I must admit that over the years, I have grown very fond of watching the Duggar family on TLC. I feel like I have watched many of their children grow up and I have quite enjoyed catching glimpses of them on their many worldwide adventures.
I admit that I too have been taken in by their seemingly calm and organised way of life. How is it that they get through a meal, let alone keep a clean home, home-school all of their kids, play musical instruments, and still have the time to travel the world? It kind of makes the rest of us run of the mill parents appear pretty inadequate. The thought of their schedule alone exhausts me.
So it is not surprising that I too am shocked and have been rendered speechless by the family’s most recent sexual abuse headlines. Their eldest child, Josh, has admitted to molesting 4 of his sisters and a babysitter about 12 years ago.
My purpose for writing today is not to report the news. Nor to be judged for having an opinion on what I read about this case. But rather, it is to start a conversation and perhaps raise awareness by asking the following question:
“How would we respond if these were our children caught in the mix? Would we handle the same situation differently? With one child being the perpetrator of sexual abuse and others being the victims?
For the sake of discussion, let’s review what was done when Josh initially reported his behaviour to his parents.
His parents were in shock. Understandable. After all, such behaviour is inexcusable. They inquired into treatment for Josh. They sent him away from the family (for I believe 3 months).
They informed all the victims that they were in fact, victims. They involved the police, and a full police investigation was conducted.
Over the last 12 years, since this happened, at least from the family’s perspective, all has been forgiven. Trust is being re-earned. Over many years, the family has been able to piece itself back together.
So why is the public still so infuriated? Is it never possible to move on from such victimization?
Please do not misunderstand. I am not in any way suggesting that what Josh did was all right.
Everyday in my practice, I see victims of abuse. Whether they have been sexually exploited, or physically or emotionally abused, or emotionally neglected….whatever the case may be.
Abuse is never acceptable. And being the victim of abuse is definitely something that one must address in order to not let it overpower us or affect us for the rest of our lives.
But….it is not impossible to overcome.
What I hear regularly from my clients is that one of the biggest hindrances to being able to move forward, forgive and get on with their lives is when their perpetrators lack the willingness or the ability to take responsibility for their actions. Thereby leaving their victims to blame themselves for being victimised in the first place.
Josh Duggar, from what I have read, seen and heard, is taking full responsibility for his behaviour. He knows it was wrong. He understands the effect on his victims. And he is not hiding from it or denying any part of it.
So back to the question….If our children were involved, would we not want to try to handle everything to the best of our ability first? Are we profoundly better parents if we turn our own child into authorities right away? If these were my children, I admit I probably would be scared to death to do that. After all, would we not want to try to help our children, all of our children, as best we could and possibly successfully before we involved law enforcement?
This is a tough question to answer. And I do not pretend to have all the right answers. As a therapist, I know the importance that counselling plays in forgiveness and being able to move on. Is that not what this family did? Did they not go through all the right avenues to help all of their children?
So before we pass judgement on others, let’s consider for a moment how all of these factors would affect all of our children.
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