Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Josh Duggar, child sexual abuse and rape culture

We've been watching media coverage of the child sexual abuse allegations raised against Josh Duggar all week and are increasingly concerned by the media's complete lack of concern for the victims.

Josh Duggar, whose parents rose to fame with a reality television show about their 19 children, has recently resigned from the deeply homophobic Family Research Council following media coverage of his sexual abuse of at least 5 young girls when he was 15 years old.

As Zerlina Maxwell has made clear in an article in Cosmo the framing of Josh's crime as a "mistake" is rape culture. It is incredibly dangerous to allow the Duggar's, and their supporters, label child sexual assault a "mistake" that can be fixed by prayer. Whilst Josh was a minor at the time of the crime, media coverage has made it clear that he was allowed to continue committing sexual abuse for another year after his parents discovered his crime. Their 'solution' was to have Josh speak to a police officer they were friends with -  this officer, Joseph T Hutchens, was then arrested himself for owning images of children being sexually abuse, raped and tortured. Hutchens was paroled in 2010 for the original offence but soon convicted of distributing images and sentenced to another 60 years in prison. Josh was also sent for "counselling". In turns out this "counselling" involved him spending a few months doing manual labour with no engagement whatsoever with any type of perpetrator program.

The media has been aware of these allegations since at least 2006 when the Duggars were uninvited from Oprah's chat show. Since Oprah knew, we can surmise that TLC also would have been made aware of the allegations but continued with the reality show. This is hardly surprising since the Duggars were one of TLC's most successful programs which brought in large amounts of advertising revenue. Our organisation has serious concerns about using children in reality television without even factoring in the fact that one of these children was a perpetrator. The failure to report to the appropriate authorities (and your mate who is a police officer is NOT an appropriate authority) put children at risk for almost a decade.

We do not know if Josh has committed any crimes since 2003 but we do know that sexual violence has one of the highest recidivism rates for crime. Statistically speaking, it's unlikely that a perpetrator would stop without appropriate intervention from the justice system (and at the age of 15 Josh would have been classed as a juvenile offender). Failing to deal with the crime was a serious breach of child protection guidelines and is clear evidence that statute of limitations for criminal investigations of child sexual abuse only benefits perpetrators.

What is also missing from the media coverage of Josh's crimes is the victims. The press has cheerfully given enough identifying information for people to guess who the victims were: this is also a serious breach of child protection. Child victims of sexual violence deserve full anonymity and protection under the law. We understand and support the victim who petitioned a judge to have the police case files expunged. The statute of limitations means that Josh could never be prosecuted and keeping the files, in a world where the police leak documents all the time, only serves to identify the victims and open them up to further abuse.

Failing to protect the identities of the child victims demonstrates a complete lack of care for their safety, health and wellbeing. The media focus on statements made by Josh and his parents about the "mistake" has completely erased the child victims. There has been no real discussion of whether or not the children received appropriate support or how they were protected from Josh following the abuse. There has been no discussion as to whether or not the Duggars were criminally negligent in allowing Josh to perpetrate sexual abuse for a year after they first found out - there's been no widespread condemnation of their poor parenting. We have not heard of any intervention from social services into the family in terms of child protection.

Instead, we have the media salivating over the hypocrisy of the Duggars without once considering the children. The only people who matter here are the children and the media has just erased them from their own abuse. This is rape culture in action: the celebrity status of the perpetrator classed as more important than the safety of child victims.

 

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2 thoughts on “Josh Duggar, child sexual abuse and rape culture

  • Elisa hill says:

    So disappointing, I have watched this programme many times, and was very impressed with the family, and as a mother of five myself I really identified with Michele, the mum. There seems to be no redeeming factor in the story at all,I can understand the desire to protect your son, it’s a natural reaction,but not to put that over the interests and safety of the Victims, whoever they were, and of course as they were in a small community,they ( theParents) were knowingly allowing Crrime to continue. The family were due to appear on the Oprah Show, and we’re uninvited,knowing Oprahs experience of Abuse,this was not surprising.Its a very discouraging story all round, as I know these type of religious people and have been in the same sort of situation myself,it’s all hushed up, and as a victim I was encouraged to forgive, and expected to be around the Rapist, and behave as nothing had happened,the guilt and shame was put onto me for refusing,and the guilty one was never even Punished,in fact it was completely “swept under the carpet”..I was eventually shunned and left the so called “church”.

  • Ali Wilkin says:

    “..and your mate who is a police officer is NOT an appropriate authority..” THAT. Purity culture in ultra-conservative churches (and the rape culture it embeds) is pernicious, and it is not just conservative evangelical churches that this is a problem for. All too often the default ‘Christian’ response is ‘we are all sinners’, as though the abuser somehow had no control in the situation. This is incredibly damaging for the victims, silencing them and minimizing the trauma they have endured. I do not doubt that the CofE will find that it has to undertake investigations and acts of repentance in the same way that the Methodist church has done recently. In fact I would put money on it.