Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
~ Paul Boese ~
Almost twenty days have passed since the Duggar sisters were interviewed by Megyn Kelly, Fox News.(Whom, by the way, I love to listen to! Her voice is, for me, an easy listen, so that’s a bonus.) With the passing of time the ‘noise’ has died down somewhat, and maybe sensible conversations are now possible, without all the hype and high blood pressure. Maybe.
People wrote and asked for my thoughts on the interview, immediately after it took place, and (fortunately or unfortunately) I had more pressing things to do than to write this blog. However, I did listen to the interview immediately after it happened–only days after the interview with Ma and Pa Duggar–and listened to it again before and during writing this blog, replaying pieces numerous times to get details right. These posts are heavily intertwined with what I have learned from victims, and working through my own abuse, so I am dividing it into several posts to break it up rather than posting a long and overwhelming post.
Factors that Impact How We Process Trauma:
Some questions being asked are: Should the interview be taken at face value? Were the girls coached in what to say? And do some of their comments and responses indicate ‘indoctrination’? There are many questions from many people, and we do well to remember that every one of us, myself included, process through our experiential filter. That is 100% inevitable. However, the more we exchange thoughts and ideas with others, and the more we hear from those who have lived through this kind of trauma, the broader our frame of reference will be, and with it the awareness that all of us do not face trauma the same way.
Many factors play into how we process traumas that happen to us: personality, environment, religious views/teaching, parental ‘handling’ of the event(s), and many other things. If we are not willing to acknowledge this, then the rest of the conversation is pretty much useless because we will transfer our ‘needs’ onto the victims, and not give space to be true to themselves.
Another thing to consider is that we work through trauma in phases and stages, so what the girls feel today is different than what they felt twelve years ago, and it is different than what they will feel ten years down the road, when their own sons and daughters are the ages that they (and Josh) were at the time of the abuse. So, if what we hear in the future collides with today, they are not lying; they are moving through these phases and stages. Let them do that. Most if not all of us, who do the hard work of facing what happened, do this to one extent or another.
That all said, I applaud both of the sisters for their courage in coming forward. They did not choose to have their stories disclosed but they chose, of their own will, to come forward and share their stories. Their motivation to come forward is ‘for truth’s sake’, as Jill says it, because ‘most of the stuff out there is lies’, and they wish to ‘set the record straight’ and also to speak in Josh’s defense against labeling him as a child molester, pedophile and rapist. Jessa makes it very clear that the molestation did not go to those extremes, but was limited to touching over clothes, or ‘mild inappropriate touching’ on fully clothed victims slept. (To watch the full interview: Duggar sisters Jill and Jessa Interview with Megyn Kelly)
Forgiveness Doesn’t Equate Trust:
Jill also says that their father explained to them that forgiveness doesn’t equate trust; that trust is something that must be rebuilt, and they were given freedom to forgive with boundaries. These are good things, from my perspective. I get it that offering forgiveness for those who molest is not something we can confidently shout from the mountains without anticipating a few tomatoes sailing our way, but it is an important thing, nonetheless. More so for the victim than the offender. Forgiveness, with boundaries, is the best protection for victims. Popular or not.
The unforgiving victim remains in bondage to the offender, whether the offender is repentant or not, and cannot move forward. Certainly it is up to the victim when or if they forgive, but the cost for withholding that forgiveness is not to the offender; it costs victims. The victim who becomes embittered is a difficult person to associate with, that’s just the way it is. I have watched as they burn out their friends, jump from counselor to counselor, never finding freedom and never moving forward. Eventually, stripped of friendships and emotionally bankrupt, they conclude the whole world is against them. The world isn’t against them; the world is weary. Having said that, bitterness and self pity should not be mixed up with grief and sorrow over loss; that is a very different thing, with a different focus and not toxic.
With this understanding of forgiveness, I cannot criticize what Jessa and Jill say, or doubt their sincerity. Their eyes, body language and tone all speak of authenticity and truth, as do their statements that are more incriminating of Josh. Jessa says that Josh was ‘subtle’ and ‘sly’ and “…he knew in his mind ‘my actions are wrong and I have bad intentions’…” These comments expose the manipulation behind Josh’s behaviours, and are not things you would say if you were trying to cover for Josh, or excuse all of his actions. That sly behaviour is, without question, ‘predator like’, which is not to say it will continue long-term, but it definitely indicates a need for intervention, as it is more likely to continue without it.
Of Honest Confessions or Getting Caught:
One piece of information that collides with the rumour mill and media is that Josh came forward on his own, rather than being ‘caught’ when returning from a sister’s room, as the media presented. I don’t doubt for a moment that they are telling ‘the truth that they know’. There’s too much information out there to know the facts with certainty, without talking to ‘Ma and Pa Duggar’ and asking a few questions. Numerous reports stated the parents saw Josh coming from the girls’ room(s) and it was after this that Josh confessed, but neither the interview with the girls nor the one with their parents indicates this to be accurate, though it is not directly addressed. If he confessed without ‘getting caught’ it makes a significant difference in the sense of ‘spontaneous repentance’ versus repenting when caught; with the former indicating inner remorse and desire for change. In either case, he was young and impressionable, and with the right help stands a much better shot at life than those trying to overcome on their own. (I’m still not buying into the ‘once an abuser, always an abuser’ declaration… I refuse.)
The key is the right help and proper reporting, and here again there are conflicting reports. In the interview with Ma & Pa Duggar–which I will only touch on a little here–they call the place Josh went ‘a treatment centre’ where a man ‘counselled’ Josh. What that looked like, I do not know. If ‘undeniably accurate’ info is out there, I have not seen it or found it. Some say he received licensed counseling–numerous sites reference it, but I found none who name that counselor–others say it amounted to helping a ‘pal’ with construction work. Who knows for sure? (And if you do have access to this info, I’d be grateful if you sent it to me.)
Jim Bob and Michelle’s Interview & A Few Alarm Bells:
In regards to the interview with Josh’s parents, alarm bells go off, if for no other reason than because I work with victims and some of what they say is disturbing. Statements, referring to the girls being victimized, like: “…they didn’t really understand though….” by dad, and “… it was more of his heart, his intent, he knew that it is wrong, but … they didn’t even understand that it was improper touch…” by mom. These statements show ongoing and extreme ignorance surrounding the impact of sexual abuse and molestation, and come across as downplaying Josh’s behaviour. (This ‘minimizing of the crimes’ is reflected in the girls’ interview as well, and no doubt is a bit of ‘influence’ spilled over.)
While the parents can declare the girls are free and have moved on, my work with victims tells me it is naive to assume it will never affect them negatively again. What a victim ‘handles well’ for years, can crumble in one second, when or if his or her own child is victimized or becomes the offender, or in that ‘flashback moment’ when suddenly they want to beat the daylights out of a spouse because something ‘took them back’ to a time gone by.
I work with many, many victims and hear these stories. And when victims ‘crash’ and fall into depression, I frequently hear questions like, “Why, after (so many) years can I not handle being around him/her? I don’t understand…” or “the abuse wasn’t even ‘that bad’, so why does it bother me so much now?”… and other such comments. And along with that comes the awareness that parents, church leaders or other trusted people downplayed it or did not take it seriously. Nothing personal against the Duggars, but these things concern me in this interview, and would in any situation. But back to the girls…
The girls talk about being interviewed by the police in 2006, and how parents encouraged them to be forthcoming and ‘tell everything’ because it would be protected. Many question why the parents waited until 2006 to report, but the reality is that their laws didn’t require mandatory reporting from parents. (That info is readily available online.)
To be Continued…
~ T ~