One of my friends once wrote that everyone has at least three disasters and one apocalypse in their lives. I don’t know you, but I’m almost certain the sexual abuse you suffered twelve years ago was your apocalypse. I’m guessing you might be going through another one right now having your lives dissected in public.
I won’t say I understand your terrible pain because I have never been sexually assaulted. But we do have something in common — I was raised in a community which shares some of your beliefs about sexual sin and shame.
I don’t believe in sin and shame anymore, but I’m not here to ridicule your belief system. Contrary to what some of my fellow non-believers think, I don’t think your Christianity is to blame for what happened to you.
What causes someone to be a sexual predator is complex and difficult to pin down. Perhaps it is a mental illness, a misfiring gene or a ghastly combination of life’s experiences — but whatever caused Josh Duggar to take away your innocence cannot be attributed to your beliefs. There are many people in the world who believe all manner of things and it doesn’t turn them into monsters. No one should be saying that if you lived in a different kind of world then this wouldn’t have happened, because that’s just another way of saying you, or your parents are somehow to blame. No one is responsible for Josh’s behaviour except Josh himself.
Nevertheless, I do think your parents should have handled the situation differently both then and now. Not only have they forgotten about you in this whole mess, they have forgotten the difference between a sin and a crime, between repentance and consequences. If Josh had been held to account for his actions by the legal system, then some of you might have been spared from this past and present pain.
But there is no point in wishing and wondering what might have happened. None of us can go back and change the past. All we can do is live in the present moment.
So what matters right now is for you to be reminded that sexual abuse can cause lasting emotional and psychological damage — damage you might have been encouraged to ignore for any number of reasons. You are not failing at forgiveness or unconditional love if you still carry tender wounds from being abused. Rather than dismiss this pain, I urge you to consider getting help.
Talk to a therapist even though you may have heard that secular professionals do more harm than good. If you had broken your leg, you would have gone to see a doctor. Think of this in the same way. Your pain needs professional attention to heal. Of course you can leave things to take their natural course, but you might find yourself walking forever with a limp.
There are many ways to live a good and compassionate life and the path your parents have chosen doesn’t have to be yours. I know it’s difficult to accept that what we have been taught from the cradle might not be the truth, but sometimes our parents make mistakes. If you have the slightest doubts about what you believe, I encourage you to talk to someone outside your church. It will take courage, especially as you are part of a high-profile family, but courage is something I know you have plenty of.
You might think you couldn’t get through these terrible circumstances without your faith in God, but I can promise you that’s not true. You have survived because of who you are, without any outside help. The strength you have leaned on hasn’t come from anywhere save inside you. I have been through my own apocalypse without believing in God so I know it can be done. You are much more powerful than you think.
In closing, I send my love to all of you who have suffered. Bad things happen to good people, not because it is part of some divine plan or you need to learn a lesson, but because it is just how life turns out sometimes. But at other times — most of the time — good things happen, good people love us, and we find meaning and purpose for our lives.
I hope good things happen to you and that all your future disasters are small.