Power, Abuse, and the Duggars: Part One

For part two of Power, Abuse, and the Duggars, read here

“None of them were aware of Josh’s wrong doings.”

“They didn’t probably even understand that it was an improper touch.”

“They didn’t even know he’d done it.”

If you caught Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s interview with Megyn Kelly last night, you probably recall their repeated insistence that the girls molested by their son Josh, most of whom are their daughters, were unaware of the violation when asked about it. Jim Bob in particular wanted those watching to know that the violations were “not rape or anything like that” but rather “touching somebody over their clothes,” though he did admit that among Josh’s “wrongdoings” were “a couple instances where he touched them under their clothes.” These statements are enraging on so many levels, but they also serve as an opportunity for all of us to have a much needed conversation about sexual abuse.

Survivors of sexual abuse tell themselves some of the very same things that Michelle and Jim Bob said in their interview. They question if the violation was really that terrible or if they were violated at all. Our rape culture automatically questions victims of sexual violence, and that public skepticism often gets internalized as self-doubt.

What if, instead of coming from Michelle and Jim Bob, these statements came from one of their daughters whom Josh molested? What if one of them had said, “My brother touched my breasts, but it was while I was half-asleep. And he just did it over my shirt, and it only lasted a few seconds,” what would our reaction be? Would we say to her, “Well, that was wrong, but it wasn’t rape or anything like that”? I certainly hope not.

Our reaction to any allegation or admittance of sexual abuse should not primarily focused on determining just how horrible the act itself was. Sexual violence takes place on a spectrum, but in every instance, no matter how someone might try to trivialize the particularities of a violation, it always involves the abuse of power. That is the conversation we aren’t having in the midst of this public controversy. Those with power get to control the narrative in order to protect themselves. Those with power get to focus on what’s at stake for the abuser, not the abused. Those with power can influence victims–and in the case of the Duggars, the public as a whole–into thinking what happened to them might not be such a big deal.

On Friday the Duggar daughters will have their turn to speak. But when they do, let’s not forget who really has the power in this situation. And let’s turn our collective outrage toward the abuses of power that seek to dismiss and silence their stories.

5 thoughts on “Power, Abuse, and the Duggars: Part One

  1. Many comments made last night were a travesty. That Josh Duggar’s repentance and forgiveness is the focus of the family and not the trauma the girls endured is a travesty. That the media, fans, and viewers actually buy the family’s stance that Josh is not a bad man is a travesty.
    But the biggest travesty of all, is what you mentioned. That these girls were sexually assaulted and abused in their own home and then made to think it was not that big of a deal, that we cannot, we must not, accept. Those girls are victims. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do have to say, kudos to InTouch (InTouch!) for breaking this story and their responsible (responsible!) journalism regarding this story (THIS story). Its rebuttal to the Duggars’ lies during the Fox interview is worth a read: http://www.intouchweekly.com/posts/duggar-interview-7-crucial-facts-they-didn-t-tell-you-the-cover-up-continues-59917.

    I have already read that in the upcoming interview with the daughters one of them parrots what her awful parents are saying, that “it was no big deal.” All I want to do is get those girls out of there–the home, the quivering movement. It’s not kidnapping if it’s actually rescue, is it?

    TLC should have been ashamed far before this point for all of the hate, discrimination, lies, and oppression of others the Duggars used their TLC-begotten fame and money to spread. Seemingly logical and decent people have declared that the Duggars “seem like nice people.” I mean, they’re “Christian,” so they must be nice, right? Both of these misperceptions, especially as a pop culture lover and Christian, make me so, so angry.

    The worst kind of people use God to control and oppress others. I definitely claim God and faith as the reasons for my beliefs, but not one of my God-inspired beliefs of right and wrong involves actively harming another human being. If the daughters’ not forgiving Josh would send them to hell–which I’m sure they were told–who would want to go to heaven? Worst case scenario they actually believe being molested was no big deal because they view themselves as property and playthings of men.

    I have had to very actively work to deny this family’s existence just to save myself the fits of rage they cause me. The fits hurt. I will likely have to go back to blocking them from my eyes, mind and heart again soon but right now I am deciding to hope that this coverage will help bring to light the very, very real harm such “Christians” bring to the world. Jail time would be nice too.

    And Jim Bob and Michelle are able to sleep at night because THEY are the victims and all of us are just prosecuting them because they love Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

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