I told you a few days ago why I can’t condemn the Duggar family — specifically, parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — for the way they handled a pretty horrific family nightmare about 12 years ago. Many of the folks in my circles agree with me. Not surprisingly, there are a number who don’t. And that’s okay.
But I believe as firmly now as I believed then that much of the outcry around this surrounds the fact that the Duggars are a prominent Christian family and they’re despised by many in mainstream America for that fact. That doesn’t mean that folks aren’t allowed to criticize the Duggars, whether they’re Christians or not. We all have a right to our own opinion. But as a defense of my point of view, I point you to the snarky tone of many of the mainstream media stories about this incident — such as the New York Daily News.
There are two additional points I’d like to make.
1.) Josh Duggar’s crimes are being judged as those of 27-year-old Josh Duggar rather than those of 14-year-old Josh Duggar.
In the last post, I mentioned the fact that our justice system treats juvenile offenders much differently than adult offenders in most circumstances.
Understand that I’m not defending what Josh Duggar did as a 14-year-old. And, thankfully, I don’t know anyone who is trying to defend what Duggar did. Fourteen years of age is plenty old enough to understand right from wrong. I was plenty old enough by that age to understand that doing what he did would’ve been a manifestation of pure evil. I think you know that as clearly at the age of 14 as you do at the age of 27.
In the eyes of the law, though, there is a clear difference.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard (or read) that Josh Duggar should be in jail right now…well, I’d have a bunch of nickels. But here’s the thing: even if Josh Duggar had been prosecuted for what he did, he would not be in jail right now. In fact, his time spent in anything even remotely resembling a jail would’ve been very short-lived. Actual incarceration, if any, would’ve been served in what is commonly referred to as a “group home,” a rehabilitation center for troubled youth.
Do we know for sure that Josh Duggar would have even been incarcerated? That would take someone with a much better understanding of juvenile law in the State of Arkansas, but it’s a possibility to be considered. I’ve read several who have better knowledge of these situations than myself who have written that even if the matter had been reported to police right away and child services had gotten involved, the way it was handled is similar to the way it would’ve been “officially” handled. Again, I don’t know; I’m hardly an expert in that arena. But I’m pretty sure that all of the sudden legal experts that we’re seeing pop up on Twitter and Facebook probably don’t know a lot more about this aspect of the situation than I do.
The fact that Josh Duggar was 14 when he committed his crimes doesn’t make his actions any more excusable, nor does it make them any less harmful for his victims. But the passage of time — 12 years and counting — does matter.
If Duggar had been processed through the legal system at the age of 14 and had undergone a court-ordered rehabilitation program, this would all be considered part of the settled past by now. It wasn’t processed through the legal system, and so now the public wants its pound of flesh. It’s been suggested by some that Duggar’s children should be removed from his home and by many more that he should serve jail time. Yet, if the case had been prosecuted in a juvenile court and a conviction had been obtained, Duggar would not have been prevented from having children and he would not have served jail time in any format that we think of jail time. As a 14-year-old, Duggar had no say-so in how his infractions were handled, even if he did personally benefit from the decisions of the adults in his life.
Even if we agree that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and the since-disgraced state trooper friend, and the church elders, and everyone else who knew of this acted selfishly, wrongly and not in the best interest of the victims, how does that change things now?
2.) Why are we all trying to speak for the victims?
That’s the most important aspect, to me, and also the part that everyone is glossing over.
So many times over the last several days I’ve heard someone say the victims are being ignored, or it has become all about Josh Duggar and not about the victims.
Clearly, the victims do matter. Molestation isn’t a laughing matter. It can leave emotional scars that take a long, long time to heal — scars that actually never do heal. And it can be even worse when the offender is a family member, living under the same roof. I personally know folks who were molested as a child and it’s something that some of them struggle with even now, as adults.
But it takes real audacity on our part to try to speak for the victims.
Apparently, Josh Duggar inappropriately touched and fondled five girls, four of which were his sisters. So we don’t know who one of the victims was. But we pretty much know who the other four were, because there were only five sisters in the home 13 years ago. And here’s the thing: Each of those five sisters are now adults. The oldest is 25 and the youngest is 18. They’re still very active members of the family.
The narrative from those doing much of the criticizing has been that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were so intent on saving their son (or simply covering up his crimes for personal reasons) that the plight of the girls was ignored. It’s even been suggested that their brother might have continued his pattern of molestation after 2003.
As children, those girls would have had little recourse if their needs and rights were being trampled by the Duggars’ parenting decisions. But, as adults, would they not break away from the family if they felt disenfranchised by what their brother did? There are few families in America whose lives are as public or are lived as illuminated as the Duggars’ are. If the Duggar daughters — the victims — are just putting on a front for the cameras, they’re awfully good actors.
In fact, one of the probable victims’ father-in-law has been very vocal in his defense of the Duggars — which, of course, has earned him the same scorn from the masses who are eager to mock the Christian faith.
The Duggars don’t get a free pass on this because they’re Christians. God forgives the sins of his people, but there’s a separate score to settle in the eyes of man. That’s as it should be. But if you remove the aspect of Christianity from it, you’ll likely find that there’s much less controversy surrounding the way this was handled.