Many years ago, I had the unfortunate experience to see the television documentary, 14 Children and Pregnant Again! about the Duggar family. And then there was 17 and 18 and finally 19 Kids and Counting. I thought it was very creepy. The family had child rearing systematized, so that after the first year or so, the older children raised the younger children. It seemed to me that Michelle Duggar might be addicted to babies — neither she nor Jim Bob seemed to care that much about the children. But what really bothered me was the complete lack of individuality of the children — and the complete lack of anything that I recognized as true joy. Of course, there was also the fact that the family clearly fetishized baby making, while taking an “abstinence only” approach to sex for the the kids and all the others who were not married according to God’s plan.
So now that we know that Josh, the eldest of the Duggar children, molested four of his younger sisters, we should not be surprised. Nor should we be surprised that Duggar Inc seemed to have already spent years with lawyers and PR advisers in preparation for this moment. Both the statements by Jim Bob and Michelle, as well as that by Josh himself, refer to him being a “young teenager.” Not so much. I’ve gone over the 33 page police report from 2006, and Josh was molesting his sisters at least from June 2003 to March 2004 — that’s when Josh was between the ages of 15 and 16.
The statements are also full of euphemisms so juicy that I got dragged into this whole thing. Josh said he “acted inexcusably” and took steps to address the “situation.” His parents said that Josh made “some very bad mistakes” and they were “shocked.” And, of course: “Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God.” I’m really tempted to make a sarcastic comment here, but it seems inappropriate. Christians always claim that no matter what happens to them, it brings them closer to Jesus; that’s fine, but maybe we should let the young women speak for themselves.
Apparently, after Josh’s behavior was first alerted to his parents, he was sent to a “rehab” for three months. But according to the person who alerted the police to the situation, it was “not a rehab for sex offenders.” Given the timing of the first occurrences — roughly June 2003 — I assume it was some kind of Christian summer camp where postpubescent boys are taught that they must stifle all sexual urges until they get married. In other words, exactly the kind of thing that doubtless brought out this behavior in Josh in the first place.
I doubt very seriously that Josh Duggar is some kind of sexual deviant. Or at least if he is, that he was born that way. I simply do not think you can have a family whose raison d’être it pumping out babies and not make a 15 year old (or 14 or 13 — we don’t really know) mighty curious about what’s down there. And given the philosophy of the family about sex, it isn’t surprising. Stifling biological urges tends to create neuroses. So I’m inclined to be sympathetic to young Josh. (Grown Josh seems to be a total jerk.)
I’m also, of course, sympathetic to the Duggar girls, who would have been ages 9-10, 10-11, 12-13, and 13-14. (I’m assuming he did not molest Joy-Anna, who would have been 5-6.) In the police report, they seem to have forgiven their brothers and gotten on with their lives. But that gets back to what originally creeped me out about their kids: their acceptance of how ever life was — like dogs suffering from learned helplessness. I don’t know, but I wish them well.
But my sympathy does not extend to the the Duggar parents. To me, they’ve treated their children as a kind of commodity — something they sell for their very station in life. We didn’t need a sex scandal to know this. They’re clearly scarred their children in their clear neglect. And I wonder what other wounds are lurking in that family — both obvious and not. It’s very sad. Please Lord, don’t let these people adopt. And please just make them go away.