SURVIVOR STORIES: Picking Up Pieces – Why Josh Duggar’s Redemption Isn’t The Point

**Trigger Warning: The following post contains discussion of sexual assault & sexual violence, and may be disturbing or triggering to survivors.**

As anyone who follows my Facebook goings-on knows, I wasn’t remotely surprised about last week’s Duggar Scandal. I’ve been very vocal in my criticism of Quiverfull Patriarchy sub-culture and the abuse and repression endemic to its fundamentalist theology.

What was largely lost, yet again, in the blog-flinging from both sides – those condemning Josh’s actions and the QF movement, and those rallying in support of the Duggars – were the voices of the victims. So, in gratitude to and support of a brave soul whose experience closely mirrored the Duggar’s story, and who courageously raised her voice via this blog before, I offer her perspective in her own words. ~Amy

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When I was 12 and my brother was 14, I was awakened one night by his hands pulling off my underwear. I froze. As he fondled me, I sat in the shame of that darkness completely lost. After he was done, all he said as he left my room that night was “don’t tell mom and dad.”

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Had this been the only time he entered my room, it still would have been a violation…abuse. Not some “youthful indiscretion.” Unfortunately, he only grew more bold… forcing me to touch him…soliciting me to use my hands and mouth for his pleasure.

Eventually, I overcame my overwhelming shame and told my mother. My parents confronted my brother, and I remember he cried after he was caught (even still he continued to come into my room for a short time after). My family’s way of resolving the issue was that we should never speak of this again. It’s family business, and at least in their eyes, the problem was dealt with. My brother received no counseling because he seemed properly contrite and ashamed; meanwhile, my own life was in a downward spiral.

No longer able to keep silent with my inner turmoil, I opened up to someone at church camp that summer about my experience. Despite the fact that I asked her not to say anything, as the issue had been “dealt” with, she decided she could not keep what I shared to herself. I was devastated and terrified. As it turned out, the director of the camp wanted to report, but our youth pastor convinced them that he knew my family and he would confront my parents. We were good Christian people and didn’t need the trouble this would cause. All that came of the subsequent discussion was that my family acknowledged their awareness of the issue and had already dealt with it. AND afterwards…I was punished for speaking of it. “Look what harm I caused my brother, he made a mistake, knowledge of this in public could ruin his life.” It could not have been more apparent who was valued and to hell with how I felt.

Every time the issue came up in our community, I was always called upon to “fix” it because I created the problem in the first place by not keeping silent as I was told to do. Look at the shame I caused my brother. Mixed in with everything else I felt was the guilt of how I could ruin his life. Thus my voice became an instrument to help him, and the surrounding quiet was deafening.

Let me tell you a story about the devastating silences of youth and the messiness of redemption.

My brother? By the measures of this life, he is successful. For all intents and purposes, redeemed from his “youthful indiscretion.”

As for myself? I’ve fought tooth and nail to overcome childhood devastation that left me emotionally abandoned by my family. Left to fend for myself. Somehow I’ve managed my own “small” successes. In trying to piece together my life, I earned a few advanced degrees, one from a prestigious top 10 university. Yet somehow, despite all my hard work and efforts to escape a painful past, I find myself homeless… on Medicaid and food stamps… carrying all the accompanying shame. AND perhaps the most devastating of all, the one thing that leads me EVERY TIME to the absolute brink of self-destruction: a keen awareness of my lack of belonging anywhere. If my own family hung me out to dry, where else is there to go…who else is there to go “home” to? It’s the one place you are supposed to feel safe and wholly a part.

No matter how hard I try or how big I risk, I cannot seem to stop the free fall of my own life. Lately, I lose track of the nights I cry myself to sleep; because now it happens so often. AND every day I fight the tormenting silence to keep breathing, not to succumb to self-destructive tendencies. More days than I care to admit, I lose…

All of this, deeply rooted in a dark seed planted long ago.

Am I just weak? I don’t know…

BUT hear me say this: the difference in whose lives are actually ruined? It’s stark.

So forgive me if I do not want to focus on the “redemption” of Josh Duggar or anyone like him in these stories. I have no doubt he will have quite the success…since he, too, overcame his “youthful indiscretions.” God allows grace for them too.

BUT I care more about those silenced and abandoned to the actual ruins of such abuses. How can those lives be redeemed? THAT is where our focus should be.