The responsibility for what occurred in the Duggar household belongs first and foremost to the parents.
They were busy.
I can assure you that they weren’t present for their children. I can assure you that they didn’t teach their son and daughters about boundaries, privacy, and the right to say no. I can assure you that the children didn’t feel that they would be loved and protected by their parents if they reported their brother.
I told my mother when I was nine-years old that my brother touched me. This occurred while my eight other siblings and parents were at Sunday mass celebrating first communion for our seven-year old brother. I was staying home to take care of the baby. She was number ten in our family. Number eleven and twelve weren’t born yet.
It started as a game, my twelve-year-old brother and I running around the house until he wrestled me to the ground and he put his hand under my shorts. “I’m going to tell, Mom, if you don’t stop I told him.” He did stop after a minute. Even so, I was afraid. I had three other older brothers and I knew that soon it would be all of them, all of the time.
There had been warning signs. The game in the haymow when I was eight. You could do whatever you wanted to the one that was caught. It soon occurred to me that I was the only one getting caught.
Until that time, my brothers were my best friends. Their behavior irrevocably changed my relationship with them. Gone was the feeling of safety in their presence. Instead came suspicion and fear when they wanted to be alone with me.
I warmed the infant’s bottle in the pan of hot water just as my mother showed me. Squirted the formula on my forearm to make sure it wasn’t too hot. I crawled up into the dry sink that we used for a crib, sat cross-legged, and cradled the baby in my arms. My body shook. I ran it in my mind over and over how I would tell my mother that my brother touched me. Up to that point that was the hardest thing I had ever done. Taking care of babies was easy.
I waited until my mother was alone. She was spreading frosting on the cake. I sidled up to her. “Mom, Patrick touched me,” I said. “While you were at church.” She turned to me. “I told you not to mess with Patrick while I was gone. You were supposed to take care of the house. You can’t have the frosting bowl.” Her words stung. I swore that I’d never tell her again. No matter how bad it got.
I didn’t tell her again until I was nineteen. I was afraid for my three sisters still at home.
My brothers weren’t taught boundaries, privacy, and don’t touch your sisters. We didn’t have locks on doors. My mother’s words when I was nine told me that me and my sisters were responsible for how our brothers acted.
Using the same word that Josh Duggar used, what my parents did was inexcusable. Their parenting was inexcusable. They stole my best friends from me. The incest didn’t start as an act of violence. It was an act of not being taught that touching others was wrong.
Before my mother died of cancer she told me that she was sorry for the incest. She said that she was overwhelmed. With ten children, two more babies still to come, and an alcoholic husband, who wouldn’t be? Still, I didn’t tell her that she was forgiven.
Parents of Josh Duggar, where were you, what lessons have you taught your children, and most importantly will they forgive you?