Is sexual abuse of girls a tawdry family secret to be swept under the rug or a serious crime?
For the Duggar family, based on what we know now, the answer is clear: protect the perpetrator, run out the clock on legal claims, and rely on dubious friends to mask the problem.
The Duggars are the stars of TLC’s popular “19 Kids and Counting” reality show, which documents their lives as homeschooled, fundamentalist Christians in a sprawling family. Jim Bob Duggar, the father of those 19 kids, once ran for senate and as part of his platform <a href=”http://defamer.gawker.com/duggar-dads-political-platform-incest-should-be-punish-1706929035″>called for the death penalty for rapists and perpetrators of incest</a>.
But when it came to his own son, he behaved very differently. The only known sanction imposed upon his son Josh — who admitted to multiple molestations of five underaged girls, including his younger sisters, when he was 14 to 15 years old — was being taken by dad Jim Bob to a police officer friend who gave Josh a “stern talk.” This happened more than a year after Josh confessed to the molestations.
Jim Bob also told the police that he had sent Josh to perform manual labor, which turns out to be helping a friend remodel a building. Because physical exertion is such a well known cure for sexual predators, right? Jim Bob also said Josh had received counseling, but his wife Michelle told police that counseling had not actually occurred.
That state trooper not only failed to arrest Josh, the trooper himself was later convicted on child pornography charges and is currently serving a 56 year sentence. That hefty sentence indicates that the trooper likely had a massive trove of child pornography and/or he’d been involved in its creation, sale or distribution.
Later, someone alerted another police department — the Springdale, Arkansas police — but, by then, the three-year statute of limitations had expired, so no further action was taken. At that point, Josh, through his lawyer, refused to cooperate. Case closed!
Except, it wasn’t. We now know that in 2007, Josh Duggar sued the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, which had a continuing obligation to protect minor girls, and the case went to trial. We don’t know what the lawsuit was about or who won the trial. My educated guess would be that conditions were placed on Josh regarding his interactions with his sisters, which he wanted lifted.
In the wake of this week’s revelations, sponsors have fled from “19 Kids and Counting” and TLC has pulled the show temporarily. Perhaps they will cancel it, perhaps not. Of course, whether the TV show goes on is beside the point.
What we are seeing here is a tired rerun of a show we’ve seen too many times: famous guy allegedly sexually assaults powerless females with next to no punishment. The victims do not dare oppose him in the legal system or the media. Time runs out, and when the story is made public, the perpetrator protests that no court has found him guilty.
And in the case of Josh Duggar, he didn’t even have to be all that famous, in 2002 or now. All it took was dad going to a friendly state trooper and then waiting for three years to pass after the child-porn-enthusiast cop – surprise! – did nothing about little girls being groped in their sleep. By his buddy’s son.
I’ve read the entire police report, and it’s replete with Duggar family efforts to protect Josh. What’s missing is empathy for the victims, any mention of counseling for them, or efforts to protect them. Child sexual abuse can have devastating, lifelong impact. The Duggar family’s statement to police that the victims had “forgiven” Josh raises uncomfortable questions: were they pressured by the family to sweep this under the rug? Were their stories heard? Were their experiences validated? Did they have a forum to truly express themselves? Were they permitted to speak to unbiased, and non-child-porn-owning, law enforcement or health officials? Or was it all about Josh and protecting him from the consequences of his choices?
At the urging of two Bill Cosby alleged sexual assault victims, Nevada just extended its deadline for charges to be filed in rape cases to 20 years. Every state should follow its lead or, better yet, abolish the statute of limitations altogether in sexual assault cases. If victims can prove a case years later, let them have their day in court. Let them try.