Defending the Duggars is defending rape culture

I’ve watched reactions to Josh Duggar’s molestation charges with morbid interest over the last several days. Aside from being yet another celebrity “scandal” (one involving a family with absolute Christian values, no less), you wouldn’t think this news would affect me personally. I didn’t grow up in a cult, or in any kind of abusive household, and I’ve never known a form of religion as narrow and severe as what the Duggars practice.

What I’ve latched onto are the words of Jim Bob Duggar himself in an interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News last night, which have also been found in comment threads all over the blogosphere: It’s not like he committed rape or anything like that.

That gets to me. A lot.

Legally speaking, maybe Josh Duggar didn’t “rape” his sisters (or anyone else we haven’t heard of yet), but I’ve found that the word “rape” can, in many cases, be subjective. In other words, forced intercourse isn’t the only way to violate someone. What about people who are forced to perform other sex acts, or who are penetrated by objects other than body parts? This is where the law often fails rape victims, because the latter form of violation may not leave any DNA, and being fondled under one’s clothes may not leave any visible marks.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a crime. That doesn’t make it any less traumatic than a “completed rape.”

It absolutely infuriates me when people treat other forms of assault as somehow less traumatic and therefore less deserving of attention or justice than forcible intercourse. The trauma is not always in the physical damage of the assault itself, but in what goes through the victim’s mind and psyche during. Ask yourself how you would feel if someone you loved and trusted touched you without your permission. Imagine your “no” being ignored, and realizing that you don’t know what this person is going to do to you. Imagine holding your breath and preparing for the worst, realizing he isn’t going to stop, he isn’t going to let you escape, and you might cause more trouble if you cry out and wake your family members, who might not believe you anyway.

It really doesn’t matter whether there is physical evidence left behind, or any visible bruising. Assault happens when your free agency over your body is taken away. The Duggar children were never taught about bodily autonomy and consent, if you understand anything about ATI and the atmosphere in which they live. This is not a happy, smiley, modern-day Christian Cleaver family that the TLC network wants you to believe. This is a sick family in desperate need of counseling, and you don’t have to be a victim of any kind to be outraged by the utter failure of Jim Bob and Michelle for covering up their son’s abuse of his sisters, for signing on for a TV show already aware of that fact, for doing everything in their power to “cure” Josh instead of reporting him to the police.

Any decent person should be outraged by the great miscarriage of justice for his victims, his own siblings, who now have to relive the trauma under a spotlight with every other aspect of their controlled lives.

In any other circumstance I would agree to disagree with people who see a situation differently and I would accept that everyone is entitled to their opinion. But in this case, I can’t. Any Christian who says “But everyone sins!” doesn’t understand the magnitude of abuse, which is a far cry from a “mistake” like stealing cookies out of the jar before dinner or breaking a window playing baseball. Sexual abuse is a crime, a deliberate choice. Normal, healthy people just don’t do that. Truly repentant people don’t hide behind Mommy and Daddy and later confess once their past is publicly exposed, and apologize using the most minimal, bullshit excuses.

Please consider that if you are tempted to keep on excusing the Duggars with banal Christian platitudes. You understand NOTHING about the long-lasting effects of abuse and how those words can further trigger the survivors.

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11 thoughts on “Defending the Duggars is defending rape culture

  1. Diane says:

    Excellent article, Sarahbeth. A thought occurred to me in relation to the Duggars’ ‘defense’ and those who are (STILL!) rabidly supporting them.
    “It’s not like he committed rape or anything like that”.
    And yet, if you go to any site where Duggar supporters are debating others about this situation, you will find some variation of the following sentiment repeated ad nauseam: “Sin is all the same in God’s eyes, and ALL of you have sinned too. Therefore, you have NO right to judge Josh.”
    Really? So, by Jim Bob’s reasoning what Josh did wasn’t ‘too bad’ because it wasn’t rape, but if those of us who are horrified by Josh’s crimes have ever lied, cursed, or coveted our neighbor’s possessions, WE are just as guilty as Josh (probably more so).
    It’s this twisted, backwards thinking that has had my head spinning since this story broke.
    One issue that I would think 99.9999% of people (at least on the surface) would agree on is that it is NEVER okay to molest a child. The astonishing number of people who are willing to shrug off such a vile act in the name of defending this ‘Godly’ family is unbelievable.
    I will never understand how people can reconcile this way of thinking.
    It makes me sick.

