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.”