Thoughts on learning of the Duggar scandal

by anonymous guest poster (Bob Jones University background)

Update June 6: From last night’s interview with two of the Duggar sisters, it’s clear that the description below of “waking up from a sound sleep” doesn’t apply to them, since they didn’t awake when their brother touched them. But we hope that this post will still help readers understand the truth of predatory sexual molestation (rather than simply childish curiosity). Those who molest, assault, and rape are still present in our Christian families and churches and Christian ministries. They need to be confronted, and their victims need to be protected.


When you wake up from a sound sleep because someone is molesting you, it doesn’t matter to you whether that person is 14 years old or 44 years old.

I hear the story of Josh Duggar and his victims in the news, I read it on the internet, and I am instantly reminded.  Reminded of the feeling of groggy confusion and panic.  Reminded of what it feels like to wake up and find that your life is changed forever.  Reminded of how sexual abuse defiles relationships.  Boundaries have been broken, and though you can try to rebuild the boundaries, there is no going back.  Things are changed forever, for everyone involved – the victim, the offender, the parents, the siblings, the friends, the future wives and husbands, the future children.

It’s like a squid, spraying out its dark black ink.  Concentrated at first, filling the immediate area with its darkness.  But over time, it drifts and spreads itself through the water.  It may not look as dark as it dilutes and spreads, but it is still present.

When things like this become public, it makes people think.  Often they think how this situation would be handled if it struck their family.  There are many different perspectives to consider here, and we often are quickest to consider the perspective of the one that we most identify with.  Parents ask themselves, “What if this were my son?  What would I do?  How would I respond?”  Wives might wonder, “Would I marry someone if I knew this about his past?  Are her children safe?”  Some might identify with the offender – they might bear guilt over past experiences of their own, being reminded that they have breached boundaries.  Wondering if it makes them evil.  Wondering if it was just curiosity or if it was something much worse.

Me, I identify with the women and girls who sit silently at the center of this controversy.  Who now have their deepest secrets plastered all over television and the internet; their stories speculated about by politicians, preachers, bloggers, and news analysts.  My heart is with them.   They are now members of a strange “sisterhood.”  One which I also find myself in.  The initiation into this sisterhood is not one anyone would wish for; it’s not something we choose.  But, here we are.

For many years, I didn’t know this sisterhood existed.  I never told anyone, and I didn’t know anyone “like me.”  But, accidental friendships became the reward for bold steps I began taking toward healing.  And that’s when I learned that I was not alone.  I suddenly had friends who were almost complete strangers to me, yet, they understood me more than those closest to me often do.  We seem to draw strength from each other.  I have been surprised to learn that some of my sister survivors have found healing and peace.  Others are moving towards healing, and learning what it means to be free.  Others aren’t even sure where the path begins or what healing even means.

I’ve also found, in this Sisterhood of Survivors, that there is a quiet respect for me – I’m not asked the details of my abuse.  My friends will tell me they don’t know the answers to some of my questions, but will share their own search for answers.  They are patient with me; almost instinctively knowing what I need.  Sometimes I need space and privacy. Sometimes I need to laugh.  Sometimes I need to talk.  They seem to know.  They understand. They don’t force me to accept that their path to healing is the same one I must choose. They give me freedom to disagree.

These young women who were molested are now in the public eye, when I’m sure they just want to run away from the world and disappear. These girls have been told that they need to slap a sticker with the word “Forgiveness” on their problems, and move on, and pretend that nothing has changed.  We are reminded how wonderful it is that their brother found mercy and forgiveness and the power to change. Their abuser has said, “I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life,” without acknowledging that damage has been done to the lives of his sisters.  The parents find strength in saying that God used this to draw each of them closer to Him.    These girls somehow become like the family’s sacrificial lambs; their purity and innocence damaged so their brother can learn lessons and their family can grow closer to God.  The family moves on as if it never happened. He was just a child who made a mistake.  It’s all good now.  It’s all in the past.

How awkward, to have to share a life with someone who knows your body in a way that he shouldn’t.  And yet, being a survivor myself, I imagine that they feel concern for him and possibly even guilt as he is so publically criticized.  It is a big tangled web of emotions and questions.  Of feelings that often directly conflict with each other.  Of relational messiness.

I will never meet these women that I’ve spent so much time worrying about.  But one thing I’m learning in this sisterhood, is that we are very protective of each other.  Of each others’ secrets, of each others’ identities, and of each others’ trust. Trust for survivors is a very delicate thing.  It is always a risk to trust.   But there is healing in knowing that you are not alone.  In this sisterhood, we find that our struggles and problems and weird ways of coping – they are normal.  Others have grown impatient with me trying to explain myself, but my sisters are not impatient.  And we learn together and draw strength from each other, as we try to help each other navigate the path to freedom.

I hope that the publicity that has been forced upon these women will become a vehicle for survivors to reach out to them.  There are many of us out there.   Though it is always a risk to speak it—we are often afraid. But, I hope that there are those in the lives of these women who will take that risk.  Who can help them peel back the “forgiveness” sticker and say, “That is the destination, but the journey begins miles and miles before it.  We’ll worry about the destination later.  Let’s try and map out the journey together.”




