On Josh Duggar, Continued

[Content Note: Sexual assault; misogyny; victim-blaming; silencing; religion.]

Since the news broke that television reality star and conservative Christian role model Josh Duggar had sexually assaulted at least five girls, there has been an awful lot of defending Duggar, and his parents, among conservative Christians (for example), and there have also been a lot of pieces written about the Quiverfull movement and how the particular brand of patriarchal Christianity, with its aggressive hostility to female agency and endorsement of purity culture, may have contributed to the environment in which the abuse and the subsequent cover-up took place.

There are people who shocked and appalled that anyone could possibly defend Josh Duggar, and there are people who imagine that the only way something like this could have happened is inside the insular world of the Quiverfull conservative Christian movement.

But, of course, to those of us who are familiar with the rape culture and its systems, the rallying around Duggar, even despite his admission, is hardly surprising and hardly rare. Every time there is a victim making public allegations, there are people who defend the accused—and, the more famous he is, the more likely he is to be stridently defended and his abuse tolerated.

screen cap of a tweet authored by me reading: 'While the Duggars' particular religious beliefs are deeply patriarchal & hostile to female agency, it's not uniquely to blame.'screen cap of a tweet authored by me reading: 'We live in a culture that silences victims and protects abusers, and religion is just one part of that system.'

Patriarchal religion functions not unlike many other male-centric systems throughout our culture in which sexual abuse is just as routine as the cover-ups that follow-up and the rallying around male perpetrators in the instances when those diligent cover-ups fail. The military, male athletics, fraternities, Congress, the entertainment industry, etc.

To exclusively blame the Duggars' religious culture is to miss that this entire chain of horrific events is emblematic of the larger rape culture.

Which, frankly, is no more helpful than using religion, and its prescribed forgiveness, to wash it all away.

Every male-centric patriarchal system protects abusers in this very way: Cover up the crimes, blame the victims, avoid meaningful accountability, protect the abusers, abet the abuse, center harm to the abusers should their crimes become public, urge forgiveness, decenter the victims.

(And that's only when the crimes are undeniable. When there are merely allegations made by survivor(s), then add eleventy fucktons of attacking and trying to discredit and silence the victim(s) to that strategy.)

When one has spent as much time immersed in trying to understand and document and deconstruct and dismantle the rape culture as I have, Josh Duggar's crimes, and his parents' and community's attempts to cover them up, hardly look scandalous. Unfortunately, they look entirely typical.

This is how patriarchal systems operate; this is how people who arrange their lives by those systems' odious tenets behave.

Sure, let us talk about how the particular brand of toxic masculinity to which the Duggars subscribe functions to abet abuse, to protect abusers, and to make women and girls extremely vulnerable to abuse. That is absolutely a conversation that needs to happen.

But let us not pretend that system exists in a vacuum.

If we don't connect that system to the larger rape culture, and to the other systems in which these same dynamics manifest over and over, then that conversation only functions to other religious conservatives in order to excuse our own accountability in upholding the rape culture across other systems in which we enjoy participation.

And let us further understand that one of the most dysfunctional systems for many survivors is the family.

For some survivors, their family is their rock, and they couldn't imagine surviving the trauma of sexual abuse without their family.

For the rest of us, our family—even if it isn't the source of our abuse, which is incredibly common—is a source of profound secondary trauma, as we are silenced, blamed for our own abuse, our pain ignored, urged to keep quiet so as not to shame the family with our embarrassing victimization, obliged to salve our parents' and/or siblings' discomfort with our abuse, denied access to therapy, denied access to justice, disallowed from talking about our experiences, our trauma turned into a family secret that we are expected to fiercely guard lest someone get the idea that our family isn't perfect.

Some families behave like this because of religion. Some because of community perception. Some because the leaders of the household have no capacity for sensitively and effectively addressing sexual abuse whose victims are children or young adults. Some for other reasons, for combinations of these reasons.

Some because they're making lots and lots of money of pretending to be a perfect family on TV.

There's no one reason, not even religion, that families fail victims in their midst. Religion may be part of the reason, maybe even a big part, of why a family conceals abuse and protects a predator son at the expense of victim daughters. But it's never the only reason.

The Duggars' religion is, for a ceaseless avalanche of reasons, utterly contemptible to me. I have no wish to defend any part of it. But I very fervently do not want their religion to take the fall, all by itself, for sexual abuse and the subsequent cover-up and apologia.

Because we don't need to be having conversations about how weird those religious weirdos are; we need to be having conversations about how alarmingly typical those dynamics are, everywhere we allow them.

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