On Josh Duggar

[Content Note: Sexual assault; rape culture; video may autoplay at first link.]

Josh Duggar, the oldest child of the Duggar clan, made famous by their TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, has confirmed reports that he was accused of sexually assaulting five girls twelve years ago, and has admitted that the allegations are true.
"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Josh, 27, tells People in a statement. "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."
Many reports about Duggar's history of sexual abuse have pointed out that Duggar, whose conservative Christian family prominently opposes LGBTQI rights, has hypocritically linked homosexuality and child predation. This is a true thing—but also his hypocrisy is hardly the most important aspect of this story. His anti-gay and anti-trans* views are abhorrent irrespective of whether he is a sexual predator. And his being a sexual predator is abhorrent irrespective of his anti-gay and anti-trans* bigotry.

What's more important than his hypocrisy is that he sexually assaulted five girls, some of whom may have been his sisters, and that his parents covered up his crimes when they found out.
Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.

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.

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, "it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said "kind of."
His parents knew, the church elders knew, and the "home remodeling mentor" to whom Josh was sent for "counseling" knew, but no one contacted police on behalf of his underage victims. Instead, an entire community closed ranks to protect a sexual predator.

After a repeat offense nine months after the first incidents, the Duggars took their son to speak to a police officer, who was a friend of the family, apparently so he could scare Josh Duggar straight: "[I]n 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a 'very stern talk.' ...Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case."

It was only after the Duggars were scheduled to appear on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's talkshow in 2006, and "an email was sent to the show warning them about the alleged molestation," prompting Harpo Studios to forward the letter to the Department of Human Services, that an official investigation was opened by local police. Jim Bob Duggar "refused to produce his son for questioning," and police were forced to abandon pursuing charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

It's certainly very curious to me that a letter was sent to the Oprah show ahead of a single appearance, but supposedly none was sent to TLC during the years of broadcast of the Duggars' reality show. Frankly, I find that incredibly unlikely. I would be amazed if TLC had never been similarly alerted, and simply chose to ignore it to avoid embarrassment and losing the profits from their massively popular show about a Good Christian Family.

It's impossible to believe TLC didn't know, one way or another. And if they didn't, are they not furious that the Duggars disclosed this information to church elders and a police officer and a "home remodeling mentor," but not to the network paying them?

The Duggars also disclosed Josh's history of sexual abuse to his wife and her parents, two years before the marriage, framing it as "past teenage mistakes" by a regretful young man who had learned his lesson and been forgiven by his victims.

An entire community, that grew bigger year by year, rallied behind a sexual predator to protect him. And now they stand behind him still, talking about his repeated predation as "mistakes."
"Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives," Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, said in a joint statement. "When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before."

...And Josh's wife Anna, 26, says she has remained supportive of her husband – even after he confessed his "past teenage mistakes" two years before he proposed marriage.

"I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock," she says. "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."
Sexual assault is not "a mistake."

But certainly that's the way it must be framed for parents, church leaders, police, members of the community, in-laws, a wife, television executives, and now fans to speak in grave tones about the redemptive forgiveness of god and to convince themselves that it was just a blip in an otherwise exemplary life—while diligently ignoring the profound trauma of Josh Duggar's victims and the secondary trauma caused by a lack of justice lingering under the heavy shadow of his carefully maintained public image as a model of virtue.

This is a textbook study in how the rape culture works, how entire communities conspire to abet and protect sexual predators while silencing and retraumatizing victims.

Josh Duggar did not make "mistakes." He sexually preyed on multiple girls while they slept. And then he got away with it, because virtually everyone else around him was invested in making sure that he would.

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