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      The thing is, they are correct as far as what traditional Christian doctrine teaches: that all sin is the same in God’s eyes, whether you steal a pack of gum or molest a child. I respect the Catholics for creating distinct separation between the mortal crimes and venial ones, and molestation is definitely a mortal sin. That sort of thinking doesn’t make complete sense to me either, though.

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  2. Trail Todd says:

    In the eyes of many (TOO many, it seems), Josh Duggar gets a pass because he is devoutly religious. That’s utter bullsh*t! It’s time to stop using religion as an excuse (or a cloak) for bad behavior.

    It’s also time to understand and admit that for Americans to have true freedom of religion, religious ideals cannot be incorporated into the law of the land. Roe v. Wade, for instance, exemplifies the 1st Amendment. For it to be repealed would be the same as saying “(Conservative) religious beliefs are the law we should follow.”

    And here’s another thought: The media spends an awful lot of time talking about extreme Muslims, but it broadly ignores the other religious extremists, many of them Christians, and some of them even high-level politicians (I won’t name names, but you know who they are).

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  3. Am I Thirty? says:

    Everything about this whole Duggar situation makes me sick. The way people are defending him is crazy. I have seen so many people throw around the saying, “He was a child. He didn’t know any better.” He was a teenager, that’s not a child. A teenager is able to recognize that fondling children is something you should not do. And it also bothers me that everything the family has released about the situation has nothing to do with the victims. It’s all about Josh Duggar and what he went through. How the ordeal changed him and made him grow and brought him closer to God. Not a single thought about his sisters and the other victims.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stephanie Scott (@StephScottYA) says:

      THIS. He was a teenager, and plenty of teenagers make it through life without molesting their siblings. The fact that the Duggar parents claim he didn’t know any better, and that the girls didn’t understand either, is directly applicable to their own parenting; when you don’t teach your children the difference between good touching and bad, and who to tell, and also basics of your own body, that’s bad enough, but on top of that add hyper-focus on purity for girls and boys being boys, with a heavy dose of religious zealotry, well then you’ve got a big ole mess and some very damaged children.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kayjayfaletra says:

    A million times, yes! I was disgusted by Josh Duggar’s actions to begin with, but my rage was only further kindled by their sorry-ass “apology” for it that seemed to be (1) a chance for them to proselytize, (2) a way to put themselves back up on higher moral ground than everyone else because it brought them all “closer to God and closer to one another,” (3) insincere, unapologetic, proud and arrogant, and everything the opposite of humble, and (4) completely unaware of the severity of their son’s actions.

    Then, I read more about the crimes themselves and what they did in response to “help” him and “give him consequences,” and I was livid. Not surprised, unfortunately. But livid. I’ve always disliked the show, and I’ve always felt a twinge of discomfort and foreboding when I’ve seen them on TV, assuming I just couldn’t settle with the fact that they were using their seemingly beloved family and their “holier than thou” values to make money despite the sacrifices their children have had and will always have to make… But now this? Ugh.

    Like

  5. Lydia Thomas says:

    I only read the “highlights” and those really got to me – I’m pretty sure I could not stomach the whole interview. So many excuses made, and they’re only going to be perpetuated by the people who support them. Bugs me to no end.

    Like

  6. sourgirlohio says:

    I couldn’t have said this better. The media is really ignoring the long-term consequences all of this will have on the victims. Especially now that the incident is public. “A great miscarriage of justice” is exactly what this is.

    Liked by 1 person

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