Duggar:Atheists tout youth registry over 'virtue' |
by Bernie Najarian
June 1, 2015
The Josh Duggar scandal in American politics today has caused what Star Wars fans would call 'a disturbance in the force.'
Where once, we could rely on Christian fundamentalists to be our forbidding moral Grundies, peering skeptically down their noses at any sign of hanky-panky, now, we have atheists calling out fundamentalists for their casual sexual permissiveness.
The issue is whether it was OK for Josh Duggar's extreme fundamentalist, TV celebrity parents to quietly give Josh some stern Christian counseling and then re-integrate him into normal life after he'd 'fondled' the breast and vaginal areas of his sisters and a sleeping babysitter when he was 14 and 15 years old . On the face of it, the remedy seems to have worked: there have been no further complaints about the now adult, married Josh. Prominent anti-fundamentalists, however, are incensed by the irony of the Duggars portraying gays as child abusers while quietly forgiving one of their own. They have made the danger of Josh as a pedo the mainstay of their outrage.
A particularly livid attack came from a widely followed, pseudonymous blogger called 'Libby Anne,' author of the blog 'Love Joy Feminism' on the patheos.com 'Atheist Channel.' Interestingly, it was reprinted in a blog run by J.L. Stollar, a progressive Christian who's just as anti-fundamentalist as the atheists 
In March 2002, Jim Bob Duggar found out that his fourteen-year-old son, Josh, was sexually molesting prepubescent girls. Jim Bob did not say anything about this to the authorities until July 2003, even as it continued to happen and the list of victims grew. And in the wake of these revelations, I have been absolutely horrified by the number of people who have said they would not have immediately reported their fourteen-year-old son for molesting prepubescent girls either.
I have a six-year-old daughter. The number of people who have said they wouldn’t report their teenage son for molesting girls either makes me worried for my own daughter. I look around at families with teenage sons and I wonder. If that boy molested children, would his parents turn him in, or would they cover for him? Whose safety and well-being would they prioritize—their son’s, or my daughter’s?
I’m honestly not sure how it’s not painfully obvious that parents should not be the ones handling punishment and prevention if their child sexually assaults another child. It is very common for someone who has molested one child to molest other children. Josh Duggar, for his part, molested five girls from two different families. Parents should not be the ones dealing with this. We have authorities and professionals for a reason!
Well sure, Walsh would say, but what if you had a teenage son and found out he’d sexually fondled a young girl? Would you turn him in, and ruin his life? Yes I absolutely would, but I reject the framing of the question. Turning someone in for child sexual assault helps ensure that they will get help, that they will get treatment, and (hopefully) that they will turn their lives around and not victimize more children. And yes, I do have a son. He’s not fourteen yet, but he will be someday.
Turning someone in for child sexual assault can only be framed as “ruining their life” if you remove their victims, present and future, from the picture entirely. Does life as a registered sex offender truly weigh more on the scale than the life of a sexually abused child whose abuser walks the street with no record or legal consequences for his actions?
Libby Anne's son, then, if he got over-curious and transgressed with his touches at 14, would be promptly taken to the police in the name of getting him 'help.' In some states, that would guarantee a life on the sex offenders' registry, but Libby Anne seems to feel that's all for the best. Her viewpoint is predicated on the notion that the girls involved, instead of brushing off the unwanted touches with "that was weird," would be exquisitely traumatized forever. Reading the Duggar police report shows that one daughter who was touched thought that Josh was trying to take her blanket; the babysitting neighbor who was touched knew nothing about it, having been fast asleep at the time as any good babysitter should be. A sister who Josh patted or groped in the wrong spots while he had her on his knee reading to her was the one who objected most strongly. All we know about the degree of her trauma is that she states in the police report that "it felt weird" but she later, at the time of the interview, felt "safe at home."
Libby Anne was especially outraged that a Christian blogger, Matt Walsh, strongly implied that he wouldn't bust his son to the cops and their partners among the 'help' whitecoats in a similar situation :
I know I’m opening myself up to serious criticism here, but let me be honest with you: If my own son, God forbid, came to me and admitted to doing what Josh Duggar did, I don’t know that I’d immediately run to the cops.
