Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Religiosity of Silence

In 2013, I wrote an article about the then latest reality TV scandal featuring A&E’s Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his rampant foot-in-mouth disease that caused him to express his true distaste for the LGBT community and mainly the sexual proclivities of gay men in the pages of GQ.

1432305381_josh-duggar-speaking-467Now, two years later, it isn’t Josh Duggar’s, star of TLC’’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, anti-LGBT statements getting him into trouble but rather his sexual assault and molestation of 5 girls, including two of his sisters. However, while the Internet explodes with attacks against Josh Duggar and his Quiverfull background it is vital to remember that the silence that he and his family inflicted upon his victims back in 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but also is being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims.

Starting in the 1980s, “Quiverfull,” the religion that the Duggar family image0012adhere to, spread through various evangelical circles with principles focused around biblical literalism such as: traditional gender roles, emphasis on family values, and a scorn and fear of the secular (read: modern) world. Furthermore, while having lots of kids in the Quiverfull religion isn’t just about building up one’s quiver but rather reemphasizing the way in which the world should be run: with women as subservient child producers who are taught to be silent no matter what hardships they face. Josh Duggar and the rest of his Quiverfull family exist in and perpetuate a culture of silence that emphasizes the male struggle while demeaning a woman’s pain as being a result of her having a sinful heart. It should be no shock then to find out that in a world of silence those who are affected the most by silence find it the most difficult to not only speak out but also be heard when men rule the roost.

While the facts surrounding the culture of silence in regards to assault and molestation are shocking, some other facts emphasize why the case against Josh Duggar is all too real: acquaintance perpetrators are the most common abusers making up almost 70-90% of all perpetrators with 89% of child sexual assault cases involving persons known to the child, with 29% of child sexual abuse offenders being relatives and 60% being acquaintances.
In a repetitive culture of abuse and silence, is it really shocking to find out that an individual who preached such hate and discontent for others actually perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse against others?

To say that I was shocked by the revelation about Josh Duggar’s past would be a misnomer; however, to say that I don’t care would be an outright lie. I do care about what happened because I care about the 5 girls he molested and I care about what happens to them now and in the future when they are no longer silenced and are allowed to be free and feel the pain and hurt he inflicted upon them all those years ago in a new light.

We need to hear their voices, we need to hear their stories and more importantly, we need to stop giving the headline to the name “Josh Duggar” and start giving it back to the young girls, not only in Arkansas but also around the world who are forced to live their lives in silence and fear and without the hope that their assailants, regardless of whether or not they were the son to a multi-million corporate television reality cash cow or just a regular person walking down the street.

Sexual assault and violence know no gender and in the case of Josh Duggar, the main thing we need to remember that although he got caught, he probably never stopped and even more terrifying is: who will stop him now that he is the head of his household with four young kids in his quiver?
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion's Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation and the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's LGBTQA+ Alumni Association. When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter @JErickson85