29 Comments on “Thoughts on learning of the Duggar scandal

  1. beautiful, heartbreaking words. thank you for sharing this truth, your truth. loved what you said in closing about forgiveness being a destination.

    xo a sister

  2. But here you are, judging what their road has been like…I don’t say this in heartless way, but you just don’t know. None of us do because we don’t live their. Did their family move on with life as usual? Or did it forever change the way they handled certain things in their family? We just don’t know. And we shouldn’t judge. Maybe they did get the journey they needed. Maybe the didn’t. We don’t know. And we shouldn’t judge. Be concerned? Yes. Pray? Yes.

    • Wow Cori, you missed the heart/point of this post as far from the East is to the West. As part of the sisterhood of abuse, we don’t have to know the details. We know the commonality of the battle in our hearts and minds. We all share the same struggles in varying degrees. The flashbacks, the shame and guilt, the reactions from family and friends….and often the minimizing and “support” of our abuser. As for “judging?” Sorry, when you’ve lived it, it’s not judging. It’s called understanding, empathy, and outrage.

  3. oh!
    My personal conviction is.. NO ABUSER! I DON”T CARE WHO…has the RIGHT to ask forgiveness!
    Forgiveness is A FREE gift.. it cannot be demanded!EVER!

  4. What I can’t get past is both Josh and his parents referring to his molestation of 5 girls a mistake!!! Molesting girls, including your sisters, a mistake? So now we call sin a mistake and people are okay with that because they love your tv show? The whole situation is heartbreaking, especially for the innocent victims.

    • When I read the quote that he had made “wrong choices,” I had flashbacks. wrong choices are cheating in your algebra exam and getting caught. abusing girls, covering it up, and denying your sin are evil choices.

  5. It’s a shame that these girls who finally were able to heal from this year’s ago are now getting their wounds torn open again thanks to everyone who feels like they have something to contribute on social media. Nice work, people!

    • They put themselves on a reality program. They have no secrets. The parents took the risk that this would never come out. They gambled and won big,for a while.

    • Many of us who were victimized in some way, it’s not really because we are being nosy and need to have our two cents…it’s because stories like this can trigger all kinds of feelings that we may have not even knew were there.

    • I believe that if the girls who were victimized someday read this, they may find the words healing rather than wounding. That would certainly be our hope. ~Rebecca

  6. The Duggars used extremely poor discretion by deciding to put their family on tv only two years after these incidents.

    • Finally! Someone making the point so glaringly obvious to me! Had they remained out of the public eye, the victims would not be victimized yet again by all the publicity and thousands upon thousands speculating on “what happened” and who is to blame, ad nauseaum.

    • Exactly!!! I do not understand the hubris involved. I would be broken still and never choose to put my kids under the microscope when I knew this had happened…

    • And they used that same poor judgement when the first and then second daughter came to them and told them of their brother’s abuse. At that point, he should have been removed from the home. Instead, he went on to molest three more girls under their care. It’s a sad commentary that it was the Oprah Winfrey organization who first reported this to Child Protective Services, THREE years after the first girl came to her parents.

  7. i read this quote today and responded:
    “they did what they thought was the right thing for both Josh and the victims, and will always have this hanging over their heads. I’m thankful the offending was not much worse actions. I’m thankful it was addressed, and know it took tremendous courage to take your own child to the police to turn him in.”
    Except that when the police tried to get them to bring Josh in for questioning, they lawyered up and then lawyered up again when that lawyer refused to take the case, that lawyer refused to take the case and then Josh’s parents refused to bring him in to be questioned and then covered it up until the statue of limitations expired. That is not ‘but by the grace of God’ anything, that is intentional unrepentance and hiding behind deceit, and then having the audacity to go on national tv and be involved with an organization under the guise of caring about children. That is what Jesus called the leaven of the Pharisees, hypocrisy, and Jesus said to beware of it, not to make it seem wonderful and Godly.

  8. as a survivor myself, and one who has finally made a long journey to healing and wholeness, I am so very angry that the damage done to the young women was silenced. Their re-victimization by the people they depend on to care for them is shattering. Those persons who enabled the cover up will be accountable to God ultimately, a fact I am comforted by. sometimes I think of the Biblical martyrs by the throne saying, “how long, O Lord, how long” and I am one with their feelings.

  9. Forgiveness is a choice that many survivors may never be ready to offer. I personally think forgiveness of sexual abuse is a Folly. The abuser rarely ever changes his/her behaviours. They usually continue to abuse. Forgiving child rapists is dangerous and reprehensible. Akin to forgiving Nazi Germany for murdering millions. Never forget. Never be complacent. Never think that psychopaths who sexually abuse children will suddenly remedy their evil perverted ways if you Forgive them.

    For those survivors who can and do forgive. Well Done! But don’t enforce that on the rest of us who choose not to. Healing is about learning to love and trust ourselves to keep us safe. Forgiving the fact that noone saved us or protected us from abuse is one thing. But forgiving the abuser and their enablers. Uh uh, not I!

