Power, Abuse, and the Duggars: Part Three

Power, Abuse, and theI didn’t set out with the intention of writing a third blog post about the Duggars (see posts one and two), but after the most recent news about Josh’s accounts on Ashley Madison, a website for–let’s just call it what it is–adultery,  I feel compelled to.

Just like I have no interest in shaming Bristol Palin for her second pregnancy, I needn’t spend my time bashing Josh. Plenty of others are having a field day doing just that, and I get it. Both Duggar and Palin have built lucrative personal and professional platforms around their “holier-than-thou” public personas, preaching one thing while clearly practicing quite the opposite. Both have contributed to harmful rhetoric that seeks to further marginalize some of the most vulnerable folks in our society. And they have made serious cash doing it.

As Josh has said in his apology, “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever.” I don’t think he’s being hyperbolic there.

But I can’t stop thinking about Anna Duggar. 

I don’t know much about Josh’s wife Anna. I know they’ve been married nearly seven years. I know she’s had four children in the last five years. She had the first just over a year after their first wedding anniversary. And I know that she gave birth to their fourth on July 19th of this year.

That means that she dealt with the first round of Josh’s fall from grace during her third trimester and while taking care of three young kids. And now at one month postpartum, she has to deal with her husband’s second bout of public shaming. Now the whole world knows if they didn’t already that Jim Bob and Michelle were dead wrong when they tried to play off her husband’s serial molestation as no big deal. “He was just curious about girls,” they’d said. Boys will be boys, folks always say in situations like this. Not anymore.

What I do know is that Anna does not deserve this. She didn’t choose any of this disaster. She’s a young mom who is only mere weeks past the physical trauma of childbirth, who is caring for three other children, and who is now also dealing with the news (I’m assuming she didn’t know about the affairs) that her husband has cheated on her. And Josh, instead of focusing on making amends with her, is no doubt consumed with dealing with the public fallout right now.

Anna is only a peripheral character in all of this. All anyone seems to want to know about her is whether or not she’ll leave Josh, but we mustn’t forget the cultural, religious, familial, and financial barriers she would come up against if that’s what she wants. In a post on Facebook Jessica Krammes Kirkland said it perfectly:

What is Anna Duggar supposed to do? She can’t divorce because the religious environment she was brought up would blame her and ostracize her for it. Even if she would risk that, she has no education and no work experience to fall back on, so how does she support her kids? From where could she summon the ability to turn her back on everything she ever held to be sacred and safe? Her beliefs, the very thing she would turn to for comfort in this kind of crisis, are the VERY REASON she is in this predicament in the first place. How can she reconcile this? Her parents have utterly, utterly failed her. Think of this: somewhere, Anna Duggar is sitting in prayer, praying not for the strength to get out and stand on her own, but for the strength to stand by this man she is unfortunately married to. To lower herself so that he may rise up on her back.

“To lower herself so that he may rise up on her back.” That image won’t leave me anytime soon.

Anna, I see you, and I’m sorry for your suffering. My impulse is to want to rescue you from this or at the very at least offer you something more than my thoughts and prayers, like coming over to do a load laundry and to entertain your little ones while you took a hot shower or cried your eyes out or both. I hope that there are others around you doing just that. I hope you have a doctor or midwife checking in on more than just your physical postpartum healing.

As you hold your sweet baby girl, as you look into her adoring eyes, I pray that she reflects back to you your sacred worth as a child of God. I will understand if you stay with Josh and will not judge you. I will understand if you don’t and will support you. But I do pray that as your children grow up, you are somehow able to find a way to teach them that they deserve better than what you got. Way better.

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