Cancel the Duggars

Thursday, May 28, 2015

When Josh Duggar of the TLC reality show "19 Kids and Counting" was 14 or 15 years old, he molested several of his sisters and one girl outside of the family.

His parents, the famous Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, found out and sent him to help a friend build houses for three months in lieu of therapy, then reintroduced him into the home where his victims lived.

This is all in a police report obtained by several news outlets as recently as last week -- with Josh Duggar admitting the report is factual Friday morning -- and it raises many questions. How did this information remain buried for 10 years? Did TLC know? Will the network cancel the show or lead it into a new tell-all era?

TLC has pulled the show from the air, but maybe not permanently.

Personally, I hope the show is canceled. I don't hope this because I hate the family or because I lack the ability to forgive. The latter has become the defense from the Duggar family and its supporters, who claim Josh Duggar admitted to a sin and has been forgiven for it by God. Crazy liberals like me, they say, just don't understand that people make mistakes.

I have a real problem with this. While I completely accept that no human is perfect, I refuse to call repeated molestation a mistake. A mistake is when you wear a brown belt with black pants. A mistake is when you answer incorrectly on a test. A mistake is when you stay out too late and arrive at work exhausted the next day.

Molestation is not a mistake. It is a crime. Josh Duggar should have been punished for his crime under the law, and he wasn't. For all any non-Duggars know, he wasn't rehabilitated at all and continued to live with his victims.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar simply swept their son's crime away, even filming one of their first specials for TLC the same year it surfaced. That means that the family we were watching in those specials was hiding a truly dark secret from the very beginning.

Those young girls who answered questions about how to cook and launder for a large family had been molested two years or less before being filmed. Once "19 Kids and Counting" began, viewers watched these girls grow up and explain how they dress modestly to avoid "defrauding" members of the opposite sex.

Women, Michelle Duggar has infamously told her daughters, must hold themselves responsible for tempting a man's sexual desire through their wardrobe. I found this "lesson" kind of upsetting when I watched it initially, but Josh Duggar's admittance to sexual abuse has aggravated it further.

These girls were molested at a young age -- creating potentially irreversible emotional trauma -- and their mother feels it necessary to tell them how they control a man's desire.

I am so, so sad for these girls, now women, for being molested, raised in a culture that blames women for sexual abuse and thrust on a reality show while still dealing with the abuse. You could call that last bit speculation, but I've been in an abusive relationship and I know how difficult it is to cope even two years after the fact.

If TLC allows the show to continue, I fear it may become exploitative, with the girls being forced to relive their abuse and forgive their abuser on television. The network could choose to gloss over the abuse and cut Josh out of the show, but then it would be a huge lie.

Then again, isn't that what the show has been all along? The Duggars marketed themselves as a wholesome family that does "things a little bit differently." Viewers were treated to weddings, births and family trips, usually with the young children commenting on these events.

It was all very cute, but it was also a lie. While I don't expect reality television to honestly reflect reality, I can't bring myself to watch Michelle Duggar talk about about how wholesome her family is knowing its history of sexual abuse.

Cancel the show, TLC. And give those girls some space for once.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com