Guest blogger CoffeeCat offers up the single most powerful piece of writing on the Duggar mess:
Iceberg families like mine; like the Duggars.
My family of origin was similar to the Duggars–and similar to an iceberg. What we showed the public was the surface ten percent. When the doors were closed and no one was looking–our family members played our life out in the submerged dark waters that made up the remaining, unseen 90 percent. It’s where I spent my childhood and adolescence.
There was hitting. There was slapping. There was emotional abuse. Their was spiritual abuse. There was degradation and name calling and screaming. And sexual abuse.
We had to keep up appearances. We were a “religious family” and how we looked and how we acted to the outside world, were tantamount.
I understand the Duggar family. I wish I didn’t. I know what it is like to be a victim of sexual abuse. I know what it is like to feel pressure to project an image of perfection and happiness–and to be dying on the inside. I know what it is like to feel like a nothing. Like the only reason you exist is to be an extension of your parents’ reputations. We existed to satisfy their egos and to ensure that the neighbors, the country-club members, the business colleagues and the church members–thought positively of our family. “Oh you guys have such a nice family!” “Wow, what great parents who have! Aren’t you lucky.” I heard it all the time.
I know what it is like to never get help and to be forced to hide pain. I was hospitalized ten times–between the ages of five and 12–for acute bladder infections. Hospitalized. Put under anesthesia, because the experts didn’t understand why I had constant bladder infections. I grew up eating antibiotics crushed in peanut butter. I remember trying so hard to be good. To be better. If only I wasn’t so bad, the abuse would stop.
I remember having to sacrifice my humanity–by remaining silent. By remaining an object. I remained a nothing–to ensure that the abusers were never caught. So I remained a silent, nothing object, because my abusers were my parents and I wanted their love. I was trauma bonded to them. They were all I knew.
Our entire family should have been in therapy. We were all hurting. In silence. When my sister was hospitalized for an eating disorder, we were supposed to get family therapy. My father was angry with me one day. Because I was bad, my sister would not be getting family therapy. He blamed me. My father did everything to avoid therapy. My sister abused alcohol, I punched my hand threw a window and wanted to die and my brother tried to commit suicide. It was all hidden. Our pain was not only ignored, it was an aggravation because it threatened to reveal what was really happening. If my father could have–he would have sent us away to a family friend who built houses, too. Therapy was avoided at all costs, because it wasn’t truth and healing they wanted–but silence. That perfect shellacked exterior that served them so well.
A sinister coincidence is that my father also had a police-officer friend who was a child molester. This “friend” took pictures of me and molested me. It’s been very hard to read about the child pornographers, molesters and abusers that surround the Duggar family. This is not coincidence. Trust me. These people have a way of finding each other. And when they’re in trouble, they seek out “likeminded” dysfunctionals–because they know they will also hide their sick secrets.
As painful as it is to admit–I acted out sexually as a child. I remember one incident when I was 10. I had repressed that this had happened, and the memory surfaced when I was 30. I called the child that this happened with. He verified that indeed, it had. I fell on my knees when he said it happened when I was 13 and he was 8. I wrote him a five page letter, telling him that I believed his account and that what I had done was not his fault. I invited him into my own therapist’s office, to help him heal and to reiterate that he was not at fault. I have never gotten over this. I still have no memory of my actions at age 13, but I die every day just thinking that I could have done something like that.
When the news about Josh Duggar doing this came out, I knew at once—that he had been abused. Most likely by his father. This was not sexual curiosity. This was a stunted teenager acting out abuse dynamics that had been done to him. He was recycling the abuser/abusee situation. He picked those who were weaker and less powerful than he–because that was what was done to him.
Minimizing what Josh has done and clamoring for the show to return–is the ultimate injustice. He needs help. He has his own children now. Ignoring what he has done or making excuses–is a crime.
The girls in the family who were sexually abused and forced to live with their abuser–most likely have PTSD now. And the Duggars are forcing them to be interviewed by Fox this Friday. These girls are robots, at this point. Just like I was. They’ve been programmed to protect the family, to be silent and to stuff down their own humanity until it shrinks into a sliver of nothing. They’ll smile. Just as I did. They’ll praise their parents, just as I did. They’ll claim that they forgive. Just as I did. Because that’s the program instilled in every neuron since preschool. Silence equals love and it’s the price of admission if you want mommy and daddy’s love. What choice do you have? You’re all ready broken in a million pieces–a nothing. The only thing you have is what little love (as sick as it is) you were given by people who regard you as an object. You’re a piece of furniture to them. However, you cling to it–the only life raft you’ve ever experienced during a lifelong tsunami event.
I only hope the show is cancelled and that the talk of spin-offs is just a perverse rumor. Those girls are victims who have not even begun to face their pain. A spin-off, featuring sexual abuse victims who never got help–is nothing more than a sad crime scene with victims who only know how to perpetuate the lie.
I cringe when right-wingers or Christians defend this family, their behavior and what happened. The minimizing, the rationalizations, the denial and the justifications–are all pedophile thinking. “He made a mistake.” “God forgives him” “Every family has problems and no family is perfect.” I’ve heard all of this. It was how the abusers in our family kept us quiet, submissive and sick. It was how they kept their secrets safe. I remember my father telling me that anytime I was mad at him to picture Jesus next to him–because Jesus loved everyone. I remember after our family saw the movie Parenthood with Steve Martin. My father remarked, as we walked to the car, “See. All families have problems.”
I hate to see average people perpetuating these toxic, sick messages. They are gifts to abusers and pedophiles. People might not realize that they are carrying water for pedophiles, but they absolutely are, when they minimize the pain of abuse victims and the significance of what Josh did, and how his parents covered it up and ignored the pain of their own son and daughters.
The Duggars are an iceberg family, just as my family of origin was an iceberg family. I escaped. I have a good life with my wonderful child and husband, but it took ten years of therapy to unravel the damage. There are many iceberg families out there. I’ve heard their stories in group therapy–but it is especially painful to hear the excuses and the minimizing from people who are only reinforcing the notion that this family is fine just the way it is.
The Duggars are not victims of the media or the police who released the report. This family is lucky that we don’t know the full truth–and they damn well know it. They are not victims of anyone. They are a victim factory. These parents created victims that are now growing into adults that are unhealed. They are now having children who may become sexual abuse victims. The extent of the damage and pain that these parents have caused cannot be overestimated. Many generations will suffer because of them.
In the end, I hope that the show is cancelled and that this forces at least some Duggar members to find their way to help–so that they can stop living on the surface of an iceberg crafted by abusers–and start living a whole, authentic life on their own terms.
There is life beyond the prison of the surface ten percent.
Thanks to CoffeeCat for bravely writing this piece. Remember: It ain’t about politics, and it ain’t about religion: it’s about abused children.
Mr. Blunt and Cranky