Sexual abuse victims need understanding, not outrage, June 7, 2015
By Michael Crawford
The Josh Duggar case continues to unfold and to shock people across the country. News stories, opinions and outrage dissect the Duggar family’s attitudes toward sex, their worldviews and how they contributed both to Josh Duggar’s actions and to shielding him from legal accountability while keeping his victims silent.
The truth is while the circumstances surrounding Duggar and his victims may have contributed to the abuse, people who commit sex offenses and survivors of sexual abuse don’t need extraordinary factors to keep these crimes hidden. Our collective societal reactions often unintentionally help to do just that.
In 2002, Duggar’s father, Jim Bob, stated during his run for the U.S. Senate that “rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.” It is easy to hold these views, to label individuals who offend as “predators” and “monsters” while the reality is they are often brothers, fathers, sons and friends.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had an obligation to report the abuse that was happening in their home and to ensure that their son did not present an ongoing risk to others. It is difficult to accept that more than 80 percent of people who commit sexual assault are known to the victim. Despite this, most of the current policy is focused on preventing sexual violence committed by strangers.
We don’t support or acknowledge victims grappling with shame, confusion, love for the perpetrator and guilt.
We don’t want to view this through the eyes of children who are afraid they will break up their families if they take action to make the abuse to stop.
We don’t want to accept the real human actors and emotions that accompany these situations; we seem only capable of labeling them as inhuman crimes committed by inhumane people.
Society has created an expectation that once someone has committed a sex offense he or she should be hated, but this attitude leaves little room for victims to come forward.