Josh Duggar was a teenager when he committed his crimes. If the first one had been reported and followed through in a normal way, it's likely that he would have received no serious legal repercussions -- perhaps gotten counseling, or a suspended sentence. His victims have, it is suggested, forgiven him. Thus, a number of fans and members of the public are saying that it's best to forgive and forget.
That isn't happening, though, and here's why.
1. First, let's be clear on who isn't being forgiven here. Josh committed a serious crime, but his parents are very much at fault for the entire scenario. While Josh Duggar was a minor, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were not.
2. This wasn't a one-time incident. There were at least five victims that we know about. The incidents happened over the course of two calendar years. This might have been averted if Jim Bob Duggar had taken appropriate steps the first time.
3. The cover-up is a really big deal, and there are still mixed stories. Jim Bob claimed Josh went to a treatment facility, and Michelle says it was more like visiting a mentor who remodels houses. Now we have reports that the Duggar family may have sent Josh to a "treatment facility" run by Bill Gothard -- who has since left his position with his Christian ministry, after accusations that he was sexually grooming and molesting young girls.
4. The Duggar girls are on the internet, and they matter. The other victim is likely on the internet, and she matters. Thousands of other victims of sexual assault and rape, at the hands of thousands of other sexual criminals, are on the internet, and they matter. When you post that it's okay because it was just a mistake, when you say people should shut up, when you say it should be handled within the family, you're telling the victims -- all the victims -- to just shut up, their attacker's pain is more important than theirs.
5. Speaking of which, where is the statement about or from the victims? We have one from Michelle and Jim Bob, saying that they "went through the most difficult time in [their] lives." We have one from Josh, saying that if he hadn't stopped fondling underage girls, it would have ruined his life. We have one from Anna, assuring us Josh is a good guy now.
Does anyone talk about what a hard time it was for the victims, how Josh might have affected their lives, or what the victims are feeling now? No, it's clear the Duggar priority here is Josh's good name.
6. Josh Duggar is a celebrity and a leader. He preaches to crowds of political supporters about morals and family values. He has followers. No, when the average guy commits a sexual crime against a kindergarten-aged child, it doesn't spend weeks in the news 12 years later. The average guy doesn't have crowds taking his words to heart as instruction for life. You don't get to grope your sisters, cover it up, and then be a religious leader who crows about preventing rights for other people, lest these other people molest little girls.
7. In fact, this whole family is a big pile of celebrity and Christian leadership. It's important that we don't shut up about this because people look at the Duggar family and aspire to do what they have done, to be as "good" as them. It's important for people to realize that "Duggar" is a lifestyle, but not a noble goal.
8. The same can be said about the teachings the family endorses. The anti-sex, male-dominated, all-about-appearances life that this family promotes looks idyllic, at a glance, but it's dangerous, and the people who would emulate it need to know.
9. We don't know if the same teachings that have raised one child molester in that household have raised more. Until there is a real investigation, it's not time to shut up. For that matter, according to KVIL, at least one expert has suggested Josh Duggar may have been molested himself. If so, and if he was just "passing it on," so to speak, then it's important to find the person who victimized Josh, and make sure that person isn't creating more victims and victimizers.
The sum total is that Duggar apologists are making this entire debacle about one 14-year-old boy, whose childish mistakes are in the past and should be forgiven. That couldn't be farther from the truth. This is about one boy who never paid for his crimes, and now makes a living (or did) by claiming that an entire demographic of Americans should be denied rights because they might commit similar crimes. It's about two adults who did not protect their daughters from an abuser. It's about two adults who harbored a criminal. It's about countless more adults who did so -- all the adults involved in the cover-up, including church leadership, and whoever really "treated" Josh Duggar. It's about five (known) victims.
It's about a family of celebrities, and for that reason, it is about everyone who watches this show, attends an RNC, or is otherwise touched by the behaviors and teachings this family endorses. Everything that is done in this case is what we are telling other victims of sexual abuse to expect. Hopefully, that is compassion and help for the victims, not victim-blaming, acceptance of a cover-up, and compassion for the criminal. Hopefully we are not sending a message to the world that we care more about forgiving and forgetting the crimes of Josh Duggar than for seeking justice for his victims, or ensuring that others in his family and movement are safe.
[Photo via Josh Duggar Instagram]