JC Schildbach, LMHC
Perhaps the best moment from Megyn Kelly’s Friday-night interview with Duggar family members/sexual assault victims Jill and Jessa Duggar came in one of the post-interview segments when Emily Horowitz, Ph.D, an expert in the field of sexual abuse, pointed out that, much like juvenile sex offenders, adult sex offenders tend to have a limited number of victims, respond well to treatment, and have relatively low recidivism rates once they’ve received treatment. Horowitz made the comment about recidivism in response to Kelly’s assertion that, while juvenile offenders rarely go on to offend as adults, adult offenders repeatedly sexually assault numerous victims.
Kelly responded to Horowitz’ explanation with a confused, “really?,” essentially dismissing it, and then treating the audience to heavily edited comments by the interviewee, who apparently didn’t deliver up the narrative Kelly wanted.
That narrative is, essentially, that Josh engaged in some not-so-serious sexual offenses as a minor, so it’s no big deal, and the family did what they could, so give them a break. There are numerous corollary narratives, including that adult offenders are serial predators, that (like the Duggars want us to believe) the LGBTQ community is crawling with sexual predators, that parents who are good and wholesome like the Duggars should be allowed to fix everything on their own, government is bad, etc., etc.
It’s almost inconceivable that anybody on Fox News would be putting so much effort into defending a sex offender—juvenile or otherwise.
For their part, Jill and Jessa Duggar didn’t exactly plug themselves into Kelly’s narrative, either. Despite Kelly attempting to get Jill and Jessa to say that they didn’t feel like victims of sexual abuse by Josh, the Duggar daughters couldn’t quite get there, although they did commit to the victimized-by-the-media narrative.
That is to say that, like everybody else in the Duggar family, as well as Megyn Kelly, Jill and Jessa minimized Josh’s sexual assaults by saying he just made some bad choices born out of teenage curiosity about girls, and claimed that they didn’t even realize the crimes had happened. After all, they were asleep when he—uh—made his bad choices.
They shared their love and forgiveness for Josh. Jessa expressed some anger at how the victims’ anonymity wasn’t truly protected, even though the police report that appeared in InTouch was redacted. Jill shed some tears over how terrible it was that the media revealed the family’s secrets. Both Duggar daughters argued, along with Kelly, that the records should have been sealed to prevent identification of the victims.
There’s a big problem in the ‘victim protection’ argument though—one, which, like all the media attention on the family—is squarely the fault of the parents.
Although Josh’s victimization of multiple young girls took place when he was a minor, the police investigation didn’t occur until Josh was an adult. So, according to the police department that released the records, and the city attorney representing that police department, the records are not, technically, a juvenile’s records.
Had Josh’s parents gone to the authorities at the time of the assaults (and, no, gathering up a posse of church elders, and going to visit a State Trooper who is a family friend does not count as ‘going to the authorities’) the investigation would have taken place when Josh was still a minor. The investigation would have moved forward while he was still considered a child, and the records would have been sealed.
On top of that, despite the girls saying that they went to a licensed counselor in the wake of the abuse, Kelly still asked no questions about when or where that counseling took place, and how such counseling could have occurred without triggering an investigation.
So unless there is some clarification around the “professional counseling,” the assumption must remain that either the Duggars did not take their children for (legitimate) counseling until they were already being investigated, or that they did not take their children for counseling (with “licensed,” and “credentialed” counselors as they have claimed) at all.
I’m not saying that I think the technicality means that crimes committed as a juvenile should be a matter of public record—but there is something to be said about reaping what you sow.
Hiding crimes committed by a juvenile as part of an overall plan to gain money, fame, and influence, all under the guise of Christian family values, is wrong—and made even worse when broadly condemning entire groups of people by accusing them of engaging in acts your family members have committed and covered up.
And a family complaining about legal technicalities leading to one’s troubles, while using legal and semantic technicalities to assert that the family did no wrong, hardly casts the family in a positive light.
In another segment of Kelly’s show, following the interview with the Duggar girls, Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News’ “Media Buzz” joined Kelly to discuss the ethics of media organizations revealing information about victims. But, of course, anybody on Fox News blasting another media outlet for failing to follow appropriate standards of journalistic ethics is about as ridiculous as, well, the Duggars blasting others for being sexual predators.
Beyond her anger at the violations of journalistic integrity, Kelly kept suggesting that, because the Duggar’s secrets were revealed, other victims of sexual abuse may not come forward. She makes a good point. I’m sure that all of the sexual abuse victims who went through counseling, but had their parents cover up the abuse in order to get them on a TV show, are going to be silenced.
Among abuse-related considerations, the publishing of details of one’s sexual abuse in a celebrity tabloid are not high up the ladder of dangers.
Being part of a community that thinks sexual abuse is normal and tries to hide it from authorities might be a bit more concerning.
It’s a shame that, despite inviting someone like Horowitz on her show—someone who could have legitimately helped to shed some light on issues of sexual abuse (and tried to)—Kelly did little more than attempt to goad Horowitz into validating some ignorant, preconceived notions about why we should all be eagerly awaiting the next season of ‘19 Kids and Counting,’ crapping on all of those agenda-driven gay folk, and berating all (non-Duggar) sex offenders.