In Defense of the Duggars

mirrorI don’t believe in much that the Duggars do. Their lifestyle in no way resembles mine. I’m single. I don’t have any kids, and while for a moment I might have considered one or two, I can’t rub enough brain cells together to make sense out of having 19. Which is all to say that I have no particular reason to empathize with their current situation.

And, yet, I do. Because their situation is all of ours.

Our collective nasty, vitriolic response to the parents’ actions says way more about us than it does them. I don’t doubt for a moment that their love for their children is real and that they’re doing the best they can, like most of us are. And also like most of us, they’re going to get it wrong sometimes. This situation with Josh and the girls is likely one of those times. If your child came to you with the news that Josh did, are you really so certain you would march him to the police station for his arrest? Would you demand he be labeled a sexual predator and sent to prison?

Or maybe, just maybe, you might seek the counsel of a religious leader. Or maybe you would speak to an acquaintance who’s in law enforcement And while, it’s true that later this acquaintance was sent to jail on child porn charges, you surely didn’t know that at the time. The discussion of it’s a distraction, a side note designed to make the situation seem seedier and more distant from our own lives.

But the brave thing to do would actually be to keep the cameras rolling. Follow the family, who is now real and raw, and see how they respond to this. Many families, too many for sure, are in similar situations. We all want to act like it’s not us. It’s always somebody else, but it’s so frequent, so pervasive, that it can’t always be somebody else. We won’t eradicate molestation or sexual assault by pushing it aside and acting like it’s the opposite of us. We won’t eradicate it by devaluing the comments of the girls who were molested, demanding their outrage be greater than or equal to ours. And we certainly won’t eradicate it by burying the stories, hiding them in the shadows in the same way the Duggar parents have for all these years. Our family members are the victims. Our family members are the perpetrators. It’s time we started acting like it so we can have a real dialogue.

To that end, TLC has partnered with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and Darkness to Light to produce a documentary designed to spark a national dialogue. It sounds like the Duggars will be a part of this too. Perhaps it can act as a new beginning instead of a fall from grace that will be forgotten all too soon.