Pondering Hard Questions
When our parents finally did find out, Janie and her family no longer lived in the neighborhood. Our parents did not confront Cole directly. Neither did they approach his parents, nor did they report him to the authorities. Janie's dad called Cole on the telephone, pretending to be the Chief of Police. He told Cole he knew what he had done to Janie and said if this ever happened again, Cole would go to jail. That was the end of it.
Janie's and my parents protected us from the possibility that anyone else would ever know what had happened. They protected us from ever having to be interviewed by police officers or lawyers. They protected Janie from a physical examination. The episode was never discussed in our family; my older sister never knew until I told her forty years later. I never saw Janie again and I don't know if she received any kind of counseling; certainly I did not. In choosing to protect their daughters, the two sets of parents -- intentionally or unintentionally -- risked Cole's harming other children. Did they do the right thing? Was he frightened enough to never molest again? Those are questions that I'm not in a position to answer. By putting Janie's molestation in the past and not discussing it, I was able to move on. I was spared further, more difficult interrogation. Our parents protected us, their daughters.
This has all come back into my consciousness in the wake of the Josh Duggar story. Times are different; safeguards and mandated procedures are in place. His parents did not handle the situation well; no one, I think, can argue that. My hunch is that fear of losing their television show -- as some have suggested -- was not the motivation for their inaction. I think, instead, that perhaps they were -- in a misguided way -- trying to protect their children. Not just Josh, as has been the outcry, but also their daughters. Much the way my parents and Janie's tried to protect us.
I am not trying to excuse the Duggar parents. I am trying to understand how they made their decision on the best way to handle their son's revelation. I'm a Lutheran who has been taught to understand and explain everything in the kindest way. Perhaps they did the wrong things for the right reasons. Perhaps.
I am fortunate. I have a daughter whose childhood remained innocent, and I have two sons, neither of whom ever came to me with the kind of confession Josh Duggar brought to his parents. Honestly, I don't know what I would have done.