I don’t want to talk about Josh Duggar.
I don’t want to talk about his admission of guilt, or his cowardice in waiting to come forward until after the statute of limitations had passed.
I don’t want to talk about his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, supposed pinnacles of their religious community, and the fact that they protected their son’s crimes, and doled out the punishment of getting a “stern talking to” from a state trooper and family friend, or that said family friend is currently serving time for child pornography.
I don’t want to talk about his family’s television show, or what will happen if TLC does or doesn’t decide to keep it on the air.
I don’t even want to talk about the irony that Josh was serving as the executive director of the Family Research Council to advocate for a ban on gay marriage in order to protect children, or that Jim Bob publicly stated in his 2002 bid for U.S. Senate that he thinks incest and rape should be punishable by death.
I don’t want to talk about Josh Duggar, because I am sick and tired of hearing how everything he and his parents did will affect him and his parents, while I have yet to hear a single word about how his victims will be helped.
The five girls Josh molested — at least some of whom were his younger sisters — weren’t just victimized by Josh, but their entire lifestyle.
The Duggars are strict Baptists, adhering to many of the principles of the “Christian patriarchy” movement. Christian patriarchy, also known as the “quiverfull” movement, is a strain of fundamentalist Christianity that emphasizes a combination of beliefs that run counter to mainstream America: absolute female submission, a ban on dating, homeschooling, a rejection of higher education for women, and shunning of contraception in favor of trying to have as many children as humanly possible.
Jim Bob and Michelle raise their children by many of these tenets. They advocate against birth control — even stating false correlations between birth control and miscarriages — have decided on homeschooling for all their children, prohibit dating (and kissing and unchaperoned interactions with romantic prospects before marriage), and require extreme modesty in dress at all times.
Many of these lifestyle choices are not inherently bad for an environment to raise children; however, the combination and execution of all of them together make the situation ripe for victim blaming.
Advanced Training Institute (ATI), the conservative Christian home education program run by the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and used by the Duggar family teaches disturbing, victim-blaming lessons about sexual abuse.
One document from ATI, “Counseling Sexual Abuse,” strongly suggests that victims are to blame for their own abuse. The guide instructs victims to ask themselves “Why did God let it happen?” and offers potential reasons like “immodest dress,” and “being with evil friends.”
Another document, “Lessons From Moral Failures In A Family,” tells the story of a family dealing with the consequences of their son sexually abusing some of his younger siblings. It includes a statement from the boy in which he blames his behavior on laziness, a lack of moral purity, and the “immodest” behavior of his young sisters, including wearing dresses and having to change his sisters’ diapers. The authors of the document agree with the boy’s assessment.
At an ATI convention for teens in 1997, IBLP founder Bill Gothard spoke about the “Counseling Sexual Abuse” document, and told the young members of the audience that sexual abuse isn’t really that terrible because “it only affects one’s body…not the more important parts of our being: soul and spirit.”
In case you weren’t aware, this is horrific advice. The program not only questions whether the abused was at fault, but also tries to convince the victim that being abused was a good thing. Yet, for the the thousands of families in the ATI program, including the Duggars, Gothard would be the first place they would turn in a case of sexual abuse.
Gothard resigned from IBLP last year in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment or assault from 34 different women.
What does all of this tell us about Josh’s victims? Not only were they victimized by Josh, they were victimized knowing he wouldn’t face punishment. They were victimized, in some cases, being forced to remain in the same household as their abuser. They were victimized every day they learned their lessons, or heard stories of immodesty, and sermons on immorality, believing that it was their fault they were abused. They were victimized growing up in an environment that told them their only worth was their purity, and victimized again believing they were no longer pure.
Survivors of sexual abuse have enough trauma to overcome without being made to believe their whole life that it was their fault it happened, and they’re worthless because it did.
So I don’t want to talk about Josh Duggar or how his family will cope without their show on TLC if it gets cancelled. I want to talk about what we’re doing to help the women he abused, and how we’re going to make sure no other girls have to go through what they did.
Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.