I’m reasonably certain that anyone even remotely interested in reading Scarlet Letters, has heard about the recent child molestation scandal surrounding Josh Duggar. Oceans of digital ink have already been spilled over this story, asking and re-asking the same questions. Did Josh truly repent of what he did? Is Josh a danger to his children? Did the Duggar parents handle the situation wisely? – and plenty others besides these.
In the few days since this story broke, I’ve read not only the redacted police report, but also various responses to the situation, both from the pro- and anti-Duggar “camps.” And after mulling things over for a while, I think I’m ready to add my own drop or two of ink to the flood, for whatever that might be worth at this point.
I do have some opinions about some of the various questions involved here.
Are the Duggars hypocrites? I think so. Engaging in a robocall campaign about the dangers of child molesters and sex offenders in public bathrooms, after letting your own son’s sex crimes go unreported to the authorities for three whole years (except for a talking-to from a family friend who happens to be a state trooper), seems pretty hypocritical to me. They also continue to support Bill Gothard, who has been accused of sexual harassment by over 30 different women.
Did Josh sincerely repent of his actions? I certainly hope he has, though it’s difficult not to be cynical after reading so many transparently lame apologies from Christian public figures caught with their pants down.
Is Josh at risk of reoffending and/or molesting his own children? If he is truly a pedophile (which we don’t know), then his condition is essentially incurable. Rates of recidivism for sex offenders are lower than many suppose, but “recidivism” as used in research only refers to reoffenses after arrest and conviction, not to how many victims any given offender had before being detected. Combine this with the fact that sex crimes are notoriously underreported, and a 4-10% rate of recidivism for incest offenders does not seem particularly comforting anymore. (See here for extensive info.) So no, we have no evidence that Josh has molested any more children. But we absolutely must acknowledge that many sex offenders do – especially before they get caught – and also that Josh does not meet the criteria for “public detention and official processing,” and never received anything even close to professional counseling or treatment.
Ultimately, however, I don’t think hypocrisy, reality TV, apology analysis and recidivism rates of pedophiles are the real takeaways from this situation.
The real story is false promises. I’ve talked about this before, in my post about the Doug Phillips scandal. The entire selling point of the patriocentric system – which the Duggars followed without a doubt; there are mountains of documentation just about the various courtships of their children, in addition to many other things – was that it encourages men to be godly leaders and protectors; makes women and children happier and safer by keeping them under the protective “umbrella” of husbands, fathers and brothers; and keeps children safe from sexual sin, romantic heartbreak and the pollutions of the world.
All of this is a baldfaced lie.
Did the Duggars’ patriocentric beliefs and praxis protect women and children? No – five girls were sexually assaulted multiple times while they were sleeping. Did it prevent sexual sin and pollution in their children? No – their son committed multiple sex crimes.
And actually, we didn’t need the Duggars to tell us this: it was clear enough after the Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard scandals. Did patriocentricity keep Doug Phillips from stepping out on his wife and taking advantage of a far younger woman? No. Did patriocentricity keep Bill Gothard from repeatedly grooming and sexually harassing young women? No.
Why, then, should we believe that this system can actually deliver the goods? It didn’t work for the leaders who have promoted it for decades. Why are you and your family any different?
As I said in the title of this post, patriocentricity is broken. It always was. It’s just obvious now. And bailing water from the sinking ship – or worse, pretending there isn’t a leak – won’t work anymore.
An additional body of literature, drawing on data from self-reports provided by sex offenders, suggests that sex offenders do commit multiple offenses during their criminal careers… Additionally, victimization studies that show significant portions of the population as sexual assault victims…also support the contention that sex offenders often commit multiple offenses over the course of their criminal careers. While some observers see these bodies of research as evidence of “recidivism,” it is important to note that recidivism is typically defined as, and operationalized in research as, repeat offending after public detention and official processing. Therefore, while it is true that many sex offenders do offend multiple times over the course of their lives, when looking at repeat offenders following apprehension and criminal justice processing (e. g. conviction) there are substantially lower rates of repeat offending identified. (source)