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The Mamafesto: When reality TV sparks a needed conversation on sexual abuse

A popular reality TV show is in the news, but this time it’s not because they’ve had their 20th child. Instead, everyone is talking about how the eldest son (now 27) sexually abused at least five girls when he was 15. While I hesitate to give this family any more air time then they’ve already taken, I think the conversation surrounding all of this is an important one to have.

After InTouch Weekly published a police report detailing exactly what happened, Josh Duggar released a statement confirming the report. The report describes Josh having touched the genitals of young girls, including some of his younger sisters, at times when they were sleeping. This was not an isolated incident. In his statement, Duggar notes that he hurt others but also includes that he “…understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

I wonder if he put any thought into how his actions could (and possibly have) ruin the lives of those he violated?

His parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, also released a statement, where they referred to what Josh did as “bad mistakes.” I’m sorry, but what he did was not a mistake, but rather a crime. Zerlina Maxwell goes into depth over as about the distinction, and it’s an important one to be made. “The repeated sexual abuse of children is not a “mistake.” A mistake is when the barista at Starbucks gives you the wrong amount of change for your latte. Abusing young girls in their sleep is a choice and a crime.”

Josh Duggar committed a crime — multiple times — and yet nothing happened. It took a year before he and his parents reported it to anyone, and all that happened was that he was sent off to work for a family friend for three months. An officer spoke with him about what he did. An officer who is now in jail on child pornography charges, so excuse me if I don’t feel like that was adequate in any way, shape or form. His parents clearly did not raise him in an environment where consent was understood or taught, and they did not handle what happened in the appropriate way. Both Josh Duggar and his parents are at fault here and should have been held accountable. Had it been any other family, where multiple young girls were molested by their brother, you better believe child and protective services would have been involved.

Childhood sexual abuse is a serious crime. It is not just a “bad mistake” or a “immature judgment,” especially if it is committed multiple times on multiple victims. One positive thing to come out of all of this is the chance to talk about childhood sexual abuse and how serious it actually is. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. The effects of sexual abuse on the victims are numerous, and while the Duggars claim they provided counseling for their daughters, excuse me while I have trouble truly believing this from a family who deems genital violation a “bad mistake.” Did I mention that one of his sisters was only four-years-old at the time?

But when people like Mike Huckabee excuse Josh Duggar’s actions as poor judgment, one has to wonder how seriously people are taking this crime. The more we can talk about it, the more we can look at the reality of how rape culture is a very real thing, and the more we can talk about how we value children — particularly young girls — the closer we can be to hopefully lessening the instances of childhood sexual assault. What doesn’t help is looking the other way, passing it off as a “boys will be boys” actions, and praying it all away.

For more resources on childhood sexual abuse:

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