Why the Duggar case matters…beyond our outrage

I know I said I was not going to write anything once school was out, but this case is too important to ignore. In this post I am going to include Rachael Denhollender’s assessment of the verdict. She gets to the heart of the real problem and why abuse survivors are retraumatized in cases like this. They see people who should be on their side, not. We as a culture have more empathy for the abuser because our systems are designed to protect abusers. They are the ones we know and they have been good too. I get the agony. I have worked in a system where a beloved person was exposed as a predator. The pain and consequence of it affects everybody.

If you do not already know the back story of Josh Duggar. Here is a link to catch you up. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marisadellatto/2021/12/09/josh-duggar-from-19-kids-and-counting-found-guilty-on-child-pornography-charges/

When 19 Kids and Counting came out on television, I will admit I was surprised by the popularity. I guess I should not have been since several shows were out about big families that were also quite popular. The Duggars, though, they amplified a cultural American Christianity that got people excited. I was immediately suspicious of it. It is not because I know more than people, I am just paying attention. My intuition said something is wrong here, and I also did that with Duck Dynasty; I have not been wrong. The authoritarianism that was present in these shows was immediately obvious to me. The Duggars deny they were associated with the Quiverfull religion; they actually claim ‘Independent Baptist.’ Both are exclusive and extremely conservative, but the Quiverfull religion is even more extreme because children are used to promote an agenda. They deny they were doing that.

With that said, these popular Christian shows have been patriarchal and controlling. And the public has liked it. It is no wonder why we are where we are right now in our religious and public life. We are now seeing the ugliness play out that cannot be denied anymore by these extreme religious sects. What we as a culture are not doing enough is looking below the surface about why this happens. Patriarchy in all forms is evil. It robs vulnerable people of protection and it creates apathy in people that would not be there without the system that makes them feel special and superior. Male over female; parent over child—all hierarchies that puts the authority of a person over another. There is always going to be some level of hierarchy in systems, but we can do way better to bring it down a lot. We need to be aware that in all systems right now everywhere: The person with the least power gets erased when the trauma comes, and it will.

The Duggars had a name when Josh’s problems started to reveal themselves publicly. He abused four of his sisters when he was 14 and 15 years old. Very little work was done to address this and the sisters suffered more. Now the problem has grown out of hand and so many more people have suffered. Holding people accountable is not destroying them. Not holding them accountable is!!! This is a case in point.

Now I am going to share Rachael Denhollendar’s assessment of this situation and how victims are now re-traumatized, even with a guilty verdict. It is not just because they are reliving trauma, but because people who should love them and be by their side are not. It is no wonder God goes to the person who is not believed—or maybe believed but ultimately not cared about because their humanity was deemed less than. Rachel Denhollendar is an advocate, author, attorney and speaker. She was sexually abused by Larry Nassar as a teen and spent years researching what happened to her. She has since exposed and brought Nassar to account through USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. She has also been working with the SBC sex abuse scandals, and now this. This is a lot and I hope we are holding space for the amount of trauma Rachael holds in her body.

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