Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Through the Looking Glass: Reflecting on My "Meeting Josh Duggar" Post

After the revelation that Josh Duggar had molested multiple girls--including some of his own sisters--as a teenager and that his parents had engaged in a systematic cover-up of it (including just now getting a judge to destroy the police records of it), I shared my own deepest secret with all of you: that I had, as a child, experienced the exact same manner of molestation that Josh's victims had.

And I was amazed by that post's reception.  Truly.

I had disclosed that fact about my past for two reasons: first, to assure all of you that I was speaking from a place of personal experience about the Duggars and that I wasn't simply piling upon them for the sake of doing so.  But second, and more importantly, because I have come to believe that being a past victim of abuse need not be a secret.  Or, at least, if it is a secret, that it is a choice we make freely, not out of fear.

Because frankly, I don't look like someone you could easily physically or sexually abuse.  I'm 6'3", 240 pounds, and I'm well aware how easily my size and voice can intimidate.  But that's me now.  As a kid, I was a skinny, gangly mess of elbows, knees, and left feet.  I was prey.

Each of us have stages in our lives where we are potential prey--when we are kids, when we are especially emotionally vulnerable, when we are sick or upset, any number of points of time.  And sometimes, we are prey even when all of our faculties are entirely intact, and we end up feeling like failures for not preventing such harm from befalling us.

And as long as we keep abuse a secret, that mentality will continue, I am absolutely convinced of it.

Because I blamed myself after my abuse.  I told myself that I must have somehow asked for it or wanted it, that it made me gay and therefore I had caused this somehow--again, that is what growing up in a homophobic place like Kansas in the 1990's can do to you when you're a kid.

Considering the unhealthily sexist worldview of "Biblical patriarchy" that the Duggar kids were spoonfed by their parents, that a boy's sexual morality is a girl's responsibility, that girls are to blame for not dressing modestly enough or not adhering to the strict courtship rites of their parents, I honestly would be stunned if the Duggar sisters weren't told, explicitly or implicitly, that they had caused what Josh did to them.

Again--I say this based on the machinations of my own mind after I was abused, and I wasn't even taught at any point in my life by my parents that sexual abuse is somehow ever the victim's fault.

Imagine, then, what someone who was taught that must feel, and feel in secret, because if they disclose their secret, much less try to receive justice or reconciliation for it, they are made to blame for being abused.

As long as abuse, then, is handled entirely behind closed doors--as it was with the Duggars for at least a year--this will all continue, shamefully and painfully and, ultimately, unnecessarily.

It is a lesson that honestly we should have learned over a decade ago, when the child sex abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic Church began coming to light.  I said this on Facebook, but I'll repeat it here: what Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did--from delaying going to the authorities to sending Josh to a perfunctory (fake, really) counseling arrangement to sending him to another abuser (in this case, a state trooper later sent to jail basically for life for child pornography), down the line it mirrored how the Roman Catholic bishops criminally mishandled the cases of pedophilia committed by priests in their dioceses.

We were outraged with those bishops, and rightly so.  So why are we so willing to give the Duggars a pass for poorly handling the abuse committed by Josh entirely behind closed doors?

The truth is, as long as handling abuse is something that we see as having to handle behind closed doors, it will forever be handled inadequately.  Abusers will be able to sweep their abuse under the proverbial rug.

The other night, C and I watched an episode of Doctor Who in which an alien doctor--not the Doctor himself--takes refuge in a 19th-century Western town in America (think a Sergio Leone Western and you get the idea).  This alien doctor uses his technology and scientific knowledge to give the town electricity and save it from an outbreak of cholera.  The townspeople rightly revere him as a saver of lives--until it comes to light that he is in fact hiding there from his previous life as a war criminal who experimented on unwilling subjects.  And in the midst of that revelation, the Doctor says to this other doctor, "You don't get to choose your punishment!  That's not justice."

Abusers shouldn't get to choose their punishments.  Josh Duggar, though, like many other abusers, got to choose his.

Which means we are still looking for justice.

So I shared with all of you what happened to me.  And I couldn't be more heartened to have done so, because you have indeed made my story part of the public sphere where it--and stories like mine--belong.  It is already the most-viewed and most-shared post I have ever written, and my hope is that it brought some light and understanding to a lot more people than I usually have the privilege of writing to.  And even more important on a personal level, the comments I have received via social media and in person have been nothing short of powerfully encouraging.  It means the world to me as someone who preaches and teaches and writes to, in fact, encourage you.

It remains a blessing and a joy to write for all of you.  Your reaction to my post on Josh Duggar underscored that reality.  May my writing continue to be an act of service towards you and the One who created you.

Yours in Christ,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Eric for your post. Ending the silence of sexual abuse is the beginning of the way toward justice. We have a long, long way to go! Your honesty and frank writing is helping the movement forward.