Sex abuse survivors need to be believed and supported
This past week has been a whirlwind with the Josh Duggar sex abuse allegations from 12 years that recently surfaced. Josh Duggar is the eldest child of Patriarchical family and model ATI (Bill Gothard’s homeschool curricula) family. Josh Duggar and his family star in the popular reality show on TLC, 19 Kids and Counting. As this story has been brought to light, I have found myself caught up in intense debates, even with very close friends, on how this case should be handled, how we as Christians should be responding to this specific case, and how we as parents should respond if our child sexually abuses another child.
I recently posted the following (slightly revised) as part of a discussion with a Christian friend on Facebook. We came from very different sides, but because my response was so radically different from hers, I thought it might be good to post for discussion. I never mind push back, so if you disagree with me, please respond. I am open to the challenge and will consider your words just as I have been challenged to rethink many of my former ways/beliefs.
At the end of the post is a highly recommended article that helps to explain the culture and teachings which shaped the Duggar family. It will help to explain why these young female victims are true victims to more than just sex abuse.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my heart which is invested in the ministry to abuse victims. I probably would not have given you this same answer 10 years ago, or even 6 years ago.
I do not believe that Josh’s parents responded appropriately. I believe they did the best they knew at the time and their intentions and heart were right. However, since working the last 5 years extensively studying spiritual abuse and abuse in the church, networking with Boz Tchividjian (founder of netgrace.org), and many other professionals who deal with abuse in church, I am concluding that the Duggars could have done better.
Jim-Bob found out in March of 2002 and waited over a year before reporting. When police tried to interview Josh, Jim-Bob intervened and did not allow that to happen. The statute of limitations then kicked in and Josh was free from any civil repercussions.
I believe this was not a good witness to Christ. What does this tell the world – that Christians get to walk free and don’t need to go by the law? Repenting of sins does not remove someone from the consequences of the laws of the land. Scripture says that God is the one who ordained civil authorities/law. Knowingly harboring a sex offender without reporting is illegal in some states. Not only that, I believe it is circumventing what God has established for cases like this:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Because of the statute of limitations, no civil court had the opportunity to intervene, convict, give recommendations on his criminal activity. Could this public outcry against Josh and his parents be sovereignly planned as God’s judgment as implied in the above Scripture? Could Josh’s defenders be interfering with God’s judgment or the natural consequences of his sin?
You asked would I report. Yes, I absolutely would report my sons to authorities if they were sexually abusing. I would allow the civil authorities to bring justice to the offender. This would send a very strong message that sin/sex abuse has consequences and will not be tolerated. And to the survivors, it would send a message that we believe them and the abuse they incurred was worthy of strict punishment. I’ve seen the tremendous burden lifted off of victims’ shoulders when they see perpetrators punished for their crimes.
I would also promptly seek qualified professional treatment specializing in sex abuse for the offender and their victims. I know about the lasting consequences survivors face. If not dealt with timely and by trained professionals, young ladies often have difficulty choosing good spouses, have difficulty with relationships, intimacy, etc. For the offender, it may be uncovered in treatment that he was previously molested. Trained professionals can be helpful in getting to the root issues.
I’m struck at how much time is spent defending Josh, and such little time focused on his victims. It’s disturbing to even discuss whether he touched them over/under their clothes (I read the police report and it’s not clear on all of the interviews). That has no bearing on the suffering the victims face/will face.
Throughout scripture God speaks of protecting the oppressed and defenseless. How is it protecting them when we are outwardly and vocally defending a perpetrator (even if he has repented)? Our first response must be to those who have no voice. You can be sure that sex abuse survivors all over are watching this case and observing how people respond. Any time a survivor hears of another abuse, it brings them back to their own story. We must think of all victims in our responses and model Christ’s love because many times they are questioning why God allowed this to happen. We must not be a stumbling block to the weak and oppressed, but a soothing balm, sharing with them the love of the Father.
The Duggars were the key family chosen by ATI/Bill Gothard to represent Bill Gothard and his homeschool curriculum. I read that they spoke even this year at an ATI conference (they are slated to speak by video tomorrow in Nashville, and later in Twin Cities, and Sacramento ATI conferences). You can be sure they hold to his teachings and it is important to understand these teachings in order to fully comprehend what the victims have faced. I encourage you to read the following and try to grasp what the victims have faced, the ones whom God dearly loves and wants to defend and protect. Here’s how the Duggars’ patriarchal homeschool world teaches kids to shame sex abuse victims
Thank you for reading. Grace and peace! ~ja
Patterns of Abuse: What we can learn from the death and suicide letter of GOP Senate Aide, Jesse Loskarn?
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Kandace has an affair with her pastor. She and her husband, Nathan, talk about their reconciliation process and grace, but leave out something very important.
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JA note: Sorry, I’ve been unable to embed the video. Please click on “Liberate” to see the video.
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I was glad to stumble across this video. In this video, a husband and wife, Nathan and Kandace, talk about how their marriage is recovering after the wife’s affair with their pastor.
