I was home schooled for sixth and seventh grade. My mother went through cycles with the schools I attended. She would put me into a new school and then move me out at the end of the year because the administration was terrible. She didn’t want to put my brother and I into public school, but the Catholic and Baptist schools that she preferred weren’t much better when it came to bullying and the attitudes of the administration regarding bullying.
So, when I was in sixth grade, she removed the issues she had with the school systems in Philadelphia by removing my brother and I from them.
Home schooling was rough. One of the things my mom really wanted to do was to make sure that we still had social interactions and friends. But she quickly discovered that the local homeschooling groups were packed with fundamentalists who told Jules and I that our family’s ungodliness meant that we were going straight to Hell.
My mom did not stand for any of that shit. So we drifted out of homeschooling groups in the same way that we had drifted from school to school, save with more rapidity. I’m so grateful to my mom for recognizing toxic environments and making the effort to remove me from them when I was a kid. She worked really hard to make sure that I was in a safe space, and that is so valuable to me as an adult when I look around me and see so many of my friends and loved ones whose parents did not do that hard work for them.
Which brings me to this weeks totally unshocking revelation of adult misconduct.
Before this week you might not have heard of the Duggars. They were the stars of a TV show that aired back in 2008 titled “17 Kids and Counting” that made it’s way up to “19 Kids and Counting” by way of being “18 Kids and Counting.” The show was about Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 kids. The kids’ names all start with the letter “J.” Because why not.
All that is enough to make me just nope straight out the door, but it gets worse. The Duggars are also Independent Baptists (i.e. super fundamentalist Christians) and members of the Christian patriarchy movement. Christian patriarchy is one of those things that really upsets me both in idea and practice. It is what it sounds like, basically. The father is the head of the house and, as such, he is responsible for the conduct and care of his family. But, of course, that means that all the women in the house are totally subservient to the father and viewed as property.
If you want to understand more about the sickness of the Duggar way of life and some of the people that they associate themselves with, I wholly recommend this Open Letter to Duggar Defenders when you have time for a long read. Here is an illuminating excerpt regarding the supposed “happiness” of the Duggar children:
The Duggars are deeply enmeshed in ATI, (Gothard’s homeschooling program) and ATI takes allegiance very seriously. It isn’t a vague statement of beliefs that you sign so your kids can take the courses. It is several pages of in-depth info that covers what kind of music you can listen to (no Christian rock), the kind of TV you may watch (mainly Christian DVDs), the way you must dress (those jumpers are about modesty), the kind of punishments the parents must use (spankings), and more. It isn’t just a curriculum–it is a lifestyle which delves into family finances, child planning and every other detail.
One key idea teaches the importance of a joyful countenance and a light in your eyes. This is a measure of how mighty you are in spirit. Not only that, it is also an indicator of your respect for authority. Bill Gothard explains in the Basic Seminar session on How To Relate to Four Authorities that if you look unhappy, you are publicly shaming your authority. In parenting, that means that if the kid looks unhappy, it is a personal offense against the parents. He also teaches that unhappiness is the result of ungratefulness, and that anger comes from not yielding our rights to God. This boils down to the idea that if you are not cheerful, you are not pleasing God.
I get that negative emotions are not easy to deal with. And navigating them as a parent must be hard. But giving kids the space to feel sad and to deal with negative emotions healthily as they arise is important. At the very least, allowing kids to feel authentically and to express those feelings is vital to healthy emotional development.
So that’s just one aspect of the things that the Duggar children have internalized over the years. I should point out, by the way, that the Duggars are not alone in this. There are many other children being raised in this way and being taught these things. This is not an isolated group of people acting completely alone and contrary to all the other folks around them. Which is what makes it even more frightening to me.
Anyway, as you can imagine, all of this opens the door for all kinds of abuse. And, this week, it all boiled over.
It turns out that Josh Duggar, the Duggar’s eldest son, has admitted to molesting underage girls when he was a teenager in Arkansas. Included among these girls were his own younger sisters. The story broke on Thursday, when In Touch magazine published an article about the recently uncovered police reports from 2006 which indicate that Josh confessed to his father regarding the molestation. And that his father did not go to the police until a year afterward.
In a statement yesterday Josh was quoted as saying:
Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends… We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.
Since the news hit yesterday, Josh has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council. Josh’s parents Jim Bob and Michelle have stated that:
Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.
I have so many problems with what Josh did. But even more problems with how his family chose to handle what Josh did. Waiting a year to report the incidents to the police and praying to God rather than allowing the legal system to do it’s job are not acceptable choices.
At any rate, I am waiting to see whether the Duggars come forward with any more pertinent information to this case. Has Josh received any kind of therapy since these events? Has he been continually involved with any type of support group?
The fact that Josh has been involved in pedophilia and incest and now has his own children makes me concerned for the safety of those children. And the insular way in which the Duggars chose to deal with their son’s criminal acts toward his siblings and other young girls makes me suspicious. If they were not willing to report him to the police until one year after his “childhood mistakes,” what would they do if he was still molesting young women today? Or his own children?
My doubts about the family’s willingness to do the right thing regarding Josh’s pedophilic acts are exacerbated by the family’s close ties to Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and Bill Gothard of ATI. Doug has been revealed to have sexually abused a young female employee, while Bill spent decades sexually grooming the teenage girls sent to him by their parents for instruction. The Duggars have yet to speak a word against these men and their acts of sexual misconduct.
The Duggars have revealed with their previous behavior that they have no wish to expose Josh’s proclivities to the public eye. They hid his misdeeds behind the thick veil of secrecy that surrounds their family long enough that that is clear. But if the Duggars are not willing to expose Phillips and Gothard, who are not blood relatives, to bad press regarding their inappropriate sexual acts, I do not believe there is a force in this world that would compel them to expose their son in that way.
As I said, I am waiting to see if the Duggars come forward with some evidence that Josh has control of his urges to take sexual advantage of the girls in his life. But honestly, the fact that his behavior started so young and went un-addressed by anyone in a position of authority outside of the family does not give me a lot of hope that it has abated. I remain deeply concerned for the safety of his children and all young women with whom he interacts and over whom he has authority.