Incest Survivor Shares Her Personal Thoughts about the Josh Duggar Case: “Truth and Reconciliation”

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Sex Abuse, Incest, Truth and Reconciliation, Josh Duggar, 19 Kids and Counting, Purity Culture

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What is it like for a sex abuse survivor to see the news of a sex abuser and victims on National television? What is it like for a survivor to hear the words of parents explain away abuse, when leaders fail to put responsibility where it belongs, on the offender?

Lorraine Dresch watched the Josh Duggar sex abuse story unfold, and with writing talent beyond her years, shared from her heart to tell her personal story and respond to what she saw in the media.

Lorraine describes herself as a “19-year-old Asian-American woman in recovery from anorexia nervosa, PTSD, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, and anxiety. She is about to begin her second year of college as an English major. She hopes to be a teacher or professor of English after schooling and live in a pretty little house with her cats.”

She blogs at The Feathered Elephant and wrote an article, Truth & Reconciliation, which she graciously allowed me to share with you here.  This post is longer than usual, so pull up a chair and listen carefully to the words of a survivor.  I so appreciate Lorraine’s brave voice!  Thank you, Lorraine!

TRIGGER WARNING:  Sexual abuse content!

Responses to Lawsuit Filed against Sovereign Grace Ministries



Truth & Reconciliation

by Lorraine Dresch

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Warning: The following expose contains graphic sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.

In the winter of 2006, Josh Duggar was being investigated by the police for molesting five girls, including his sisters, as many as seven times between 2002 and 2003. He was 14 – 15 during those years. No charges were able to be filed because the statute of limitations had ran out. His parents had known at the time of the crimes, but had not gone to the police.

It only came to the police’s attention on accident: a book that had been loaned out contained a letter about the incidents. Instead, the parents had decided to wait until his third confession of molestation – each incident evolving into something even more serious. Only then did they send him from the home – to remodel a house with a program whose founder was later convicted of molesting 30 young girls, not to the professional counseling they previously reported. After the “program”, Josh returned back to his homeschooling, fundamentalist Christian household.

3757491584_be28a2c75f_nIn the summer of 2006, I was molested by my brother. He was 13. I was 10. That night, we were on his loft bed. He showed me porn that he’d printed off from Dad’s flash drive. This was not the first time he had showed this to me. I thought the women were beautiful but the pictures were silly – why would someone want to look at a butt? He commented that my breasts were smaller than my baby sister’s, then he laughed. His voice sounded odd, a low, slow, oozing, paralyzing voice that I’ll never forget. I don’t know exactly how I responded but it wasn’t an offer to touch them. I think I said, “No,” and shook my head, but I don’t remember.

Thinking back, I picture flashes of a white cloud of fear over my brain. He said, “Let me see,” and touched my breasts and genitals under my clothes. I lay still, tense, and he said, “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna go inside.” My mind was blank, but my back-up defense mechanism has always been a fake smile. So I think I probably was still frozen in a mask of false happiness, concealing the terror. I couldn’t look him in the eye. He said, “I pleasured you, so now you have to pleasure me back,” and he pulled down his shorts. This was another something I didn’t expect.

How could he have thought I liked this? My 10-year-old self didn’t know how to react. I shut my eyes, and I felt myself pulling my hand back without success. He had grabbed my wrist and made me touch his penis. “Don’t go down lower; that part’s hairy.” Then he asked me, “You wanna know how they do it?” He knew I’d complained that Mom hadn’t told me how people had sex as part of my education, and I didn’t understand how it was physically possible for the two things to fit together, being placed at such different angles. But now was not the time or the place I wished to learn. I don’t think I said anything. I remember him laying me down and getting on top of me, then thrusting a few times. I turned my head to the right and half-shut my eyes, looking through the bed rails of the loft at the ceiling. My hands were at my shoulders and I curved them like paws. I thought about hamsters, imagining I was one.

My mom peeked her head into the room. He lept off me, and I sat up and curled myself into a ball as far away from him as possible, my back pressed against the bed rails. He smoothly gave a lie, “She asked, so I showed her!” His voice went back to normal. This was not the first lie I had heard, nor the last. We climbed down from the loft and Mom gathered us, one under each arm, like baby chickens. Mom said to me, “If you have questions, ask me first.” I didn’t say anything, but I remember thinking, “Even if what he’d said were true…I had asked you first.” To distract her, he told Mom about the porn he’d found on Dad’s flash drive. Mom asked why he’d shown it to me, and he said, “Because she’s a girl! She has those things.” Mom left us alone on the floor to talk to Dad. When she came back, Mom told us, “Dad knew it was wrong and was going to tell me…This is a family thing. Don’t tell family secrets.”

“Jessa stated that the family never thought the molestation would eventually be an issue when they signed up to do their reality show, believing it had been resolved 5 years prior and was a family secret.” – source

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“This violence is not a private matter. Behind closed doors it is shielded and hidden and it only intensifies. It is protected by silence – everyone’s silence.” – Patrick Stewart, here

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That night 9 years ago, the world was expected to turn as it always had – except now I was to live the rest of my life without a word, but always a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach. I remember washing my hands that night with the hot water on full blast, trying to scrape off the guilt and shame. I lay awake in my room for hours. The nightmare didn’t dissipate with the dawn. I was homeschooled, like the Duggars were, for another three years afterwards. It was isolating to not have anyone I could trust outside the home, other than church members.