Would you? Is it really that simple? The decision to have your child arrested as a sex offender would be an automatic thing for you? Really?
I guess I’m just a horrible person then.
. . .
As a parent, you have to think whether your 14 year old son deserves to have his life ruined over his mistakes. Maybe you’d decide that he does. I can’t say I’d agree.
Walsh then referred back to the year-old controversy about the actress Lena Dunham, who admitted in her autobiog 'Not that Kind of Girl' that she'd once got a tad tactile with her curiosities about her little sister's vagina at the age of seven . Despite a great deal of screaming at Dunham in the persiflage-press, there had been few suggestions from 'liberals' that she should be registered as a sex offender.
Walsh had a good old right-rant about this:
Yet Dunham remains a liberal hero.
Just like Bill Clinton, who was credibly accused of rape multiple times. And Harvey Milk, a gay rights icon who got his very own Hollywood biopic, and a creep who regularly sodomized teenage boys. Progressive culture is filled to the brim with rapists, molesters, and deviants, but they never seem worried about any of it until some well known Christian crosses the line.
Then there was presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's interjection on his Facebook page:
"Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family... Josh's actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn't mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities."
This in support of a family that in 2014 had sent out the following robocall text in their ongoing campaign against imperfectly heterosexual perverts:
Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of northwest Arkansas women and children. The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men -- yes, I said men -- to use women's and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child. Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool’s private changing area?
Libby Anne is by no means the only major atheist to fling herself against this herd of rampaging conservative dinosaurs. The American Atheists' 'Atheist of the Year' for 2015 , Vyckie Garrison of the 'No Longer Quivering' self-help group for escapees of the fundamentalist QuiverFull movement, weighed in with a piece called "5 demented Evangelical teachings that enabled Josh Duggar’s sex crimes." Originally published in Alter/Net, it made it all the way to Salon . The demented beliefs in question are:
1) The Duggars are “Pro-life.”
2) The Duggars believe that, under God, the FAMILY is the highest authority, particularly Daddy.
3) The Duggars frame dysfunction, abuse, and psychopathology in terms of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and grace … oh, and DEMONS.
4) The Duggars embrace Evangelical Christian teachings on “modesty.”
5) The Duggars believe that a benevolent God is intimately involved in every aspect of their lives and He is working all circumstances out for their ultimate good.
In response to these abominations, Garrison comes up with an extreme belief of her own, as highlighted in bold type below.
Anna Duggar, Josh’s wife and mother of his three young children (with another baby on the way), is standing behind her husband, calling him, “a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right.” Apparently, her immersion in Christian culture influenced Anna to interpret the revelation of Josh’s “past mistakes” (which she says he confessed to her and her parents two years before he proposed to her) through the “sin, forgiveness, and redemption” narrative rather than giving credence to the prevailing understanding that sex offenders rarely (never?) change.
While it's true that people tend not to change in sexual orientation per se after their early youth, the rate of recidivism for sex offenses is generally low, in the range of 1 in 19 or around 5% . So the great majority of sex offenders 'change' in terms of becoming non-offenders after their initial prosecution.
People who do things defined as sex offenses are especially unlikely to re-offend if they are kids at the time they do the acts. Just prior to the crest of the Duggar fracas, an article stressing this point appeared in vox.com . Writer Sarah Klipp interviewed Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University, and an outspoken advocate of complete rehabilitation for nabbed youthful sex offenders. Letourneau said,
In most states, kids who commit sexual offenses are the only kids subjected to post-probation controls. Many have to register as sex offenders and that's then tied to housing and employment restrictions and all sorts of other things. And it can be lengthy. In South Carolina, youth have to register for life.