    • Absolutely. From my own experience of learning that my mother had lied to me for 35 years about my birth father: I went into high protection mode and over the last number of years have learned that loving and protecting myself first is priority. When others said I needed to forgive (and move on) I understood for myself that I could forgive (hold no bitterness towards her) while still having times of anger for the consequences of her actions in my life. For me forgiveness did not mean welcoming her back into my life. For that to happen she will have to start speaking truth and show true repentance. No one should tell another where they should be on their journey. We really need to love ourselves first and trust our own judgement. That in itself is huge for those of us who have been raised in the dysfunction that is ATI or similar.

    • Tanya, we strongly believe, with you, that for an abuse survivor to offer forgiveness would not in and of itself negate responsibility of an offender to face the just consequences of his crime.

      Also, we believe that the Bible teaches that I as an individual can’t forgive a crime that was perpetrated against someone else. I can forgive only what was done to me. For Christians at large to say to anyone who has committed a criminal offense, “We forgive you” shows a complete lack of understanding of what forgiveness really is. We talk about that more here: ~Rebecca

  10. I hope that the good that comes out of this is that victims of sexual abuse will find help in their healing. Our church is forming a support group this coming fall as a result. For the most part the church has failed in dealing with both the offender and the offended. It’s time to provide both healing AND justice. Every church must have a plan in place to help both the offender and the victim according to biblical constructs. This must include instruction and teaching and truth.

    • It is VERY exciting to see that your church is forming a support group for abuse survivors! The book “Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches (an introduction for those who will hear),” lists resources for support groups, and is a good resource itself for churches that want to better understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and the wrong thinking that enables it. You can read more about it here: ~Rebecca

  11. Thank you so much for this article, for sharing your own pain. I am glad I am not the only one who aches for those girls.
    I had never thought of others as a sisterhood, but it is unfortunately an apt name. It is comforting to know that others have found their way to healing and peace and to know that there is still hope for that.

    Another Sister

  12. Another sister here. Your article was incredible for me to read. I too had never thought of myself as belonging to a sisterhood. I was 15 when my 17yo brother woke me up, fooling around. Ugh. That was over 40 years ago, but I still remember it so clearly. He has schizophrenia since he was 20, and it (the mental illness) has really wrecked his memory. I have no idea if he remembers what he did to me; I really can’t imagine ever asking him about it either. I feel for those girls, and am trying to see how it could be for the best, but failing. As for me, even though so many years have passed, it would not be my idea of justice if my brother publicly announced his repentance for his sin against me, because I would feel, at least I think I would feel, humiliated by it all over again. Even though it was not my fault.

  13. Please accept my love and encouragement. I am relieved that I am able to borrow your words as a non-confrontational reprimand to the blind supporters of Duggar on my “friends list”.

    They share the blind and ignorant belief that an abuser must be given the distorted version of forgiveness: he must now be absolved from all accountability, recompense, or even a healthy dose of righteous anger directed at his holy countenance.

    If I had a platform to scream from, I would say, “God does forgive, but he also authored JUSTICE, and defends the WEAK!!!!!” He is NOT as easily manipulated as Christians would have him be.

    But then again, I know a man exactly like Duggar. He speaks and looks exactly like a Christian man should, with Biblical knowledge and a wife and child of his own. Yet he has irreparably damaged countless lives, including my two little girls ages 5 and 6 who are now in your terrible and tragic sisterhood….Of course you might guess that most people around us chose to ignore or disbelieve our family, or abandon us entirely. Most days I don’t care what my ‘friends’ chose though. My focus is now on battling for the remainder of that man’s life to be spent in prison. And helping my sweet baby girls to begin their healing process.

    The crushed pieces of my heart rise up in defiance of Duggar and all he represents. Not just because of the horrors my girls endured, but also because Christians everywhere should stand up and loudly proclaim support for YOU, the hurting ones. And SILENCE the abuser…no matter how many Bible verses he knows.

    • Hi Paula~ This is Rebecca. I would say that you and I and the Duggars and everyone else all need a Savior, and the only Savior is Jesus Christ. I also wrote another blog post, “I Could Have Been a Duggar” explaining how easily I know I could have received and believed the very same teachings the Duggar parents embraced, and under those circumstances I probably would have responded to this sin in a very similar way to how they did. So I empathize with them in their wrong decisions.

      If the authors of this post are saying that all sins are equal (I’m not sure if that’s what they’re saying or not), then I absolutely disagree with them. I believe there are degrees of sin, and I’ve written about that before on my own blog.

      I believe the Duggar parents weren’t acting wickedly, just wrongly. If everyone is a Duggar, then there is no room for the true wickedness that is so clearly described in the Bible–“Hardened sin that purposely works to look excellent on the outside, pleasing to God and man, while in secret engaging in great wickedness,” as I described it in a Facebook conversation. Sin-leveling emasculates the church of Jesus Christ.