I watched the Fox interview with the Duggars.

“The whole Kelly File set up was pretend journalism – I can’t remember seeing interviewees allowed to carry sheets of paper, their talking points, with them. Fox and the Duggars would have this be about an attack on Christian values, and they deflect their own responsibilities by focusing on the narrative that they are all victims, now.” – Michael Hunt, Child Protective Services Investigator for the South Carolina Department of Social Services from 1980 – 1986; granted “expert witness” status by South Carolina’s 5th Circuit Family Court.

Megyn Kelly: “The subsequent incidents, after the first one, involved daughters who were awake. At least a couple?”

Michelle Duggar: “There was a couple, yeah, and they didn’t really understand though what happened – “

Jim Bob Duggar: “It was more of his heart, his intent, he knew. But they weren’t even aware…to them they probably didn’t even understand that it was improper touch.”

Yahoo News: “Michelle Duggar said her daughters ‘have been victimized more by what has happened in the last couple of weeks than they were 12 years ago because, honestly, they didn’t even understand and know that anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it.’”

One of the Duggar girls was 10 at the time of the first incident. Another was 12. I had been 10. Could they really not have known at all, even when they were asleep? Highly, highly improbable. I remember making no movements in my fear, completely paralyzed…maybe they weren’t totally sleeping, after all.

Megyn Kelly: “You have no memory of it?”

Jessa: “I didn’t know; I didn’t understand, ‘Okay this is what’s happened,’ until my parents told me and so at that point, we just kind’ve like…um.”

I noticed that she never answered the question. Does she remember it? She said the same statement uttered by her parents almost like another Bible verse to memorize.

Jill: “It’s like, you never think like, this will happen to me, and in our case, it was very mild compared to what’s happened to some.”

Jessa: “I know some girls go through way worse.”

Just because some people have it worse doesn’t mean it’s wrong to ask for better. This is your body we’re talking about; this is the safety of your female siblings. You are not an object to be touched. What are you really thinking?

My diary entries:

11-04-2010: I can’t believe everything could, on the outside, look so perfect, when on the inside, it’s so shattered. As is the Mona Lisa’s famous smile is a smirk, a grimace even, hiding a piece of herself in Da Vinci’s oils.

Mr. Potter once spoke of a time in Roman history where it looked prosperous and beautiful, but underneath it was crumbling under social instability. The Gilded Age. Is this mine?

I should be living high right now. Boyfriend, guy friends, girl friends, great grades, intact family…But I don’t think any of this is real. It’s the words I use to hide a lie. The words everyone uses. Because they don’t know me. Heck, do I know myself?

11-09-2010: Why does my family run on puppet strings?…Why do I feel like I need a counselor who will take me seriously? I just want to talk to someone who listens and takes me seriously and loves me no matter what I say.

In the fall of 2011, I told a mentor at church this shameful secret. I now know she shouldn’t have kept quiet in turn; church leaders are mandatory reporters. She prayed for me and seemed compassionate. She told me God would help me forgive him. I was supposed to forgive him. If I didn’t forgive him, I was told, I would only be hurting myself and my relationship with God. And the Bible says we should forgive others like God forgave us, so if I didn’t….it was implied to be my sin, my stumbling block.

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I watched the interview with Jill and Jessa, and wondered how pressured they had been by the beliefs of the family and their entire upbringing to forgive Josh, who was painted as the repentant sinner. If just one hadn’t forgiven (or hadn’t said they forgave him) she would’ve been the family’s villain: an unforgiving sibling, a rebellious spirit in a flock of white sheep. I know how it feels. When I declared to my mom I wouldn’t forgive him, she told me it was hypocritical to accept gifts from him, as I’d accepted $10 in a card for a graduation present. He was never supposed to be at my graduation, but then last minute showed up to “surprise” me.

When I told my little sister I didn’t like him, she cried. I hope every day that he never did anything to her, but I couldn’t say anything to her about it – it wasn’t right of me to “ruin his life with this,” so said my mom. I am still scared I’ll be blamed for ruining his life just posting this today. So I understand the pressure from siblings and parents to forgive and forget. And this was only in my home. In the Duggar’s TV family, Victims are to be reminded that their soul has more value than their bodies, so forgiving the offender must be the priority,” as stated in this article about the curriculum of the so-called counseling they received.

Jill: “…My parents explained to us what happened and then Josh came and asked us – each of us individually I know – but he asked me to forgive him. And I had to make that choice to forgive him. It wasn’t something somebody forced, it’s like, you have to make that decision for yourself.”

Later Jill states,

“We had to make that choice that I think everyone has to make…My dad explained there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. That’s not the same thing. You forgive someone and then you have boundaries. Forgiveness with boundaries. You know, Josh destroyed that trust at the beginning. He had to rebuild that.”

At the final stages of the interview, Jessa says, “Oh everybody’s forgiving. We’ve all forgiven. We’ve all moved on.”

Jill: “That was long ago.”

Megyn Kelly: “Even the babysitter as well?”

Both sisters at the same time: “Oh yes, yeah, definitely.”

