“By the company you keep…”: Sexual Assault and the Duggars

[CN: child molestation]

Josh Duggar, executive director of FRC Action, speaks in favor the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston via)
[Josh Duggar, executive director of FRC Action, speaks in favor the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. AP Photo/Danny Johnston. via]
I was not shocked to learn yesterday that as a young teenager, the oldest son of the Duggars — a family famous for its archaic and hateful views and activism on sexuality, gender, and male supremacy — acted out his own adolescent sexual interests in grotesque, harmful, and illegal ways.

I am saddened, though not surprised, to learn that some (maybe all) of the five girls whose breasts and genitals Josh Duggar groped as they slept — and also as they didn’t sleep — were his sisters.

I am angry — and not at all startled — to learn how the parents reacted with evident concern for curtailing their son’s ‘errant’ sexual behavior yet seemed to show none for their daughters being treated as sexual objects. According to police reports, when the incidents from 2002 and 2003 finally became part of an inquiry in 2006, the Duggars explained to investigators how they had responded at the time: 

‘Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”

‘He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.’

“Dry walling: it’s like God’s instruction manual on ‘How to not molest your sisters!'” (via)

When Josh Duggar’s public acknowledgment includes a line about understanding how continuing his actions might “ruin [his] life” but shows no genuine concern for his victims — I recognize this as no more than I expect, given the rest of this situation:

“I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.” [emphasis added]

When the only remorse he expresses is directed towards his future-wife and her parents (as well as God, natch), I recognize at work the ideologies that commodify human sexuality — and pass all ownership to men, especially husbands and fathers. I recognize the harmful myths about biblical purity at work here, as well.

According to Anna Duggar, Josh’s wife: “When my family and I first visited the Duggar home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn’t know why he was sharing it. For Josh, he wanted not just me but my parents to know who he really was — even very difficult past mistakes.” [emphasis added]

Finally, while this detail fills me with rage, I am utterly resigned to knowing that when Papa Duggar wanted some ‘scared straight’-style talk for his kid, he reached out to a friend who was also a state trooper — and a pedophile, who is currently serving a 60-year sentence for possession of child porn. (After all, this Statey is not the Duggars’ only friend and associate-SLASH-sexual predator.)

Josh Duggar resigned yesterday from the Family Research Council, where he has worked for the past two years as that hate group‘s Executive Director. While in his position, Josh Duggar met with Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker, among others. (To see more photos and Duggar’s tweets in support of these three potential GOP presidential candidates — as well as his work in opposition to Hillary Clinton — check out posts in the comment section of Brendan O’Connor’s Gawker article.)

@joshduggar:  Great to visit w/ my friend @GovMikeHuckabee this morning in DC. Thankful to have his voice on the #2016 stage! [May 16, 2015]
@joshduggar: Great to visit w/ my friend @GovMikeHuckabee this morning in DC. Thankful to have his voice on the #2016 stage! [via Twitter: May 16, 2015]
Beyond the sadness and pain I feel for all victims of sexual violence, family predation, and dehumanizing beliefs propagated in the name of religion, I recognize that such connections — and the Duggar family’s commitment to hate-filled activism and bigotries overall — have material weight in our political world. So, while I appreciate in general Mary Elizabeth Williams’ caution against expressing gleeful schadenfreude towards bigots and hypocrites, that’s not what I see going on here. That’s not why I’m paying attention to this (in her words) “sex scandal.”

That’s not why you should be paying attention either.

6 thoughts on ““By the company you keep…”: Sexual Assault and the Duggars

  1. I tend to stay away from reality stuff if I can but have been hearing vaguely about this so thanks for filling me in. I find it very difficult to fathom the dynamics in families where sex abuse happens and often the denial that washes over members in order to keep the family together or to keep moving forward. I so wish there was a way to understand the psychology of it all. It flummoxes me. Truly.


    1. It flummoxes me too — and I come from a family with many of the necessary dynamics. I don’t know the words I would need to describe the weirdness and dislocation of speaking to a person who has told me he loves me throughout my entire life and yet who seems incapable of acknowledging I have a state of personhood equal to his own.


  2. The Duggars have provided a wealth of amazing material for feminist rants around my home between Alison and myself. As you state, this revelation is no surprise at all, and I can easily imagine more to come. I too thought immediately about the girls, especially after reading yesterday that all reports are being destroyed at the request of ‘one of the victims.’ Protect the prodigal son by all means necessary…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. AMEN (no pun intended). That culture treats abused women as damaged goods and temptresses who have enticed men into evil. After all the Duggars have done to vilify gays and transgendered people as a danger to the safety of children, I am certain they will not see the irony here.

    Sex and touch are so vilified in this family and culture that the same girls whose privates were fondled by their own brother are only allowed to hold hands after engagement and can only side-hug till marriage. Mom and Dad made damn sure of that. I guess what better way to learn the dangers of temtping men after you have already led your brother into his “mistakes”.

    Now, the question remains, after canceling Honey Boo Boo for the mom shacking up with a child molester, how can TLC NOT react to this with the same action? oh, yeah, because people are watching the Duggar show. Stay tuned for a shit ton of remorse and a redemption arc while Josh retreats home to Daddy and the family compound.

    I clearly have FEELINGS about this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am SO WITH YOU, Alicia. On all of it.

      And I too anticipate the Remorse and Redemption show to follow (I think we’re up to remake #INFINITY on that public performance sequel).


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