All of this ties back to another misunderstanding, which is that these kids are likely to re-offend. I hold my field accountable for some pretty significant missteps back in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, there was an idea that we needed long-term residential care for these offenders because there was believed to be a high risk of recidivism. But it turns out these youth, on a whole, are not at risk for recidivism. The typical rate is about zero to five percent. Most of these kids who are caught are not going to re-engage.
Letourneau also made some insightful comments about the nature of the offenses and popular response to them.
When it comes to kids perpetrating harm is we stop seeing them as kids. We start seeing them as monsters or pedophiles or adults. When kids engage in sexual inappropriate behavior, I think we sort of reactively start to think of them as more mature because the behavior involves sex. That’s one real mistake that we make, is we automatically start to view them as adults.
When you read about the kids, the victims are referred to as children, but often the offenders are referred to as adults or young men or young adults. We take them out of childhood the minute they commit these offenses. In some states, even at very young ages, sexual offenders will be tried automatically as adults because the offenses are sexual in nature. Treating them like adults means they're treated more harshly at each stage of the process.
There's a clear cultural war going on here.
Back on the anti-Duggar side, R. L. Stollar's 'Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out' organization takes a sirens-wailing, lights-flashing approach to any bad-touching in the home.
An article 'How to Respond to Sibling Abuse  has the following advice:
As the parent or caretaker of a either a child who has been abused by a sibling or a child who has abused a sibling (or both), it is vital that you immediately take every step possible to protect the abused child and seek help for the abusive one. Here are 8 such steps:
First, protect the abused child.
Take whatever immediate steps you need to ensure that the abused child is protected from future emotional, physical, and sexual injury. If this requires relocating the abusing sibling temporarily until he or she can learn to behave differently, or whatever you need to do, make sure the abused child is safe.
Second, if the abuse is a criminal action, report it.
Learn how to report abuse here. This can be a difficult step as a parent. Having to report your own child for abusing another child is heartbreaking. But it is absolutely necessary for the safety of other children as well as the future well-being of the abusive child. Stop It Now! has helpful advice for parents needing to report their own children for abuse.
Third, get a professional counselor involved.
If you know or suspect that a child of yours is being abused by a sibling, make an intervention. Contact a professional who specializes in whatever form of abuse is occurring. Especially in the case of sexual abuse, children need immediate help both to recover from it (as a victim) and get help to stop (as a perpetrator). Sibling abuse is not “just a phase” or something people “grow out of.” Sibling abuse needs to be taken seriously and requires professional involvement.
Fourth, consider where the child may have learned the problematic behavior.
Fifth, make a safety plan.
It is important to ensure that other children and siblings are safe from an abusive child. Thus you need to make a safety plan for your family that is clearly communicated to everyone, including the abusive child. Stop It Now! has advice for such safety plans, which you can view here. An excerpt follows:
“While you’re setting up therapy, safety planning is an equally important priority. It is very important that your son’s (Note assumption about the sex of the abuser - BN) opportunities to further sexually harm another be limited. He needs to take responsibility in planning with you and his father guidelines such as not being alone with any younger peers at any time. He should always be in eyesight of other adults when children are present, and should not be allowed to be in a room alone with a child with the door closed.”
Sixth, communicate with other parents.
As heartbreaking, stressful, and embarrassing as it is, if you know your child has abused other children or siblings, you need to contact any and every family that your child could possibly have also hurt. Let them know what is going on. Be transparent and open. Inform them of the exact steps you are taking to remedy the situation. Tell them about your safety plan. Encourage them to adopt the same safety plan around your child. Have them talk to their children and make sure they are safe.
Be proactive in protecting other children — by doing so, you are also helping the abusive child.
Seventh, do research.
Eighth, consider how you can make your family healthier.
The remarkable member in this set is #2: Second, if the abuse is a criminal action, report it.
If it's a brutal rape, certainly, but any act conceivable as being criminal? Children and young teens are well known to commit common assault against their siblings, plus all manner of petty theft, without being marched down to the police station every time it happens. The fact is that youthful judgment does need to be deepened by experience and discipline, and parental intervention about nominal crimes in the home is usually considered to be sufficient. The idea that a boy touching his sister's breast while she's sleeping necessitates a police visit surely comes from the demonizing of pedophiles, and not from anything related to sound parenting or correct social judgment. And we know from Letourneau's article that the boy placed for 'help' into the official sex offender system would never be free of his rapist tattoo.