I’m assuming they are all well versed in Biblical principles, placing forgiveness at the forefront, no matter the error, and applying their personal views and pressures onto the babysitter. But all sins are not the same. Maybe to God, but not to human grief or to the consequences.

“All sins are not the same. Yes, most people have told a lie at some point in their lives. But most people have not sexually molested children. And you know what else? The vast majority of “unregenerate” fourteen-year-old boys do not sexually molest children.

If we treat all unsaved individuals as equally sinful and wicked, we can overlook the fact that some transgressions need outside intervention and treatment. Being jealous of your friend’s stuff is not the same as molesting children.” – (Source: Libby Anne)

I wonder, how can every victim forgive at the same rate if the offenses happened over a period of a year? Or did they just have to forget about it, repress it, until they saw themselves on the news?

Jim Bob: We also talked to our daughters, and reminded them about wrong and right touches, and if anybody ever touches them in a wrong way, to come and talk to us.

How did they know what right and wrong touches were? It seems they weren’t educated if it was able to occur while some of the victims were awake and they “not be aware”. Poor sex education is to blame: if you don’t know something is wrong and has a definition, it’s hard to convince yourself it really happened. And yet, even if the girls had talked to their parents….did they really “have a voice”, as the girls themselves claimed?

The same day I confessed to my church leader, I learned what the word “molested” entails. I knew all along what happened to me wasn’t rape, but I still had that guilty feeling, so it couldn’t have been nothing at all. Yet I thought to be called “sexual abuse”, he would’ve had to be threatening me. I was misinformed and had no knowledge of sexual mistreatment other than “good and bad touches”. You can’t report what you can’t give the correct word.

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“We have the fact this report came out and what it really shows is that a crime can go unpunished, if you report your attack, tell the police, there is a chance nothing will happen and your attacker will be free and living under your same roof.”

– Dan Arel (Source)

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Megyn Kelly: Did Josh go away right after that? *referring to the only time the girls mentioned, the first incident the parents mentioned*

Jessa: He did pretty soon after. I know, at the time, I was young, so it kinda seemed like everything was whirlwind.

Jill: I don’t remember the time frame.

Jessa: I think that whenever it was brought to my attention it wasn’t very long after that Josh went away.

Jill: We were sad whenever he was sent away, ‘cause it’s your brother. It’s like, you’re all still kids, you know? But um, but at the same time, it was burned in our memory, Josh made some very bad decisions and he’s going to suffer the consequences of those decisions.

The girls don’t share the timeline supported by the Duggar parents. Jill says she doesn’t remember, then uses the phrase, “It was burned in our memory.” Maybe this timeline is used for damage control for Josh, not for their justice. Jill was 12. She had to have known. The parents said the incident with the victims asleep in bed happened first, with more incidents occurring, finally leading to Josh being sent away.

Michelle Duggar: “I think as parents, we thought -we’re failures, you know? Here we’ve tried to raise our kids to know what’s right – to do what’s right. And yet, here one of our children make some really bad choices.”

They don’t address the girls’ pain at all, or that the other children were in danger. Only that they thought his actions reflected badly on them as parents. They address the crimes he committed as “really bad choices”…as if it were the same as cheating on a test or stealing a candy bar.

“He said he was just curious about girls. And he had gone in, and basically touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping. They didn’t know he had done it. The first thing was to protect the girls…we had five girls at the time. We talked to all the girls. It was so important to us as parents to talk to our girls and make sure that nothing else had happened. Well, one by one, as we talked to them, none of them were aware of Josh’s wrongdoings. They didn’t know.

We asked them at first what happened. And then it was after some other things happened that we actually shared with them. But we took a lot of steps. We did the best we could, given the circumstances. They didn’t know that anything had happened, because they were asleep. We talked to him, we put all kinds of punishments on him, we watched him all the time; I took him to work with me. We poured our life into him.”

Did they talk to the girls to support them or to make sure nothing else had happened that would’ve maybe *actually* affected them, since in their view the fact they were asleep negates everything and makes painless victims? Also, later, Jim Bob says parents aren’t mandatory reporters, but in reality they are. The Duggars would’ve been charged with permitting abuse of a minor, which comes with up to six years in jail, if the statute of limitations had not run out. What a convenient lie.

Jim Bob Duggar: “Nothing ever happened again like that in the girl’s bedrooms. We had safeguards that protected them from that. But there was another incident where – two different incidents – where the girls were lying on the couch. And he had touched like, over the couch, and actually touched the breast, while they were asleep. *Michelle Duggar whispers ‘clothes’* Over the clothes. It was a very difficult situation, but as we talked to other parents a lot of families have said they had similar things happen to their families.

So even though they claimed to be watching him constantly, he still molested more girls and they only knew about it because he confessed. And the last statement is only here to remind viewers that their son isn’t the only one who molests family members, because apparently they asked around. In their social circles, is unreported sexual abuse normal? Yes, according to Jim Bob. What a chilling statement, seemingly one Jim Bob thrown in to minimize!

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“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”  –Judith Herman

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The only point of genuine emotion in the whole Jessa and Jill interview other than nervous smiles was right here, when Jill finally seems to comprehend she is a victim on the cover of a tabloid:

Jill: “I called my husband and I was in tears (when I saw it). *crying* I couldn’t believe what was going on. Whenever I heard the police report had been released, I said, what, they don’t have a right to do this – we’re victims, they can’t do this to us.”

