In recent weeks a 2006 report accounting a confession from Josh Duggar, the oldest son from TLC’s 19 Kids & Counting, about molestation of five young girls has surfaced. This has caused the Duggar family to go on the defensive as the allegations sharply contrast the wholesome Christian family values that they are known for espousing.
First, let’s review exactly what has surfaced regarding Josh Duggar’s controversial past.
Last month, Springdale City police chief Kathy O’Kelley released a 2006 police report containing accounts of five instances of child molestation by Josh Duggar. At the time of these incidents Josh was between 14 and 15 years old. The alleged victims were all young females, two of which were Josh’s sisters Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard. According to reports, Josh first confessed to his father, Jim Bob, and was promptly sent to a Christian-based counseling program. Following Josh’s return, Jim Bob brought him to the local authorities where Josh remorsefully recounted his wrongful actions.
Although the Josh Duggar report should not be taken lightly I think the media frenzy has taken a drastic stance on an issue that is far in the past. First, it should be noted that Josh is now 27 years old with a wife and three kids. He has admitted to his wrongdoings, expressed great regret, and has shown that he has moved on to a healthier path in life (ie. he established a career, he is active in the community, etc).
That doesn’t mean that the issue should be ignored. From reading the reported aftermath, after Josh confessed to his family and authorities, it seems that Josh was mainly put through programs that focused on the religious aspects of righting his sins. In fact, the first counseling he received was reportedly from a Christian non-licensed counseling service [reported on www.salon.com]. One question this raises is if he’s received any treatment that focuses on his mental wellbeing and values as a human being, rather than what his religious views are. Also perhaps some limited action should be taken to ensure his new family have been and always will be in a safe environment.
But I think the media is forcing Josh into an indefinite punishment that takes away his opportunity to live a full, rejuvenated life. While I do not agree with most of Josh and his family’s conservative views, I do not believe this should cloud people’s judgment on how Josh and the victims should be treated.
The fact that Josh has expressed such strong Christian opinions regarding what he believes is the wrongfulness of same sex marriage has played against him in this situation. People who are offended by Duggar’s opinions are now using something against him from a time when he was only a teenager. While molestation is certainly not your normal and forgivable youthful indiscretion it’s probably still something that should not stick with you forever, provided that the behavior is not repeated after a certain age.
The other side of the story, one that doesn’t have to do with Josh directly, is that of the victims. In a recent sit down with FOX’s Megyn Kelly the sisters who were victims of the molestation, Jessa and Jill, expressed their frustration with the media. They feel as though the media outlets are re-victimizing them and they feel more distraught by the coverage of the story now than they ever did from the 2002 events.
It should be noted that they were very young at the time and the family has admitted that the girls had very little awareness of the wrongfulness of Josh’s. I hope that the sisters will be more appropriately protected against the publicity of this event. As minors during the time of the molestation, they would normally be protected from any embarrassment that comes from such an event becoming public knowledge. Unfortunately as part of the 19 Kids & Counting cast, this privacy was never an option and, realistically, probably won’t be in the future.
But I still believe there should have been some form of privacy procedures put into place protecting what is to be published about the victims. These girls have new families now: Jill with a husband/child and Jessa with a husband/child-on-the-way.
What should be a time of joy and focus on family has turned into a time of distress and constant reiteration of events that only cause pain to the victims and families. Both sisters have expressed forgiveness, love and encouragement for Josh’s movement forward in a more positive path. The issue resurfacing in their lives can’t be helpful for them and it appears it is only helpful to those who want to cast Josh Duggar in a negative light.
There is no doubt the actions Josh took as an adolescent were wrong and merit rehabilitation if a problem still exists. But I do not believe in a punishment that will forever entail a dark cloud above him. With proper acknowledgement, compliance, growth from Josh, and some level of peace from the victims, I think this family should be able to move on to the lives they have worked to create all this time since the incidents originally took place.
This doesn’t mean that the Duggar’s disapproval of other people’s sex lives is correct. However the fact that he did something wrong when he was a non-adult teenager doesn’t really reflect that much on him or his views now as a man who is closer to 30 than 20.