Trigger warning: incest, rape, molestation, assault
Just incase you missed it, the internet is going crazy over recent news of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting family, the Duggars. Last Thursday, InTouch Weekly published police reports from 2006 which showed that Josh Duggar, the oldest of the Duggar children had molested as many as five girls when he was a teenager. Even worse, plenty of people knew about it and either ignored it, covered it up or sat on it for years, while the Duggars rose to fame.
The Duggars are a Christian family from Springdale, Arkansas and first became popular in 2005 when a special called 14 Children and Pregnant Again! aired on Discover Health. The show was a hit and paved the way for many other specials and eventually a television show on TLC where the show has been running for 10 seasons (although since this story has surfaced the network has cancelled all plans to continue airing the show). Since then, the family has become pretty powerful. They’ve had appearances on the Today show, been huge supporters of the pro-life movement and have even made some lasting impressions on GOP politicians.
But I’m not here to read off the Duggar’s résumé, I’m not even here to chastise Josh Duggar more than he already has been (although I won’t say he doesn’t deserve it). I want to focus on the survivors and shed some light on rape culture in our society.
Ever since the story broke, the focus has been centered around Josh, and it makes sense, he messed up, he needs to own up to it and apologize. However, we are three days removed from the initial breaking news and I find it shocking that still headlines are centered around Josh: “Josh Duggar Accused of Child Molestation,” “Josh Duggar Investigation Record Destroyed by Arkansas Police,” all truly fucked up things, but what about the survivors? They’ve essentially been eliminated from the equation. People are so focused on the hypocrisy that Josh has exhibited that have forgotten that at the core, he hurt five girls, some of which were his sisters, and they will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.
Why as a society are we focused on what Josh will do next with his career, or how Mike Huckabee’s statement of support towards the Duggars will affect his presidential campaign, who cares.
What about the survivors? What about the fact that Josh’s sisters had to live under the same roof as their molester for years, or that once their family got popular they knew they couldn’t come forward. Think about the fact that the survivors have been living with this secret since 2002.
Rape culture focuses on the perpetrator and takes the survivors out of the equation. Rape culture shames survivors who do speak out. Rape culture shifts blame on irrelevant details such as age. Rape culture makes society believe that the actions of the perpetrator are okay if they apologize and deeply regret their actions.
But that’s not how it should work. As a society we should not be okay with this. So many rape and sexual assault crimes focus on what the perpetrator did and why, but they don’t deserve that kind of explanation or attention. What about the survivors? What about how they are dealing with the story, or how they have felt for the past thirteen years?
We’ve got the dialogue all wrong. Yes, Josh should be blamed, yes the survivors deserve an apology, yes the show should have been cancelled, but all the fuel being added to Josh is taking the attention away from the ones who have really been suffering. Accepting the stories focused on Josh and political candidates, is allowing rape culture to flourish in our society and it has got to stop.