When I was 9 or 10-years-old I was molested by the 14-year-old son of family friends. It happened just once and I knew immediately that I didn't want it to happen and that I needed to tell. Keep in mind, in the '60s, child molestation was not talked about and I had no frame of reference for what had just happened. I just knew it was wrong.
I told my mom and she reassured me that telling her was the right thing to do and she would make sure it never happened again. And it didn't. I have no idea what transpired but I assume my mom told my dad and they confronted the other family. Although our families remained friends, I was never left alone with Sam* and when our families were together he stayed far from me.
On and off for years, I wondered if Sam ever molested any other girls after me. Did he get help? Real professional help? Was he held accountable in any way for molesting me? Lots of unanswered questions decades later.
When the high-profiled Josh Duggar molestation case came out into the open, I like probably thousands of others, reflected back to my own experience. Although the circumstances were vastly different, there are similarities. Two Christian families linked via our church, no law enforcement involvement, no apparent professional help, and I am assuming, once the incidents were brought to light, no one gave the victims a voice. I imagine, that the victims of the Duggar family freaked out just like I did when our molesters became fathers. Was he going to harm his daughter? Do I speak up, all these years later? Would speaking up make a difference, prevent any future harm?
Although my parents protected me and my life went on rather unmarked, I realize that I never had a voice in what happened. I told one person, she protected me, and that was it. At the time maybe that was all that I needed. Now, I want a say. I want to know about his accountability. I want to know if he changed. I want to have a sense of closure. But on the flipside, I am not yet prepared to open old wounds and to confront my abuser, nor to create pain for my still living parents. One day I might decide differently but I know that is my decision to make, and I know that I have the right to answers. Do Duggar's victims feel as if they have that same choice and right?
What outrages me is that I suspect that they do not. They appear to have been silenced in the past, during a supposedly more enlightened time than the '60s. If facts are true, Duggar was shuffled off for a few months, and then returned to live with his victims. And I can almost hear his parents, instructing their daughters to dress more modestly around him and not no anything provocative so not to arouse him -- therefore putting the blame and burden on the girls. A few weeks ago, while flipping through channels, I watched about 15 minutes of their TLC show, with Michelle Duggar explaining the importance of modest dress, how immodesty causes stress and impurity in boys and men.
It may be too late, with statute of limitations, for these victims to have a criminal process and unfortunately I don't understand what civil options they may have available to them today. But let's give these young women an opportunity to have a true, un-coached voice other than to share that they "forgive Josh" and that what he did was "very mild compared to what happens to some young women." Let them get answers to their questions, let them know they are not to blame, let them know that we have their back -- even when the involved parents continue to express their minimization of events and their grief over their son's despair. They do not owe us their story but they have a right to have their story heard if they wish. And they have a right to be spared any further blame or sweeping Josh Duggar's blame under the rug.
*Name has been changed.