This caused MA advocate-tweeter Kamil Beylant to add a ninth action to the response list.
Kamil Beylant @Securityconcern May 30
@RLStollar @HAReachingOut ... Step 9: Scout for a good spot under a bridge where your forever criminalized child may live out his adult years.
That's if the child lives. An article by Miles Bryan of National Public Radio points out that appallingly large numbers of people registered as sex offenders in their childhood attempt suicide .
Juvenile sex offenders also re-offend at a much lower rate than adult offenders, according to the Justice Department. Burkland says his therapy is designed to help them build healthy relationships with their peers. But he's not advocating for the registries to go away: some minors are a real threat.
"The juvenile who is looking for multiple opportunities and just prefers and likes to have contact with younger children would be a high risk to re-offend, and should be on the registry," he says.
Instead Burkland says prosecutors and judges should have more discretion to figure out who needs to be registered and who doesn't. One of the few people working to change this practice is Nicole Pittman, a director at the advocacy group Impact Justice.
"We are criminalizing normative child sexual behavior in large fashion," she says.
Pittman adds that the practice of registering juveniles developed in the '90s, when a series of federal and state laws establishing registries ran head-on into the child super predator scare. In 2006, a federal law started to hold back funding to states that didn't register kids for certain sex crimes. Pittman says the result is that kids are labelled as sex offenders for acting like kids.
"We have kids that are on the registry for streaking at a football game, peeing at a park," she says, "Romeo-and-Juliet-type offenses where you have a 17-year-old dating a 14-year-old. That person goes on the registry."
Pittman has interviewed hundreds of kids on sex offender registries, and she says at least 20 percent of them had attempted suicide. And many states require juvenile offenders to regularly update websites with recent pictures. That means a sex offender's profile could show a grown man even if he committed the crime as a young boy.
"So we have had people we have interviewed killed subsequently by vigilantes," Pittman says. "People really fear and think the worst when they see this information."
The Duggar situation raises the question of to what extent over-curious and impulsively boundary-breaking kids, not being intentionally cruel and not causing remarkable distress, are now caught up in American pedo-baiting politics. Perhaps it is becoming a widespread atheist shibboleth now that 'treatment' is to be aimed for in such cases because it must be superior to prayer and repentance. Trusting the state authority figures rather than the parental ones is the growing consensus. Bad-touching is SO threatening that it's one of the ever-growing areas where parents can no longer be held to be competent. When the touching involves young children, monsterdom rather than curiosity or controllable impulsiveness may be at stake, and the precautionary principle insists that the children be fully worked over by state and psychological church. Psychology and psychiatry are, after all, to a large extent the true church of atheism; they embody the scientific improvements of secularized Jewish and Christian Europeans like Freud, Jung and Adler who devised new ways of approaching the psyche, the soul. Many of their ideas were as speculative as belief in miracles and the power of prayer, but since they were all couched in secular terms, they could shelter under the mantle of science. Nowadays, the Psych Church has a strong right wing of Extreme Precautionists, who assume that all touchers must be handled as incipient, out-of-control, conscienceless monsters, while all touchees must be handled as aghast, shattered, mutilated victims. Even if either option is only true one time out of a hundred, all precautions must be taken.
Beylant summed up his reaction in a tweet aimed at Garrison and her 'five demented beliefs' article.
Kamil Beylant @Securityconcern May 28
Five demented religious beliefs squaring off against one demented secular belief.
In another comment, he said,
Kamil Beylant @Securityconcern May 30
@ExSexoffender @Tttea ... These days, the precautionary principle consists of picking a target group and assuming the worst about everyone in it.
It seems that balance and sanity may only be achieved when someone devises an atheism that is as skeptical about the atheists as it is about the theists.