I have never spoken about this publicly. In fact, I have shared it with few people in my life. This week the news has BLOWN up over the either famous or infamous (depending on your views) Duggar family of T.L.C. fame. A new revelation that Josh Duggar molested several young girls when he was seventeen. It should be noted that he was never prosecuted. It should also be noted that this was not an instance of one accusation and that several of the alleged victims were his sisters. Understandably, there is outrage. The Duggar clan, including Josh, are outspoken about their homophobic beliefs, going as far as to make the accusation that LGBT people are a “threat” to families and children.
Let me start by saying that I have long found the accusatory nature of this family offensive. I wish I could say that I am surprised by this revelation. I am not. Sexual abuse is all too common place in our world. I should know. I was a victim. The last two days, I have found myself pondering, debating, and warring with myself. Should I approach this? How should I approach it? As with many things in life, living in the shadows sometimes feels safer. In my experience, the light of day is much warmer. And, so my decision is to step into the light from the shadows.
I understand that the hypocrisy of this situation is maddening. And, I understand the desire to LASH OUT by the LGBT community. I do not and cannot condone memes that make light of this situation, funny posts that dig at this tragedy as if it were a T.V. movie. It is not. I have never been a proponent of reality television. Respectfully, (at least as I can be) I see something twisted in a parent’s desire to expose their children to the media and the world as “real” entertainment. Particularly, when it is so that they can garner fame and money. And so, on some level Mr. and Mrs. Duggar, and Josh (who has made some reprehensible assertions about others) should expect a backlash. However, there is something that overrides that. That is the REALITY of young girls who will confront the scars of their molestation for a lifetime.
My abuse happened at a neighbor’s house. It occurred at both the hands of adults and older minors. Both men and women participated. It occurred in locked bedrooms and walk in closets. Adults then instructed children to engage in inappropriate play. My first memories are from when I was about four. The abuse, in different forms, continued consistently for about four years. When my parents moved to another neighborhood, it became less frequent. It continued in some form until I was in the sixth grade. Most of it, at the hands of older minors. An abuser is almost always someone a child trusts, a father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, neighbor, teacher, pastor, coach, etc. Sexual abuse diminishes a person in unimaginable ways. And, abuse is most times a repetitive cycle; meaning most abusers were abused as children as well. There is no humor in this situation. There is only tragedy.
The scars from sexual abuse appear in many forms. Many. For years, I was afraid to walk up the stairs, always fearing that someone was behind me. I blocked out a great deal of the abuse that occurred when I was small for years. I remembered some of that time, but it was not until I was in high school that I began to remember more, and then more…and then MORE. I had a sexual knowledge at a young age that I should not have possessed. It was an odd mixture of emotional naiveté and sexual curiosity. A curiosity that was tainted by fear. And, the impressions have remained into adulthood.
Abusers lift you when they are with you. They often praise you and compliment you until the session is ending. Then, their fear takes hold. That is when the intimidation and insults begin. Sometimes it is: “It’s our special secret”. Sometimes it is: “If you tell, you’ll be in trouble. They’ll hate you.” Sometimes it is: “Be glad that I want you.” The longer it continues, the more the victim is degraded.
As an adult, I still struggle with intimacy. It is a threatening place to travel even with someone I care for. While, I have learned to manage that; it never entirely leaves. There is a need to have control at all times and that includes of my physical responses to a partner. In short, I have guilt. I am not sure that it is a bridge I will ever fully cross and I am forty-six years old. You do not forget. Your body and your heart remember; even when you do not want them to.
My abuse, in many ways, accounts for my difficulty as a writer in approaching sexual situations for my characters. I lived in the shadows for so long that talking about sex in any way other than joking about it is uncomfortable for me. In truth, I always felt a sense of shame. It is easy for people who have never been abused to say that there is no reason to feel shame. Emotions do not seek reason. I knew on some level that what was happening was wrong. I did nothing to stop it. It has taken me YEARS to understand that I did not have the intellectual wisdom nor the emotional maturity to know what to do. The other thing few people want to admit, is that as much as I hated it; I wanted to be liked and accepted…even at four. Every child does and that is why abusers are so successful in their cycle.
All of this led me down some painful paths in my adulthood. I put myself in situations I should not have. That resulted in more abuse. That led to a date rape when I was eighteen. The interesting part is that I didn’t consider it forced for years. I just blamed myself for following him into the stairwell of his dorm from the party we were at. I had been drinking. It didn’t matter that I said no. I only said no once; and then? Then my past kicked in and I shut down. What did it matter? At least he wanted me. That is how abuse affects people. And, until I met my wife, all of my relationships demeaned me in some way…every, single one. I was not worthy or deserving. Love was being someone’s pawn. I could love them. No one would love me. I was not good enough.
I share this not for pity. I do not need pity, nor do I want it. Every experience in my life has made me who I am today. There are parts of me that I still am not satisfied with. Most of the time, I like the Nancy that I have become. I survived, not without issue, but rather through the issues. I believe that I have come out stronger in the end. Eventually, I faced my demons down. I sought help and guidance. All these years later, I am still evolving and growing; still facing down demons. I have learned that to drive the demons away, you have to be in the sunlight, not remain in the darkness.
As I watch this unfold, I want to caution people that this is about people. I do not agree with the way the Duggars have behaved. I am not surprised by the hypocrisy in the least. People frequently cast stones from the shadows needing to be led to the light. It’s amazing how destructive people can be toward others, so afraid to look in the mirror at themselves. As Matthew points out in his Gospel, it is easier to see the speck in another person’s eye than to examine the log in your own. It is not right. It is part of living in the shadows for many people. In the end, the light has a way of breaking through. We should be thankful for that.
I would not wish such a painful thing on anyone in the world. I can dislike the Duggars’ behavior and rhetoric, and I do. I also recognize that they are people. Their children do not deserve this anymore than anyone else’s. I feel only sadness in this entire scenario. The lie that people live. The damage caused in its wake. It infuriates me that there are people who judge so openly and publicly….and HURTFULLY, while they live with the knowledge that they are no one to judge anyone at all. But, that is how human beings are at times. It is not right, nor just. It is simply human.
Perhaps this situation is an invitation for us to look at ourselves. To look at the families, the lives, and the society we are creating and ask again what we want it to be. It took this for The Learning Channel to pull the Duggars’ show from their lineup. That tells me something about T.L.C.’s ethics or lack thereof. Apparently, TEACHING hate is fine until you are a financial liability. Sadly, their decision to pull the show has nothing to do with people or morality. It is only about money. For the people out there, particularly the younger people who are forced to confront the pain of their own abuse again as a result of all this fervor…I have a message for you:
You are valid. You matter. Most people in this world are compassionate, loving, and trustworthy. YOU DESERVE to be loved compassionately and to be able to trust freely. Abuse is wrong. You deserve the warmth of the sunshine as much as every human being on this planet does. Those who harmed you did not learn that lesson. Do not let their shame and their darkness eclipse your light.
For everyone else, I would ask you to consider what we are creating. Why are we as voyeuristic as to even WANT to look into these people’s personal lives? Do we not have enough in our own families and communities that WE need to focus on? When we do, are we not also looking at the speck in our brother’s eye while we ignore the log in our own? It seems to me that we keep getting that message and we keep collectively ignoring it.
We are creating this world every single day. That includes how we react to people like the Duggars. I often hear people say, “You reap what you sow.” Perhaps it is time we approach that differently and begin sowing that which we hope to harvest.