My heart is deeply grieved at the recent reports of Josh Duggars actions as a young teen. I am not a clinical psychologist and I am not here to add to speculation or make my own statement about if he is or isn’t a pedophile. Only a clinical psychologist who is dealing with him directly can make that call, period. What I am going to do is shift the attention off of him. I am heartbroken over how it appears the situation was handled and is often handled in homes, including Christian homes, all over the United States. The details of what happened are not known, nor should they be. It is truly none of anyone’s business. I want to address how situations like this should be properly addressed. I am sure that the family reacted in a way to the best of their ability at that time. Most do not even go to their church and try to handle everything ‘in house’ for fear of what others will think, or that ‘by faith’ everything will just be better. When dealing with children who do not yet have full spiritual concepts, you cannot expect a few prayers and parent-to-child talks to solve the issue.
When a child is attacked in any way at any developmental stage, it is going to leave a lasting mark unless handled by a professional to help that child process the lies and dark seeds that were planted. A child is also not going to express his/herself openly to a parent for fear of getting in trouble or even burdening the parent. When a parent is in an emotional frenzy and a child can sense that they are stressed out, they do not want to add to that. Children quickly take on the responsibility for their parent’s happiness. Honestly, it probably is not that healthy for a parent to hear and have those raw conversations with their child due to the deep emotional connection they have with them.
I truly hope that the girls involved did receive counseling. Although the police reports do not document raping, inappropriate touching of any kind by anyone is still violating and needs to be addressed with a clinical counselor. Not a pastor, a mentor, or a youth leader. Although those individuals can absolutely contribute to the healing process, a professional needs to be involved. When these issues arise in families, it needs to be addressed as a team effort. In the context of the Church, we need to be ready to help address and support families as we walk with them through anything but especially sexual abuses.
There is absolutely a role for the Church to play, as there are many spiritual questions that both abusers and victims will need to process with someone. Unless your church has a clinical child psychologist on staff that has expertise in the area of sex abuse and children, the therapy portion needs to be outsourced. These situations happen all across the US, but as Christians, we are to be the example and set the bar high in regards to how it is handled. We are to be a light and not add to darkness. However, by not ethically responding to abuse, we are perpetuating darkness in the hearts of the abuser and victim. They then go out into the world carrying their pain and sin, which spread like a virus.
Generally child abuse occurs within the family (which I am not stating that the Duggar's situation was or was not). When this kind of abuse comes to our attention, the first step needs to be to ensure the safety of that child and any other children present. If Josh was experimenting on his siblings, he should have been removed from the home for at least a year to assess his psyche and ensure safety for all of the other children. I am not a parent yet, but I am passionate about protecting children. I understand that there are situations of siblings molesting or even raping their siblings. In that kind of case, you must think of the well being of the other children in the home over the child inflicting abuse and remove the abuser, at least for a time, out of protection for the others around. Protection is the main reason for removal, but not the only reason.
Proper response is imperative to repairing the loss of worth and value that dies when a child is violated. When we respond by making the child’s environment safe and surrounding them with people who care, this re-instates their value. It sends the message that; “yes, you do matter. In fact, you matter so much that I will make the sacrifice to pay for therapy and ensure your safety.” They must be surrounded with double amounts of truth to drown the seeds of darkness that are attempting to take root in their hearts. Deceitful seeds that say; “you (your body) enjoyed it so you are just as guilty… It is your fault that he is in trouble… You are dirty…. Etc.” Instead, responding in a way that is validating helps to dismantle those lies.
Thankfully, Jim Bob did include others outside of their family and sought wise counsel. The vast majority does not seek counsel, so this is a start. When things come to the attention of the church, they need to be followed through. Many times the church hands things over to the emotionally overwhelmed, perplexed, and now lost parents and neglect to follow up or monitor how the situation is being handled in every aspect. When in crisis, an outside voice(s) is necessary to ensure that a proper response is made and nothing is missed. It is easy to miss something when chaos is raging in your heart and mind after such devastation. I do not know what Jim Bob’s Church did or didn’t do after he first came to them, but I would hope that they not only became an advocate for John, but also the five girls involved and a great support for Bob and Michelle. Once the church is involved, there is no excuse for a family or child to fall through the cracks, yet sadly, too many times that is what happens.
I wrote this blog as a call to the church to get it together. Understand that you have a role when someone is abused and it is brought to your attention. Include the family it concerns and professionals, but do not put if off on them. The Church has a role to play in the recovery of victims from any violation, and until they step in, the treatment plan is not a holistic one.
This is coming from a girl who fell through the cracks herself when she told her youth pastor that family members were molesting her. There was much more going on, but due to the sheltered life of an evangelical home, I did not have the words to truly describe my nightmare. My family was informed but the “help” stopped there. There was not one follow up conversation with me. I was not offered therapy or even mentorship by a female leader. My family was not asked to sit down and talk to the pastors about the situation and how we were coping. Instead, the neglect of the church allowed denial to set in and the entire situation was swept under the rug from my perspective, as a 6th grader. It sank the lies that I was worthless and that no one would believe me into my heart further. Those roots sprung out plants of self-hate that defined my identity. I believed them, and the lack of proper response was like water to them.
Church, the problems of the world are problems in the world because you did not step in when it was just a problem at home. It is time to take back territory and deny darkness a home by flooding it out with an invasion of light into situations like the Duggar's and mine. It is time to talk about things, everything, and stop acting like sexuality is a sin. God gave us sex and sexuality, and it is just as much the Church’s responsibility to maintain the health of these in their congregation, as it is individuals and parents. That cannot be done if we are not willing to be educated and talk about it with our people. It is sad that a national “scandal” of a Christian family, brave enough to let cameras into their home, is what it took to get us to take our heads out of the sand. If anything, it goes to show that Christians are not immune. The same things that happen to non-believers can and will happen to us too. We were not promised safety, but we are promised healing, comfort, and hope. It is time that we become these to families and the world.