Duggars, Continued

[Content Note: Descriptions of sexual abuse; rape apologia.]

The second part of the Duggars' damage control tour aired on Fox News Friday night, with Josh Duggar's sisters, and oldest victims, Jessa and Jill, picking up where their parents left off. In Touch continued its coverage of the Duggars' spin operation, calling out many of the "troubling contradictions, omissions, and distortions of fact" that the family continues to promulgate in defense of Josh Duggar.

There is a lot at the link about the Duggars' absurd contentions that they sufficiently addressed the abuse going on in their home; that they cooperated with authorities; that the information about the abuse has been illegally "leaked." There's also a new piece of information about how the Duggars "met with their own PR team to create a strategy for the interviews." In Touch found records that "a plane used by the Duggars...flew to the location of their crisis public relations specialist prior to giving these interviews in an attempt to save their TLC show." So, their priorities continue to be reprehensible.

It's no surprise, of course, that the Duggars hired someone to help them coordinate a strategy, which is partly why all of their responses sound exactly like. In their interview, Jessa and Jill parroted the same minimizing descriptions of Josh's abuse as their parents had:
[Jessa and Jill downplayed] the molestations as "subtle and mild." Echoing Jim Bob and Michelle's characterization of Josh's actions as "mild touching," Jessa said: "None of the victims were aware of what happened until Joshua confessed. The extent of it was mild – inappropriate touching on fully clothed victims, most of it while [the] girls were sleeping." She also added, "In the situations where it happened and the girls were awake they weren't aware of what was happening. It was very subtle."
It was gross rape apologia when Josh's parents were spinning this tale of barely notable abuse, but it is chilling to see one of this victims use the same rehearsed language, talking about "victims" and "the girls" as if she is not one of them herself.

Again, survivors absolutely must have control of their own narratives, and many survivors of childhood incest have extremely complicated feelings about the abuse. Using this sort of distancing language to talk about the victims, as if she isn't among them, may be a survival strategy Jessa has employed as a useful and necessary coping mechanism.

But I have very grave concerns, given that her parents, to whom she was entrained to show absolute deference, have done everything they can to protect their son at his victims' expense, including flying in a PR team to prep the family, including his victims, with talking points that minimize and defend the abuse. I am profoundly troubled by the very real possibility that she is being manipulated and revictimized. Especially because:
Two police reports strongly contradict these assertions. After several instances of Josh sexually molesting sleeping victims, his behavior progressed. According to the police report: [Redacted descriptions of escalating abuse.] Fox's interviewer Megyn Kelly never pointed out that one victim was five-years-old and Josh was 15 at the time of that molestation.

...The escalation of Josh's molestations is troubling to mental health experts and not to be dismissed in the manner Jessa characterized it as, "a young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls." Dr. Paula Bruce, a California clinical psychologist, told In Touch about the Duggars: "None of them acknowledged that this is predatory behavior. It's classic. It's got dominance and exploitation. The touching that happened when they were asleep and touching when they were awake, it sounds like escalating in violence because it became more forceful. There was an incident in the laundry room. That was showing a pattern of increasing aggression. That's a pattern of someone who is becoming more sexually compulsive and increasingly so. That's not the pattern of someone who is resolving their sexual compulsivity."
We should regard with informed skepticism any minimizing narratives trading on the notion that sexual abuse can't or shouldn't be viewed as a big deal if survivors say it isn't. Not just because survivors can have their own reasons for minimizing sexual abuse, which the rest of us should not exploit in order to defend their abuse, but because one of the most basic features of the rape culture is that victims, especially young victims, are frequently coerced by their abusers or abettors of their abuse, to participate in the defense of the people who victimized them and/or failed to protect them.

To question Jessa's lack of comprehensive agency is not to audit her descriptions of her experiences, but to hold accountable the people who have limited her agency only to then exploit those very limitations.

What we are seeing is very likely a secondary trauma: A victim groomed to defend abuse, to protect her abuser and comfort rape apologists.

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