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, in the pages of GQ, his true distaste for the LGBT community and specifically for the sexual proclivities of gay men.

Now, two years later in another reality TV show, TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, it isn’t star Josh Duggar’s 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 since 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but is also being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims.

Starting in the 1980s, “Quiverfull,” the religious tradition that the Duggar family adhere to, spread through various evangelical circles with principles that focus around biblical literalism such as traditional gender roles, an 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 the hardships they face. Josh Duggar and the rest of his Quiverfull family exist in and perpetuate a culture of silence that emphasizes a man’s 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, where men rule the roost, those who are affected the most by silence find it the most difficult not only to speak out but to be heard.

While the facts surrounding the culture of silence in regard 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, 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 also perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse?

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 care about what happened, 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 these girls in Arkansas but those 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?

This blog post originally was posted on feminismandreligion.com

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