On the Josh Duggar Case

Ripples. Photo by Callen Harty.

Ripples. Photo by Callen Harty.

The Josh Duggar case has once again brought the issue of child sex abuse to the forefront of America’s consciousness. It will likely stay there for a couple weeks until the next hot story comes along and then it will be relegated to the back pages where no one will notice any longer. Eventually it will not even be a story any longer and everyone will soon forget it ever happened.

This happens repeatedly with our star-crossed media. A famous person is accused of having sexually abused young boys or girls and there is an immediate frenzy–not because a child was hurt, but because it was someone rich or famous who perpetrated the abuse. The story becomes about the abuser and not about the victims of it. There are rumors, innuendos, denials, and then the famous person is tried and convicted or–as happens more often–the story just goes away (often due to out-of-court settlements or expensive lawyers who know how to work the system; sometimes, as in the case of Duggar, because the statute of limitations has passed or victims are unwilling to speak).

In the silence after the story dies down thousands of nameless children continue to be abused by people who are not rich and famous. Unless a particularly heinous case comes to light we never hear about these. Often the abuse remains a dark secret and the perpetrator is never caught. Lives are shattered, families destroyed, and the earth keeps spinning into new days with no one noticing.

It is easy to notice when R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Jimmy Savile, Gary Glitter, Roman Polanski, Jerry Sandusky, Will Hayden, Cliff Richard, Stephen Collins and so many others are publicly accused of these crimes. People take notice because of their celebrity–not because a child has been hurt and our natural instincts should be to protect our children.

One in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused by the time they reach eighteen years old and unless they are abused by someone famous the vast majority of these crimes go unreported or unnoticed. Being abused by someone famous is statistically unlikely, if only for the fact that most of us will never know someone famous. Stranger danger is also unlikely; contrary to popular perception, it really doesn’t happen that often. We only think it does because those are the stories that draw media attention similar to famous people getting caught committing heinous crimes. A story about a brother molesting his sister for ten years or a church deacon molesting several boys is generally not considered newsworthy, unless that brother is well-known or unless the details are so lurid that the media believe it will pique the interest of the average consumer.

In reality, not on reality T.V. shows, most child abusers are members of the family or close trusted people and in most cases the perpetrators get away with it. If the abuse is even discovered many families, if not most, will do their best to hide what happened to protect the family. It may not be that conscious; they may just truly not know what to do. They deal with it–if they do at all–by considering it a private matter and trying to handle it without getting authorities involved.

Unfortunately, the Josh Duggar case is not that unusual. The only thing unusual about it is that it happened in a family that much of America feels they know because of their television show. The specifics of the case are not that different than the kinds of abuse cases that happen every day in cities and towns across this country, in rich families and poor ones. As detestable as the media handling of these stories can be, what stories like Josh Duggar’s do is bring light to a subject that is usually avoided in our society. It allows us to talk about the issue for a brief moment in time before the story fades away. Hopefully, in that brief span, some consciousness will be awakened. Maybe a mother or father who has suspicions about possible abuse in the family will sit down and talk with their children. Perhaps some boy or girl will recognize similar circumstances in the news reports and finally tell someone, “That happened to me.” That, at least, would make all the media hype worth it in the long run.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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4 Responses to On the Josh Duggar Case

  1. Audrey says:

    I agree josh was wrong, but trust me, he was a teenager with raging hormones and he did not rape these girls, he fondeled them. Not right, but not what I would call molestation. They are very religious people and in today’s society., they as well as their religion are a target. Yet , we are now glorifying Bruce Jenner – our society is sick. Keep that info private -I guess not – as far as I am concerned – he was untrue to all his wives and his children – what do you call that. Also Dr. Drew and Dr. phill should stop judging people. They are psychiatrist and not “GOD”. Thank you. I wonder what kind of dirt we can uncover about them….soon,. Maybe…….

    • Callen Harty says:

      No, Josh Duggar did not rape his sisters or his neighbor *if* you consider rape only as penile penetration, but touching or fondling someone without their consent is sexual molestation, regardless of the age, and could legally be considered rape. According to the FBI’s definition of rape what he did may have been rape, if he penetrated their body parts, even with his finger. Here is the FBI’s official definition of rape: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is from the FBI’s website. What he did, regardless of raging hormones or other excuses, was wrong and could lead to severe psychological problems for those girls, probably even moreso for his sisters.

      There are millions of boys that age who have raging hormones who relieve themselves or do so with the consent of others. Most children that age do not fondle girls as young as five in their sleep. They know enough to know that is wrong and they don’t do it.

      Further, the Jenner case has nothing to do with this and religion also has nothing to do with it. The story is about incest and abuse of girls, not religion or Josh Duggar’s excuses. Bill Cosby is not known to be a born-again Christian, but the media has reported extensively on his case. Same with several other Hollywood stars who have recently been exposed as possible child molesters, including Cliff Richard, Will Hayden, and Ian Watkins, among others. These were all reported extensively in the press and the religion of the perpetrators was irrelevant to the stories.

      Finally, I’m not a fan of either Dr. Drew or Dr. Phil either, but I do not wish to find dirt on people, even if they are people I don’t like, because that means that there were other people hurt in the background. We don’t need more hurt people. We need awareness and treatment.

  2. Thank you for this article! It has truth written all over it and I am grateful you took the time to write. I too am an advocate and educator to prevent sexual abuse. We have created an educational DVD to give parents the bridge to educate themselves and their children to prevent sexual abuse. I would love for you to check us out: http://www.baileybeebelieves.com

    Kindest Regards,
    Jen Hillman

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