Pondering Hard Questions

When I was perhaps eleven years old, an older boy from the neighborhood began to molest one of my playmates. The girl -- we'll call her Janie -- was two or three years younger than I was. The boy -- perhaps Cole would be a good name -- was several years older; he must have been sixteen or older. It started with touching and progressed -- gradually -- over several months. At this point, I've no recollection at all of how I became the witness to this exploitation. I do remember Cole's telling us both not to tell anyone about the activity. We would get in trouble. I don't know if Cole touched other girls. I know he never tried to touch me. It was only Janie that he wanted. Neither Janie nor I understood what Cole was doing to her, but Janie didn't seem to mind it. And neither of us wanted to get in trouble.  Ultimately the molestation progressed all the way to intercourse. Cole gave us money; that, combined with the fear that we would get in trouble if we told, kept us quiet. We were children and thought like children. We didn't know he was a predator. We'd never heard the word, and this was decades before things like "Good Touch/Bad Touch."

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.


Anonymous said…
I must admit that my spine was very stiff as I started to read yet another opinion on the Duggar case. I would have been so disappointed if you had taken the road well traveled this week. But, you did not. I am so happy to call you a childhood friend...a friend with a generous soul and forgiving heart. When these horrid events unfold on television and the press I cannot help but to think of the members of the Senate who might be wearing pink lace panties and bras under their expensive suits. So quick to judge...it sickens me.
Quiltdivajulie said…
Another thoughtfully written post ...
Barbara Anne said…
There but for the grace of God go any of us.

Thank you for your ongoing kindness.

Synthia said…
I agree with you. I don't know what we'd have done given the same set of circumstances. There are so many ramifications to these complicated situations I, too, try not to judge.
Anonymous said…
In my work I see this type of situation from many sides. I represent those like Josh Duggar. I represent young children who have been sexually abused by people like Josh Duggar. It is never as black and white as many would want us to believe. There are legal ramifications which result in a future we cannot imagine for children who are involved in either side of the situation, let alone the emotional and physical effects I will only say that lives are ruined on all sides. There has to be another way to handle it in order to ensure love, healing and protection for all children and their future adult lives.
Margie said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
suz said…
Your comments were well thought out. I wouldn't want to be in the Duggar parents shoes. I would hope I'd do the right thing, but as has been said "right thing" isn't black and white. I hope everyone involved in that situation and in similar situations, get the help they need.
LoieJ said…
I am well aware (not by rumors or second hand info) of a situation where a girl that was three years, 10 months old was reported to have probably been molested. Those of us who have been loving care takers of this girl suspect that she had a wedgie and so touched herself "down there." Or maybe her very sensitive skin was itchy, or for some reason she was seen as touching herself.

So automatically the father was to be charged with the molestation; the mother with failure to protect. The children were removed from the home. All this before any investigation. A lawyer was hired, which turned out to be a waste of money, as he did nothing, including keeping his promise that only a female would investigate the situation directly with the girl.

This family was much more pro active than most to protect their children from such advances, as the mother had herself suffered some abuse. The father wept when he was told the charges. I believe in his innocence. And anyway, why automatically assume that abuse would be done by the father?

It took over a month of anguish before the actual investigation was done, and nothing came of it. Everything was dropped. Of course, there was no apology. And it "seems" that this kind of thing resides in the legal memory forever, incase something else ever pops up.

I'm just trying to say, yeah, there are very good reasons to try to work outside the system. So now I'm even less sure what I would do.