The situation involving the Duggar family is no different from how rape culture can divide people on who is telling the truth and who to stick up for.
By now, you’ve probably seen the news coverage about 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar. The eldest son of the homeschooling, conservative Christian family featured on TLC’s reality show sexually abused several young women, including his sisters. When his parents found out, they arranged for him to speak with a police officer, and they set up counseling for him and his victims. Mr. Duggar apologized Thursday after In Touch Weekly published the story and a day later, TLC announced it had pulled all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting off the air.
Note that I called the women he sexually abused “his victims.”
That’s what I want to talk about here. I’ll be frank. I have some axes I could grind about the Family Research Council, the conservative lobbying organization Mr. Duggar worked for before his resignation Thursday and the hypocrisy exhibited by Mr. Duggar and the FRC on that front, or about my belief that Christian fundamentalist homeschooling damages children. These topics, however, have been pretty well addressed.
Instead, I want to talk about the way we talk about Josh Duggar.
The media has used the word “alleged” over and over and over again. The “alleged sexual abuse.” Do you know what “alleged” means? It means something said, without proof, to have taken place or to have a specified illegal or undesirable quality.
In 2003, an Arkansas police officer started the statute of limitations for filing charges against Mr. Duggar when he spoke with him about his actions. An anonymous tip received in December of 2006 was too late to prosecute, but led to the police report at the center of this story. The report disclosed sexual misconduct in 2002 and 2003 that involved the fondling of sleeping victims and other abusive acts with five girls. In his statement, Mr. Duggar said, “We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing.” Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, his parents, said in a joint statement, “When Josh was a young teenager, he made some bad mistakes, and we were shocked.” His wife, Anna, stated, “I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this. I remember feeling that same shock… Josh shared his past teenage mistakes.”
I detail all this not to rehash the comprehensive news coverage, but to make a point. Perhaps you’ve guessed what it is.
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