Jessa: “The system that was set up to protect kids, both those who make stupid mistakes, or have problems like this in their life, and the ones that are affected by those choices, it’s greatly failed. *talking about the tabloids* …maybe they’re just used to making objects out of women, and maybe we didn’t seem any different.”

Jill: “I see it as a re-victimization that’s even a thousand times worse. Because this is something that was already dealt with. We’ve already forgiven Josh. We’ve already moved on. The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves.”

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Your religion did this to you, teaching that your needs are not as important as a man’s.

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The media did not objectify you. All the passion you seem to have over the media seems a tad misplaced…Josh did this to you. Josh saw you as a sex object for his own gratification. The patriarchy did this to you. Your religion did this to you, teaching that your needs are not as important as a man’s. The tabloid is only repeating what it saw in the police report, which was legally released, revealing another Duggar lie. Perhaps you just wanted to forget about it and keep the cover-up going. It would be the least painful route for you, to not have to address how badly your parents failed you.

“And this information was released illegally,” Jim Bob tried to explain. “And so I wonder why all this press is not going after the system for releasing juvenile records. That is a huge story.”

Oh look, more minimizing and distraction on the part of Jim Bob Duggar, as the huge story is your son molested your other kids and you didn’t report it, thus breaking the law on so many levels!  – source

While Jessa admitted that what their brother did was “very wrong,” she wanted to speak up against people who are calling Josh a child molester, pedophile, or rapist. “I’m like, that is so overboard and a lie really,” she said. “I mean, people get mad at me for saying that but I can say this because I was one of the victims…In Josh’s case, he was a boy, a young boy, going through puberty, and he was a little too curious about girls. And that got him into some trouble. And he made some bad choices. But really, the extent of it was mild inappropriate touching on fully clothed victims. Most of it, well, girls were sleeping.

Wikipedia says, “Rape culture is a concept in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm of some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.

Rape culture is why the Duggars believe it is normal for a pubescent boy to see girls as sexual objects, so normal it can be called curiosity or “making bad choices” instead of a crime, or what is was, being a child molester, when he inappropriately touches five of them. Most teenage boys don’t sexually abuse their kid sisters, and would be sickened by the thought. Rape culture is why the Duggars can say, “They were sleeping,” to excuse the perpetrator’s actions, as if being unaware of something means it doesn’t matter, then try to sweep under the rug the “couple incidences where they were awake.” It is why Jim Bob can ask around and find more families have issues with sexual abuse and use that statement as a way to downplay his son’s crimes.

Another reason is religion for the cover-up, and in this particular family, this is the most accurate explanation. We were raised to be pure. I remember curling into the fetal position on the bathroom floor after a shower, begging God to forgive me for being impure in a religion that told me it was all I had to offer both God and my future husband. When the same church leader championed the idea of saving your first kiss for your wedding day, I jumped upon the concept. Here was a chance at regaining my lost purity, I thought, a chance to be more pure than the masses, better than even some of the other Christians who didn’t follow this concept. (Herehere, and here are articles that explain the thought process of purity culture.) Maybe the two deeds would cancel out.

I think the Duggar girls thought that way too. They are all raised to be abstinent before marriage, save their kiss, and use the process of courtship. If they didn’t forgive, if they had been aware of the molestations at the occurrence…well, that would have thrown a wrench into their purity as females. Josh can molest under the header of “curious boy”, but if he had actual, aware victims, their purity would be diminished. So the minimizing is just as much to protect the girls’ standards of purity in their religion as Josh’s reputation in a patriarchal fundamentalist subculture.

Wikipedia on the Duggars: “They adhere to certain standards of modesty in clothing in accordance with their religious beliefs. Shorts and tank tops are prohibited, and the women do not wear skirts with a length above the knee. According to Michelle Duggar’s interpretation of scripture: “God talks about the thigh being uncovered, and how that’s nakedness and shame“. Michelle says such dress runs risk of “defrauding” others clarifying, “for us the definition of the word defrauding is to stir up desires in someone else that cannot be righteously fulfilled“. They avoid beaches and public swimming areas “because it’s just too hard for the guys to try to keep their eyes averted in those situations“.”

Jill: “So for me, when my parents came in (to explain what happened)…I was like, really? I’m sad, I’m shocked….this is my older brother, who I love, a lot, and so it’s like, they’re conflicting there.”

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Counseling

I vaguely understand the conflict in terms of genuine sibling love. I couldn’t act like anything was wrong, so I was able to repress it and act like a normal sibling, to the point where I could convince myself. When things happened that were odd, I tried to avoid the “wrong” feelings. Sometimes I couldn’t avoid those feelings.

In the winter of 2011, I finally got my first counselor. I was placed into Christian-based therapy after telling my mom about my self harm – I was cutting. The first time I self-harmed was the day my brother had come home from college with a girlfriend – I didn’t know how to deal with the thoughts that he was using her as a sex object as he’d used me. I couldn’t comprehend how she could like it – how I was supposed to like sex when I was eventually to be married.

