When I saw the news yesterday about Josh Duggar, his subsequent confession and decision to leave the Family Research Council over it, my heart hurt. Not because I was surprised. But because this kind of pattern is all too familiar.
When sexual abuse occurs in faith communities, typically it is the perpetrator who is protected for the sake of the community’s reputation. Victims are encouraged (coerced?) to spit out a hasty forgiveness so everyone can heal and get back to “normal.” This further victimizes the victims, leaving them to fend for themselves in silence. And silence seldom heals.
People are uncomfortable with the dark side of human nature, particularly when it happens in their church. They don’t want to believe its insidiousness, so instead of bringing sexual abuse to the light, getting counseling for the victim and rightful, lawful punishment by the legal system, they play a game of fake authenticity for a short period of time. They say all the right Christian words, admonish those molested to be like Jesus and forgive, and then the aftermath remains quiet and hidden.
I can’t say this is what happened in the case of the Duggars. I don’t live within their walls. But I am concerned that this very dark issue has never been brought to light until now. And I worry for his sisters (and his other victim) who will carry this scar the rest of their lives. Will they be allowed to mourn their innocence? Will they be allowed to question? Will they be allowed grief?
In response to this very question, I had the opportunity to write an op-ed piece for The Washington Post. It’s my sincere hope that this scandal will get us talking about how people actually heal from this kind of abuse. It’s never accomplished in the dark, by sweeping things under a rug. Forgiveness is seldom instant, and it has about a thousand layers.
The healing journey isn’t simple, and it isn’t fast. Which is why I wrote about my own healing journey in Not Marked. It’s why my husband and I have spoken openly about how we’ve had to deal with the aftermath of my abuse. And it’s why my heart hurt yesterday, and I’m battling for joy today.
Yes, this is a dark world with dark secrets, but so many of us have made the arduous journey toward healing and light and truth and storytelling. My hope is that more victims will share their stories, find faith communities that will love them through their stories (no matter how long their healing path takes), and start writing a brand new story, one of transparency where we finally acknowledge the soul-killing, heart-numbing effects sexual abuse has on a person. Only then will the church begin to push back the darkness of this very hidden sin.