You can read my first post “Power, Abuse, and the Duggars” here.
After watching the Duggar daughters’ interview with Megyn Kelly, there’s no doubt in my mind that they got media training from the same people as their parents. Their messaging points were nearly identical:
- Josh made bad decisions.
- But they weren’t that bad because many other families experience worse abuse.
- And besides, they weren’t aware of the molestation until their parents told them.
If you watched Jim Bob and Michelle’s interview, you’ll remember his insistence that Josh’s victims were unaware of the abuse, saying that the girls were asleep when he touched them. One might come to the logical conclusion that the girls had no memory of the molestation at all.
In the beginning of their interview Jessa and Jill also insisted that they didn’t know about the abuse. But at one point Kelly directly asked Jessa, “You had no memory of [the molestation]?” Her reply was, “I didn’t—I didn’t know. I didn’t understand, ‘Ok, this is what’s happened,’ until my parents told me.” That was Jessa’s opportunity to confirm what her father had inferred–that the girls can’t remember Josh molesting them–but she didn’t. She remembers.
Seeing as how Jim Bob and Michelle waited for more than a year after learning about Josh molesting this sister before they went to the police about the abuse, we have every reason to believe they waited equally long if not longer to talk to their daughters about it. In the interview Jessa and Jill say that Josh was sent to a Christian treatment program not long after their parents talked with them about the abuse, which was a year after Josh confessed.
Jessa and Jill were little girls when this happened. We shouldn’t expect them to have understood at the time that what happened to them was wrong. That’s why it’s the responsibility of parents to teach their kids about appropriate boundaries, not only in their personal behavior but also in how they are treated by others. Jim Bob and Michelle took Josh’s word for it that the girls were asleep and when none of them came forward about the molestation, they took it upon themselves to actively withhold that information from their daughters to avoid difficult conversations about sexual abuse. This is another example of abusing power to control a narrative, even if it’s done with the intent to protect.
What is so upsetting about the Duggar story is that the only “mistakes” anyone wants to address are Josh’s. The focus is on minimizing the abuse and overstating his parents’ efforts to rectify it. The most glaring mistake is that these parents allowed their daughters to live in ignorance about the ways in which their bodies had been abused by their brother while at the same time raising them in a Quiverfull household in which women are taught to be submissive to men. Under these circumstances could we expect any of these young girls to have identified their brother’s actions as abusive?