"It Was Not Rape:" Why the Duggars' Viewpoint on Abuse is a Disservice to Past, Present and Future Victims Everywhere | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

June 4, 2015

"It Was Not Rape:" Why the Duggars' Viewpoint on Abuse is a Disservice to Past, Present and Future Victims Everywhere

“This was not rape or anything like that,” [Jim Bob] Duggar said.


I came across this article recapping the Duggar interview from last night (which I didn't watch). And it was painful to read through. I'm as tired of hearing about this as the next guy. And a lot of people have commented on what a travesty this is that 1) such a big deal is being made out of Josh's actions and 2) that it is so public.

As I see it, the publicity surrounding this story is a direct result of the choice the Duggars' made to be public figures. With great power comes great responsibility - and once you opt into the limelight, you don't get to pick and choose when the media prowls your life. If you are uncomfortable with scrutiny of your life, don't get a reality TV show. You choose to take a political career and then drag your family onto a reality TV show? You can't then be surprised that the media is going to devour every morsel of newsworthy items that comes from your family.

The Duggars are also very conservative. This is not a judgement; it's an observation. Religiously, they vehemently oppose homosexuality and LGBTQ lifestyles (going as far as to call them pedophiles or child molesters in their recent robocall). So for them to strike judgement and damnation on this group of people, who they would deem sexual deviants, and then to respond to their own son's sexual deviancy with the equivalent of the wave of a hand? It's a hypocritical slap in the face.

So, I had to read through the article twice to see if I had read Jim Bob Duggars' words correctly. 

“This was not rape or anything like that,” Duggar said. 

Friends? This is the problem. While I'm sad that this controversy is still in the news (for the victim's sake), the message that is being shared in these interviews and statements is a detriment to victims of abuse, everywhere.

"It wasn't rape." Oh, he only penetrated you with his fingers, not his penis? That doesn't mean being molested is not a big deal.  To the girl who was touched over her clothes, who was touched in an inappropriate way, who was made to feel violated, it is a big deal. The confusion, the anger, the way it will affect her relationships (emotional and physical) in the future, it is a big deal. 

"It wasn't assault." Oh, your parent only whipped you with a power cord once? That doesn't mean being pushed, being verbally taken down, being harassed, being mentally messed with is not a big deal. To the spouse, to the child, to the employee who deals with mental, physical or verbal abuse, however "small," it is a big deal.

The definition of abuse is, "the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit."

When we compare severity, when we minimize any act of abuse, we are sending the message that the act itself is not of consequence. Our media is sending the message to victims that what they experienced doesn't matter. That it's not worth reporting. That it shouldn't affect them. It is hard enough for victims to get the courage to report their abuse. Giving them the impression it's not worth reporting because, "well, it wasn't rape," is extremely hurtful. It also numbs us as a community to the effects abuse can have on another human being. We start to believe the lie that unless it's rape, unless it's assault, it's nothing worth noting.

As a former caseworker for Children, Youth and Families, it was inevitable that some of my work was with perpetrators and victims of abuse. And I can't tell you how many times I talked with a victim who shrugged off their abuse like it was nothing. "Ah, it wasn't anything really" or "It was only once." I felt a common theme was that victims were either groomed to believe that the abuse was their fault or, just as damaging, that the abuse not a big deal. They internalized this and acted like what they experienced was nothing. 

Yet there were other indicators that the abuse was far from "nothing:" self-esteem issues, depression, drug use, difficulty in school or work, overly-sexualized behavior and, sadly, perpetrating others. While their words said "it's not a big deal," their lives said otherwise.

I will also say that when I was 15, I was hardly a "child." I knew right from wrong. I understood appropriate and inappropriate. And, at the very least, when I was told something was wrong once, I knew it was not okay to do it again. The fact that Josh is being paraded as a child is frustrating to me, especially when the age of one of his victims was 5 years old. That is a 10 year age difference

The media is on our televisions, our movies, our newspapers, our magazines. It is accessible at the touch of our fingertips, constantly updating us with messages about what to think and believe: about the kind of body we should have, about the politics we should support, about the kind of house we need, about the kind of parent we should to be. 

And now the media is telling us that, unless it is severe, abuse isn't a big deal.

Abuse, however big or small, is a big deal.

It is real, both to the perpetrator and, most especially, the victim.

This nonchalance toward abuse in the media over the Duggars, by the Duggars and their community, is dangerous.

And it is NOT okay.

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