What about the girls?

Before I begin, kindly allow me to clear the bile from the back of my throat.

Ah-hem.

I am intensely pained by what has been exposed concerning the “19 and Counting” Duggar family.

Let me open by stating that I am not assuming,  I only imagine what it must be like in the lives the girls who were the victims of Josh Duggar’s abuse.

I have been raised in a family that takes modesty to the extreme.  Girls are not allowed to wear skirts above the knee, and must be chaperoned during courtship. My family does not go swimming because other men might look lustfully at women wearing swimsuits.

There is an element of great shame around sexuality.

I am a young girl, part of an enormous family, whose show has been aired on television for years. My family is the epitome of Christian values and faith and God’s love. I am pure. I will be chaste when I marry the one man I will be with forever. Sharing myself with more than one man is a sin. Doing so would make me impure and undesirable.

But.

My brother destroyed that path. He took that from me. In the eyes of my family and God, I am forever marred. That is what I have been taught. According to my family beliefs, I am tainted and impure. I reached out to tell my parents about my abuse but either they did not believe me, or they choose to ignore it. I live with it. I have lived a lie on that television program for years, wearing a mask and going along with it.

It is a crime.  It is a tragedy. It is heartbreaking.

These girls, along with others outside the family, have lived with this for years, alone, ashamed and hurting. I have had a visceral reaction to the news about Josh Duggar, and rightfully so.

In hearing this story, I have re-lived what happened to me as a girl.

Sexual abuse is happening everywhere. It is happening in both the most affluent and the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods and every one in between. It is happening within a family whose Christian lives have been televised for over a decade.

Here is a family devoted to God and Faith and Goodness. Their eldest child has admitted to sexually abusing girls, including his sisters. Now, he is sorry. He and his family believe that God has forgiven him. God is merciful.

I am a Christian. I believe in God’s love. I believe that, most importantly, there is God in each and every one of us and that we all come into this world good. I believe in forgiveness.

BUT
 this hypocrisy is staggering.

There was more than one occasion over several years when the victims came forward and exposed the crimes to Josh’s father, Jim Bob. Their pleas were ignored. Finally, Jim Bob took this “family matter’ into his own hands and dealt with it in his own way. He enlisted the help of the church elders, a construction company and a Arkansas state trooper who he knew personally.

And that trooper is now serving a 56-year prison sentence for child pornography, by the way.

Now, years later, this comes out.

Josh committed a crime. This was not a “family matter.”

Let’s get beyond the statements we have seen by Josh, his parents, and his wife, Anna. I have read their press releases detailing how sorry they are and that God is Merciful and has forgiven them. They are so thankful.

I believe that God is Merciful.

But what about the girls?

There is a great focus on God’s forgiveness. It is easy for God to forgive. That is who God is. Again, what about the girls? What does the apology look like to them? Have Josh and his parents  approached the victims for their mercy and forgiveness?

We have read that the girls forgive them. I respect and honor the victims’ privacy and understand that may have, in fact, forgiven them.

But what does forgiveness mean, anyway?

I have struggled so to forgive those who discarded my plea for help. No one believed me when I came forward about my abuse. It has been brutally difficult. I struggle so.

It takes enormous courage to step up and tell your story. It took everything I could muster to tell my elders that I had been abused. I don’t think I could have brought it up without the springboard of my cousins saying the same thing.

Only one out of six adults believed my cousins and me. My cousins never had to see our grandfather again. I did. I had to return to that hell over and over again. I continued to suffer, but I learned how to cope.  I learned how to hide from him.

Being disregarded was almost more traumatic than the abuse itself.

Josh’s victims were also disregarded.  They had to repeatedly to ask for help. What was it like for them when they told Jim Bob? In a family that believed that sex is not to be discussed, that must have been excruciating.

I hope that they are getting the help that they deserve. I hope that they feel comfort in knowing that the world knows now and that there are millions who are on their side.

I need to clear my throat again and take a few Tums.

So.

The best I can do from my removed place is to share a message with these young women.

Dear Beautiful Girls,

I am so, so sorry that this happened to you.

You are not victims. You are survivors. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are loved.

Although I do not know you, I know your pain, and I share in your hurt.

You did not deserve what happened to you. You had nothing to do with it. It was a horrible, horrible injustice.

It’s NOT your fault.

Josh committed a crime. He should have suffered the consequences. He did not.

My cousin Laura and I reported our abuser, our grandfather, 35 years after he abused us. At that time, he had been dead for 17 years. The police took us seriously. They launched a full investigation. They believed us.

Hundreds of thousands have read our story online, and countless survivors have said, “ME, TOO.”

You are not alone.

You will get through this.

I believe you.

Love,

Your Sister in Surviving,

Mary

That’s all.

10 thoughts on “What about the girls?

  1. Survivors is the truest word. We are survivors. These criminals need to be brought before the courts and tried in front of a judge and jury. Those who facilitated and allowed Josh to abuse are equally complicit in his crimes, his assaults his rapes and should also stand trial.

    Like

    • I love that word- survivor. To me, it holds such strength.
      It is not just the abuser- you are right! It is everyone who knew and kept silent.
      I am ready to march in Washington for statue reform.
      Thank you for writing, M

      Like

      • Mary here in Australia, in y state of Victoria in particular the current Royal Commission into Child Abuse in and by institutions is the biggest thing in the land. No agency including government will escape scrutiny. In particular the Catholic Church with all its abusers is feeling the heat of the blow torch. In a provincial city and region called Ballarat here in Victoria the abuse was extensive and horrific and reaches to the highest levels of the Catholic Church in Rome. One of those who it is alleged knew of the offending and turned a blind eye is the Australian Cardinal, George Pell. A misogynist, a reactionary and a shameless man who recently spent around $700,000. U.S. refitting his office in Rome whilst sanctioning behaviour by the church and its lawyers to deny survivors and their families compensation. Hopefully he will be forced to return and face the Commission. I’m not sure what the equivalent is in the U.S. but a Royal Commission in Australia is the highest form of judicial review and investigation. As a survivor hearing the evidence and testimony of survivors and abusers has been really difficult but also cathartic. I hope that you get your statute reform. here in Australia there is not statute of limitations for child abuse it is considered the same as murder.
        Thank You for sharing and for caring it helps us all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for reading and writing to me. It is so tragic to know that anyone is capable of turning a blind eye- but a Cardinal? The same happened in my city, Boston MA, USA. The Cardinal who knew about but failed to report many priests ultimately was given a position in Rome. Go Figure.
        I hope that the U.S. Govt. will eventually treat sex offenders as murderers. That seems fitting.

        Like

  2. One of the things that bothers me the most is how the family robbed the girls and Josh of the treatment they deserved to have a chance at recovery. Not all adolescent abusers re-offend (with or without treatment) but professionals have ways of telling if a teenager is likely to and they base their treatment accordingly. Josh Duggar had zero treatment and it astounds me that some people are ok with that because he confessed and asked for forgiveness. I felt sick when the story came out because I know there are thousands of families who have no idea what to do when they discover their adolescent has abused someone. I don’t think the Duggars should be demonized because they made horrible choices but I wish the media focus would be what families should do. There’s so much misinformation out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen, I agree with you! The media focus often seems skewed. It attracts rubberneckers- those who want to just look at the carnage. There is an opportunity to use the publicity in a powerful and constructive way. Wouldn’t the world be so much better if the media was a catalyst for change?

      Like

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