My first day of therapy, I told the therapist about the incident in 2006. She told my mom only. Then Mom talked on the phone to him and he said he didn’t remember it. She said, “I believe him, because he doesn’t remember a lot of bad things he’s done.” When my parents knew, and he knew I knew after that phone call…I broke down in full. I couldn’t fake being happy or pure anymore, I couldn’t fake liking him – liking him meant liking how I was treated. I wanted to be safe again, and I couldn’t. Mom didn’t understand this breakdown, saying one day in the car ride to church, “Why are you taking it this way? You did as much to him as he did to you.” Later she apologized and said she didn’t know the incident occurred without consent.

In the spring of 2012, my brother came to church. The sermon was on sexual purity. I spent the hour sobbing in the bathroom stall, cutting my thighs with the back of an earring.

In the summer of 2012, I wrote during inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa:

My body is no longer mine. It is a stranger’s, unfamiliar valleys and bulges rising up from this flesh. Love makes people beautiful, I know, but I am less than a person now. I am merely geography. I am a swollen river after a torrential downpour, sandy banks expanding and eroding.  I am a foreign country, hidden meanings lost in translation, until the tourist hears only obvious and coarse chatter. No romance language can redeem me. The topographical map reflected in the mirror tells the horror stories of war. There cannot be peace, only pieces of shattered self. There cannot even be an unstable truce between my true self and the vision through the looking glass. I fight a slow battle in front of this land’s walls. I set a siege before its gates. I will starve it out. 

In the winter of 2012, I had what was soon to be one of many flashbacks of my childhood, and I wrote this one down:

The blond boy in the desk next to me swings his right leg back and forth, hitting the bottom of the desk in front of him. My desk.

        Thump…Thump… Thump…

I feel sick all of a sudden. My stomach tumbles like an Olympic gymnast, and my head spins like a ballerina doing pirouettes. My ears roar with a memory that I’d tried to forget. It drowns out my chorus teacher’s piano.

Thump…Thump…Thump…

I woke with a start in my grandparent’s guest room. All was quiet, and I thought I had dreamt the muffled sound. Lying on my stomach, I nestled into my pillow and pulled the handmade quilt over my head. The soft glow of the night-light down the hall illuminated the outline of my older brother as he slept on the floor beneath my futon bed. I shut my bleary eyes.

        Thump…Thump…Thump!

 I felt suddenly awake, and my eyes widened. My body stiffened in terror. I dared not move. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach, one that felt like guilt and shame. I knew that feeling.

        Thump…Thump…Thump!

 With each sound, the mattress below me rose. He was poking under the mattress directly under my crotch. I wait until the thumps stop, then run into my parents’ room for the night.

This was not the first nor the last of the flashbacks and strange brain tricks I experienced. I feel asleep in my boyfriend’s arms at his house one day and woke up with a brain convinced my brother was in bed with me – to the point where my boyfriend’s face had been replaced with his. It only lasted a few seconds, then everything shifted back to normal.

A year passed. I received his laptop as a graduation present. He was still logged onto Facebook, and I looked through his messages, digging for mentions of me. I found one: He referenced my time in Ohio’s River Centre Clinic for eating disorders to his friend. He said something along the lines of, “My parents say she’s crazy because I abandoned her or something.” Later, a guy who knew him in 10th grade told me my brother had told people at school that he had touched me as a kid.

I have to find my own accommodations when he comes back to town, but I’m not allowed to stay the night with my boyfriend due to purity and what-will-the-neighbors-think mentality by my parents. In addition, if I move out with my boyfriend, my parents will cut me off financially, because she will not “willingly support sin”.

Mom used to constantly tell me that if I couldn’t forgive him, I had to at least just treat him with the same courtesy as a random person. Now she just warns me when he’s coming to town. I spent last Thanksgiving in my room all day, avoiding him. I missed Christmas Eve traditions and spent Christmases pretending he was just a normal stranger around the tree. Once he visited me at the gym at my college. I had thought I was safe there, far away from him, but he found me anyway. I kept smiling, and when he left, I ran around the campus of UVA Wise crying, looking for somewhere to hide. After collapsing in the J Lounge, I finally wound up in the theatre hallway. I live in fear thinking he will just show up out of nowhere. I called my house from my cell on a random day and panicked, thinking his voice was on the line. In public, if I see someone who resembles him, I have trouble being around them. One of my new friends at college looks like him, and I can’t look at him without feeling uncomfortable. My throat closes up and starts twitching; the muscles of my neck spasm as my mind races for the next safe place.

Jessa: “I think for us the situation is so different from most girls in that, it was – He’s very subtle anyway. Like he knew in his mind, my actions are wrong and I have bad intentions. But he was very sly, like the girls didn’t catch on. You know? It was like, okay, if he, catch the girl sleeping, you know, like, a quick feel or whatever. Or if – you – just not really aware. Like, in the situations it happened where the girls were awake, it was like they weren’t aware what was happening. It was very subtle.And so I think that for us, it’s like, okay, we realize this is serious, but at the same time, it wasn’t like a horror story or like, this terrible thing where we’re like, oh my goodness….And my parents, I can see looking back as an adult, they handled the situation very well. They set up safety guards in our house, and they acted, you know, they sent Josh away. They had him get help. When he came back, he was a totally different person…He was right with God.”

