG silence, I finally feel like I should (or maybe can) come share a post. Mainly, my thoughts - at length - on the hubbub surrounding the Duggar clan and the controversy about the oldest son, Josh.

In case you missed the clusterfuck, it's this group of lovely individuals AND I DON'T THINK THIS IS ALL OF THEM.

I'm sure you know what's going on by now, but in case I need to rehash:

The Duggars are part of the Quiverfull movement, which basically says that 1) men are in charge and women should always be subservient, which includes foregoing secondary education and holding any meaningful job outside the home, 2) the purpose of relationships is for procreation to make a "quiver full of warriors for God", and 3) that children should be taught according to the unquestionably abusive "training" methods akin to the drivel that the Pearls spew (which includes blanket training). They use the opportunity of being homeschoolers to avoid teaching their children meaningful science or any form of sex ed.

Basically, they're already emotionally and mentally abusive, so they've already got that going for them.

Somebody asked Jim Bob to recite all the kids' names. 

So, in other words, this is already a pretty dysfunctional family - and that's ignoring the fact that they do a lot of other things (like courtship) that might have been adorable a hundred years ago but today are pretty unfeasible and allow new couples basically no opportunity to get to know one another.

So yesterday a lot of major media sites started posting articles about how there were allegations that at some point about ten years ago, Josh Duggar may or may not have been involved in the sexual molestation of young girls. At the time, he was a minor touching minors, so everybody kind of played the situation off as bad decision making and likely something that happened between him and family friends.

Then someone said the police report was available, that it was from 2006, and that it mentioned a LOT of interesting points.

Touching little girls: about as American as it gets.

First: The girls that Josh allegedly touched included several of his own sisters and likely a close family friend or other relative who would have had reason to be sharing sleeping quarters with his siblings.

Second: The allegations only came to light after a family friend found a letter in a book they'd borrowed more than a year after the abuse occurred.

Third: The abuse had been reported to authorities but no action had been taken; that being said, the family had supposedly gotten counseling for Josh and for the victims.

And everybody was pretty upset, but, you know, nobody's perfect, he was just a kid, he made a mistake, etc - you know, things that basically let him off the hook. Excuse his actions. He was a kid who made a mistake, right? Because surely a 14 year old can't possibly know that touching another person without that person's consent is wrong. Of course not.

Then things got worse.

Josh admitted it. Which, I mean, that's good, since at that point trying to deny the allegations wouldn't have gone well. But at that point it stops being potential allegations and starts being a lot of fucking truthiness. He admitted the affected girls were several of his sisters and another unnamed individual. He admitted that he told his parents about it, and that he'd been sent to "counseling" which then turned out to have been a family friend for whom he helped out doing house renovations for a couple months during the summer. (No mention of the counseling for the girls, of course.) He said he'd told his dad, who had acted on the recommendations of church elders (mandated reporters, of course), and who had gone on to tell a family friend that also happened to be on the police force (another mandated reporter) who proceeded to do jack shit. Never mind the fact that the "family friend" wasn't informed of this for several years, until well after the statute of limitations on sexual abuse had passed in their state, but that the "friend" handled the whole thing by talking to Josh about the repercussions of his actions and then doing jack shit (later this same authority was arrested on multiple counts of child pornography, so there's that). Josh's wife, Anna, with whom he has three small children and another on the way, admitted that Josh had been open with her about the abuse he'd leveled on his sisters before they had begun courting.

Nothing about whether or not Josh was then kept from being able to access his sisters.

No word on what counseling or support his sisters or the other victim received.

No comment about how it had affected the girls, or if Josh had gone all that time still able to prey on young girls (which one must assume he has, given that he is not segregated from the family and has his own children).

Nothing at all about how this case of incest and sexual abuse needs to be investigated and how the entire family should be individually counseled and these children seriously talked to about what's going on and whether or not any of the rest of them have experienced something similar.

So damn wholesome. If you can ignore the touching little girls part. Oh, look, a little girl.

So now what? Good question. TLC has, luckily, responded appropriately and while they haven't cancelled the show as of this moment, they have pulled it from the air. It's a good very small start but it doesn't account for the health and well being of the children involved - girls who are now nearly adults, or who are teenagers, who are still woefully unaware of their bodies and what they're experiencing, and who have had no real guidance on coming to terms with the abuse they've experienced in their short lives. 

If I can be honest?

Every single one of those kids, from the youngest to the oldest still at home, needs to be removed from that household. I do NOT say that lightly, as I am very aware of the tendency of the law and many Department of Human Services employees who overreact to situations and who remove kids from houses where it is hardly necessary or in their best interest. But here, it needs to happen and FAST.

I consider these necessary weapons of child rescue. Also, it'd be fun to put a good hole in their door.

These kids need to be individually interviewed and counseled. They need to be given age-appropriate sex ed and health information. They need to have the situation explained in the most basic of terms and be told what has happened. 

This includes Josh's kids. The main problem there being that if either is being abused they're too young to vocalize it and share their experiences, and will likely not remember it either. Given that Anna knew Josh's past when they married and still agreed to have kids with an unconvicted, admitted abuser who had never gotten help, I'd say that she'd be willing to hide any evidence or knowledge about anything her husband is currently involved in.

Will there be closure for this family?

It's hard to say. I hope so - I can't even imagine what these girls have endured. Knowing the principles of the movement and the fundamentalist mindset, I'm guessing they were probably told it was somehow their fault for looking or acting in a sexual manner, and that their big brother was completely innocent. But it's hard to say.