We hear a lot about grace, which is very common. But there’s something very important missing from this testimony that concerns me.
What important piece is missing?
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David, a blog reader, has been having dialogue with me and others in the comments section on previous posts and I wanted to highlight some of his comments and address them publicly. We were discussing his thoughts that focusing on my personal stories shows a lack of forgiveness. I asked David what forgiveness looks like and what he sees in me that shows lack of forgiveness. I recopied his post and left off some sentences in order to try to condense a bit, but the main idea is here:
This is tough because I find that you are courageous and true to your convictions.
The length of time, this has been going on gives me the impression that there is an indefinite time frame before any ending resolution is possible for you and your former Pastor.
I think, when the focus of your Blog alters away from the negatives you experienced from your former Pastor and Grace Bible Church, healing will take place. I seems like things are getting too personal for healing to take place.
Even though I can see you have a nice smile, how is it possible for you to experience real joy as long as this blog keeps the memory of the pain you have gone through alive?
My Pastor is out of my life but in your case your former Pastor is still very much in yours.
For me I had to stop venting and replaying the things my Pastor did to me and our church. When that finally happened I went from two hours sleep a night to 7 hours a night.
I sense that you feel like you have been targeted when you attempted to understand where your Pastor was coming from. My Pastor used the word “Truth” and nothing else in describing his theology.
I can’t imagine the pain you have gone through, but I do know the pain I went through and the burden of Un-Forgiveness was even harder for me to bear.
I have to be careful even now, because it isn’t doing me any good thinking about the past.
What we all don’t want to see happen is for Letterman and Maher to joke about 2 people who profess the Gospel attacking each other.
This should motivate Pastor Chuck to seek a truce and pull his Lawsuit if you agree to withdraw his Name and Grace Bible from your Blog.
Find comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit is deeply working on your former Pastor.
I think you blog has greater things to focus on than your former Pastor.
Hi David: Thank you for your response. I’m glad I asked you those question because I think you are missing the point and perhaps have misunderstood the purpose of this blog. The purpose is not to go on and on about the abuse, but to mention it in personal stories in order to clearly identify it so that those who were involved can see it plainly for themselves. I try to also include what a healthy church looks like and provide scriptures to back up my conclusions and beliefs.(Keep in mind that when beginning this blog, I was fully aware that others might stumble across it via Google searches, etc. This is how I learned so much about spiritual abuse – by reading the personal accounts of others on other church survivor sites like mine.)I vented the first year or so after leaving. I am not holding a grudge and don’t feel that I’m bitter. It didn’t bother me in the least to sit less than 2 feet away from the pastor yesterday for 2 hours in the courthouse. I hoped that he would look my direction so that I could acknowledge his presence as any decent human being would, but that did not happen.
I am angry about what spiritual abuse does to people. I am angry about the long-lasting effects I have seen. And now, after this media attention, the resolve in me is even stronger to expose this dirty secret after receiving so many stories in my in box and in the comments section of this blog. People are so hurt and scarred and want to move on, but some are stuck. Some entirely walk away from church . . . . . . forever. Let’s try it this way. Our church thought we had the best methods of evangelism and went out weekly, door-to-door, all throughout the towns spreading the gospel. Meanwhile, people were emotionally and spiritually abandoned within the church. What utter hypocrisy. Do we sit and do nothing? Really?
I pray for Chuck and his family and the church. I care for all of them. I was part of that church family for two years and I am doing this because I love them just as family/friends would gather around to confront an alcoholic and tell him/her: there is a problem, you need help, I will help and support you, but you first need to see the truth about what you are doing to yourself and others. This is true love that speaks the truth, even when it hurts.
I think they are blinded. They seem to have set themselves up on a pedestal in the false belief that they are better than so many other churches and this prevents them from hearing common sense from even reputable religious leaders they respect, such as Phil Johnson, who urged him to drop the lawsuit. Several pastors have privately e-mailed me telling me they have sent Chuck an e-mail urging him to drop the lawsuit as well. Why won’t he listen to godly men? He has shown no willingness on his part to resolve this. He doesn’t care about Letterman or Maher joking, he would probably call that joking as being persecuted for Christ’s sake.
His pattern in the past would be that the only way this will be resolved is if I publicly apologize for everything I have posted and come humbly back to him.Let me be clear, David. I will not apologize for exposing the truth. I will not abandon those for whom I am standing. This has become much bigger than I ever intended. Now I represent a voice for many more than ever before. Many others through the connections of the internet and media have discovered my blog and have also identified with the stories told here. I feel honored to stand strong for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are too weak to defend themselves (and I so appreciate the many, many people behind the scenes who give me strength and continue to pray for me, because I do have moments of weakness).
This is not about the relationship between Chuck O’Neal and me (although I would welcome restoration of our relationship). This is about spiritual abuse in the church which must be exposed. This is about telling people that Christ is not represented by pastors who use their position to manipulate and control others and their personal lives. I repeat what I have said over and over again – – – there are souls at stake!
“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.” Mark 9:42
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