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“Better to have a perpetrator who can be healed through faith than deal with the nature of humanness.

It’s the simplest narrative, and it removes agency from everyone.” –

Michael Hunt

***

The perpetrator of the crime must have been so good at scheming and manipulating, it didn’t seem so bad at all to the girls. Or at least following this logic, that is. It’s like announcing, “Hey! If you molest your sisters but don’t disturb them, it’s like it never happened! Unless you tell them!” The Duggar parents thought their safeguards of not letting them play hide and seek and putting locks on the doors constituted as the best course of action, even though Josh had confessed multiple times already, with escalating situations. And the victim says this is “amazing” parenting. Need another example of the parents failing their children? Josh was sent away to “a ministry run by an active sex offender,” Bill Gothard. In addition, here shows the type of materials shown at this place: filled with Biblical victim blaming and patriarchal values. After a few months, the parents were welcoming Josh back with open arms. The final nail in the crucifix?

“Jim Bob and Michelle treated Josh’s actions as sexual sin rather than as a crime. I was puzzling with a friend over Jim Bob and Michelle’s description of Josh’s tearful confessions, and wondering why, if Josh was really so sorry, he didn’t just stop. She pointed out that Josh’s reactions sound very similar to the emotional turmoil of teenage boys who are taught that masturbation is sinful and wrong, and alternate between masturbating and tearfully confessing and vowing not to do so again.

“But while it is typical for teenage boys to feel strong hormonal urges to masturbate, it is not typical for teenage boys to feel strong hormonal urges to touch their prepubescent sisters. Josh had a problem—a problem that needed professional treatment. Jim Bob and Michelle failed to seek out any form of treatment for him for a full year, and even then, they sent him to be counseled by a man with no professional experience in any related field—a man who, it turns out, was himself sexually molesting minors.” – Patheos.com

“As a former Child Protective Services investigator, I would hope that no social worker told them what a great job they did dealing with this. They created a culture that denied adolescent sexuality. Then, when it was discovered they locked children up, by sex, at night, and denied them opportunities for privacy. They treated Josh as a pariah, exiling him and subjecting him to harsh talk from a fake police officer, while, in counsel no doubt with their church, made sure the statute of limitations ran out. The parents are manipulative, self-serving ego-maniacal misogynists, who sacrificed their children to their agenda. And continue to do so. They sought counseling only from people who agreed with them, not from any kind of clinically neutral provider. They rejected treatment to avoid scrutiny. They created an environment that supports their faith narrative – that women are endlessly subservient to men. Frankly, their core narrative, that they want to repopulate the earth with people just like themselves, is faith gone insane.” – Michael Hunt

To this day I can’t look anyone in the eye if I’m in an uncomfortable situation. I can’t make paws with my hands like that without feeling like I’m going to throw up. I can’t listen to yoga relaxation tapes with any male speaking. Or listen to him pray out loud. It’s the same voice.

Emphasizing Michelle Duggar’s belief that “God can make good come out of this,” Todd Friel finished his Christian Post article with this statement about Josh’s shiny new “testimony”:

***

“Let’s not squander this opportunity to share the great good news that Jesus died for perverts, liars, thieves, drunkards, abortionists, Wall Street fat cats, skid row bums, suburban housewives, blue-collar workers and every sinner who will come to Him in repentance and faith.
Josh Duggar’s story is more than a Gospel tragedy; it is a Gospel opportunity. Don’t waste it.”
~Todd Friel

***

I finish my post with this:

Today, the summer of 2015, I am almost 19 and have seen more counselors than I can count.  I have been diagnosed with PTSD, anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety, and depression. I almost died a few times. I don’t know if heaven exists, or if I’ll go. But if it does and I do, I don’t think I’ll see Josh, Jim Bob, or Michelle Duggar there.

***

photo credit: Leaning Leftbaby flowersbrokenfence via photopin (license)

Original article can be found here: Truth & Reconciliation, by Lorraine Dresch

23 comments on “Incest Survivor Shares Her Personal Thoughts about the Josh Duggar Case: “Truth and Reconciliation”

  1. I read Lorraine’s story a few days ago from a link on JA’s twitter feed, I think. It was so painful to read the details of what her brother did to her. I then imagined trying to label those actions as “a mistake” or “a bad choice” or “very mild.” I imagined trying to write it off by saying that worse things had happened in other families. It doesn’t really work when you have the mental images from such graphic details, does it?

    Lorraine, I’m sorry for the trauma you experienced. You were victimized by your brother and then your parents. I’m sorry that the Duggars’ lies and manipulations remind you of your abuse. I wish other people, particularly “Christians” would stop minimizing this. How many children are experiencing what you did right now? How many more stories will we read in the future?

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Lorraine really blows me away. The way she can see through the monkey business as people use words to defend/protect Josh, she sees and explains it so clearly. Thanks, Lorraine!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lorraine, thank you so much for allowing your story to be shared here. You are very very brave to write your story, to be honest with yourself about it, to share it publicly. So brave. I am sad for all that you have suffered. Without sharing details, I will say that I have suffered similar and I know some of your pain. My family is a mess of sick perversion, and they shun and shame ME because I left and got my own life with people who treat me like a human being. I really hope that you are able to leave your family at some point and begin to experience a new level of healing from that. If you need help, check out homeschoolersanonymous.com. They are working on something that they call the “Underground Railroad”, to help homeschoolers without resources get away from their abusive situations. Maybe they would be able to help you. You are an incredible writer-poet and a very smart and strong person. You deserve to be treated better than your parents are treating you. I have experienced exclusion from family holidays and even from my brother’s wedding (that one I am grateful for lol)…people who don’t care enough to exclude the known aggressor instead of the victim, don’t deserve any part in your life.

