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