    Thank you again for your bravery in writing what lots of people need to hear. I hope for full healing and a free, happy life for you.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Lorraine – Thank you for sharing your story with us. I hope that you are able to find yourself on a path to healing and happiness. It won’t be easy, but you will always have people here to cheer you on.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lorraine, thank you. I identify with some of what you’ve written here, though my parents never knew what went on in our household. They died, long before the secrets started to come out.

    Now we “children” are at retirement age, or nearing it, and just starting to deal with this terrible burden we’ve carried all our lives.

    May you find healing and strength.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lorraine, Thank you for your brave essay. What stands out to me is the “gaslighting” that your family uses to try and shut you up so they don’t have to face the reality of your pain. Dad minimizes his pornography use. Mom minimizes the impact of the pornography on your brother. And they all ignore the trauma caused by your brother’s horrible act. Your parents would rather believe that it was a mutual act than acknowledge the spiritual and physical violence Inflicted by your brother. This family dynamic is as traumatic to you as the initial act.
    Lorraine, I weep for your pain, but am hopeful that you will continue seeking help and support. I doubt your family will ever come around. They have too much invested in their delusion. However, I believe that you have the ability to set safe emotional boundaries with your family and accept that you may need to grieve the loss of a safe childhood that lacked empathic parents. I am not saying they are bad people, but they are broken and in their brokenness aren’t able to be emotionally available to you.
    This is a long process, but with good therapy, safe friends, strong boundaries and by learning good safe care you have a chance for a wonderful fulfilling future. It is hard, but not impossible. In the end, you can create your own family and give to your children the safety and good parenting that your own parents lack. You have taken the first step with your writing. I pray you will recognize how valuable you are and only allow people in your life who support your journey. Peace be with you, Ann

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lorraine, you are so brave! Thank you for sharing your story.

    On behalf of homeschoolers (I was homeschooled as a child), I’m so sorry that the homeschool environment created an unsafe environment where you could not get help. It saddens me, because it will be freaks like the Duggars that will get all homeschooling illegalized, even for good parents who do it really well and aren’t cultish about it. But it’s good that these issues be exposed, so that they can be dealt with rather than swept under the rug.

    As for the likes of Todd Friel, I don’t get why he or others see Josh Duggar, or his parents, as “repentant”. This isn’t repentance. If they were repentant, they would step down from their TV show that has the nerve to preach at us all as to how to have the perfect family. They clearly aren’t qualified to preach this message. They also wouldn’t be showing their faces at homeschooling conferences like they’re a bunch of experts. It’s disgusting. They need to apologize for hiding this stuff for years and years, and for wearing a hypocritical mask to the public eye. And most of all, to apologize to their daughters for brainwashing them into seeing themselves as less valuable than Josh.

    This making Josh and his poor little feelings the center of the universe for this family reminds me so much of my dad’s side of the family. I’m sure it’s reminding you of your own family, as well. I wasn’t molested, but I was abused, along with my Mom. My dad’s side of the family is completely in orbit around my dad. They don’t care about us or what he did to hurt us. He’s this broken, repentant guy, even though he denies the abuse, and we’re just crazy. He has the perfect excuse for everything: His daddy beat him. He gets a pass, but we, the victims, get no pass for anything and are expected to make our lives all about making our abuser happy. They’ve even called me hateful and mean when I tried to write to my father to preach the Gospel to him, even though he supposedly is a Christian. And I’m hateful and mean for not wanting to have a relationship with him anymore. Yup, I’m the hateful and mean one, but my abuser is a total saint who just made “mistakes” he won’t even confess to. I’m so sorry to hear you going through the same. Such a dynamic seems to be all too common.

    I hope you know that what your parents practiced is not what Jesus wanted. I hope you know God’s great love for you, even though He seems so far away. Yeah, I know that feeling, too. Why didn’t God stop this? Why does He look the other way? I’ve had those questions so often myself. I feel like I must be a rare statistic to still be a Christian after going through abuse at the hands of my “Christian” father. But I am like Peter. Where else is there to go? Christianity is the only religion in the world where God would love the world so much that He would leave His glory behind and take on the form of a walking mud ball to save us from our sins and to reconcile us to Himself. No other religion can boast of such love. I hope you learn of God’s love for you first hand. He can redeem the years your locust of a brother ate away. And yes, He says He is coming to judge the living and the dead. You will be vindicated in that day. Neither your parents nor your brother will be able to deny what really happened. He will make them fall at your feet and acknowledge that He has loved you. It’s what I hold onto. Yes, I hope my own family repents for real in this life, but either way I know I will be vindicated. Justice isn’t just about flaming hell fire. It’s about vindication for the one who was wronged and who was slandered. Hang in there. Your vindication is coming. In fact, you’re getting some right now, because all of us here believe your story and support you.

    God bless you. We all love you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lorraine,

    Your story breaks my heart. I too have known some of the mental health issues that come as a fallout from being sexually abused. Though my diagnoses is different from yours, I pulled my hair out, cut myself, spent several years fighting bulimia, anxiety, along with many years of depression. I wasn’t raised with any faith, so, I don’t have to deal with your reality, that the people who abused me called themselves Christian.

    Makes me sick that your so called Christian family minimized your agony. Abuse, all stripes and colors are a hell of it’s own. I will be 61 years old in a few weeks & I want you to know that it does get better.

    I had a lot of therapists too, only after I finally accepted the reality that the bible, memorizing scripture, prayer, serving my a** off and biblical counseling were not touching how hurt, broken & wounded I was.

    I have been moved to tears reading what others have said to you. I learn so much from the comments, what a wise, loving & compassionate community resides here.

    I love that you are a poet, you blew me away with your insight & understanding when I read this:

    “I am a swollen river after a torrential downpour, sandy banks expanding and eroding. I am a foreign country, hidden meanings lost in translation, until the tourist hears only obvious and coarse chatter. No romance language can redeem me. The topographical map reflected in the mirror tells the horror stories of war. There cannot be peace, only pieces of shattered self. There cannot even be an unstable truce between my true self and the vision through the looking glass. I fight a slow battle in front of this land’s walls. I set a siege before its gates. I will starve it out.”

    Damn girl, that is incredible! “I hope you will dance” is a great song, but I hope you will continue to write, your voice is coming from a place of authentic sorrow & hurt. I do pray that you will be blown away one day at the beauty that will come from the ashes of your horror. Methinks that is already happening even if you cannot see it yet. Did I read it right, you are 19 years old? If so, wow.

    Thank-You for sharing. And yes, as Clockwork angel said, we do love you.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Dear Lorraine,

    So very sorry for you. Your story has left me but speechless so all I can say is that if you do not mind, I will pray for you. Still in tears this happened to you. And I like how gm370 and Clockwork angel responded to you in love. Christ’s redemption at work in the natural.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Josh Duggar’s story is more than a Gospel tragedy; it is a Gospel opportunity. Don’t waste it.”

    ~Todd Friel

    Didn’t Flutterhands Piper say (and write) the same thing about Cancer?

    Like

  11. This article describes yet another church where the leadership chose not to report the sexual abuse of a minor by a pastor:

    http://www.timescall.com/top-stories/ci_28512966/boulder-da-cites-vinelife-churchs-disturbing-culture-secrecy

    After reading the article I am (once again) left wondering how supposed Christians could have such a calloused attitude toward sexual assault victims. Perhaps the answer is at least partially wrapped up in what Lorraine points out about rape culture. Given the relatively minor consequences being sought by the prosecutor, one could wonder if rape culture attitudes aren’t in play where the criminal justice system itself is concerned.

    At least the perpetrating pastor is spending time in prison, and the non-reporting pastors are being prosecuted.

    Like

  12. Wow, I am so grateful for all these amazingly sweet and soulful comments. This is a lovely community that I finally feel heard in. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you’ve said. I don’t feel so alone any more.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Much Love Lorraine. I hope you get away from people that make you feel bad, and get everything you want;)

    Like

  14. Thank you so much, Lorraine, for sharing your story. I know it must have been, and still is, endlessly difficult to share, but it may help to serve in aiding victims that cannot yet share their stories. So you serve as an inspiration and figure of strength for those that wish to speak and cannot yet speak. Lorraine, you are an amazing and unique human being, and that is what is most important. I hope you can accomplish all that you set out to do, and find a measure of peace in your life. Thank you again for your story and your crucial insight into this family and situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Lorraine, you are so brave to tell your story! Hopefully, your voice will reach other victims, & help them also. God bless you, you are a wonderful person & a beautiful writer.

    Like

  16. Rape culture is why the Duggars can say, “They were sleeping,” to excuse the perpetrator’s actions, as if being unaware of something means it doesn’t matter…

    I remember an old Seventies-vintage National Lampoon that called this “A Sleep Job” and remarked “It’s grounds for divorce in all 50 states.”

    And if you use chemical aids to make sure she stays asleep & unaware during the job, it’s now called “A Cosby”.

    Like

  17. Pingback: What Happens to a Sex Abuse Survivor When They Are Not Believed or Supported? | Spiritual Sounding Board

  18. Pingback: What Can Happen to a Sex Abuse Survivor When They Are Not Believed or Supported? | Spiritual Sounding Board

  19. Given the Moscow, Idaho, sexual abuse stories from that church that have been covered here and nation-wide, I wanted to give some very good resources on sexual abuse. Brenda R., who posts here, recommended Clara Hinton’s blog Finding a Healing Place. They dealt with a sex abuser in their family, Clara’s husband who was a pastor. It was Clara’s son Jimmy Hinton, also a pastor at the same church, who turned his father into police; the father is now serving a life sentence. All of the resources on Finding a Healing Place are great.

    http://www.findingahealingplace.com/resources-that-will-help/

    Like

  20. That is wonderful, Julie Anne! It’s so nice when families – and wives – can break out of being with a sexual abuser. Good for Brenda! Great you ladies are friends.

    Like

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