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“Mike Huckabee’s Confused Morality”: White Privilege And The Limits Of Public Forgiveness

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks in Iowa in April. The GOP presidential candidate was quick to voice his support for Josh Duggar, who this past week admitted to having molested children while a teenager.

In America, public forgiveness is largely dependent on race. In the weeks after Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, pundits and media outlets were quick to jump on a robbery Brown allegedly committed minutes before being fatally shot. Among them was 2016 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who told NewsMax TV, “It’s a horrible thing that he was killed, but he could have avoided that if he’d have behaved like something other than a thug.” For Huckabee, (alleged) theft was grounds for death.

That is, if you look a certain way. Contrast these statements with Huckabee’s recent defense of reality TV regular Josh Duggar, who admitted last week to having molested young girls as a teenager in 2002 and 2003. The 27-year-old son of Jim Bob and Michelle, Josh Duggar is a star of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, and was executive director of the Family Research Council—a right-wing organization that prides itself on family values—until last week after news of his crimes went public. TLC quickly pulled episodes from their line-up.

After the story broke, Huckabee wasted no time. “Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family,” he posted to Facebook less than a day after Duggar went public. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.”

Huckabee’s sentiment was echoed by Duggar’s parents and wife, who together released a statement on Facebook on May 21. The word “teen” was used four times and “mistake” was used three. Not long after, fans of 19 Kids and Counting went to the Duggar family Facebook page to voice their support for the admitted sexual abuser. But the statement of support from Huckabee, who has been close with the Duggars since they endorsed and campaigned for his 2008 presidential bid, was the strongest. Sexual abuse may be a crime, yet for a straight, white, Christian man, it seems sympathy has no bounds.

And if you fall outside of these categories, forgiveness only goes so far. From Ferguson to Baltimore to Sanford, Florida, when victims of police violence make headlines, major media scurry to dig up the often petty mistakes of their past. How many times was Trayvon Martin called a “thug”? Before his family could even bury his body, The New York Times declared that Michael Brown was “no angel.” Even 12-year-old Tamir Rice was smeared for having an abusive father. For daring to be black and exist, their names were tarnished by white America, even in death. 

But if as a teenager you molested children, even presidential candidates will give you a pass—at least, if you’re white and male.

And, it seems, even if your crimes include a cover-up. According to the police report, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar knew their son had committed these crimes. They met with church members and sent Duggar off to help a friend remodel homes—their version of counseling. They believed that this was the help their family needed. Who knows what kind of help the victims were offered—stories like these are tragic and my heart aches for the victims, who will hopefully receive any help that they want or need. For Duggar’s part, aside from his career, he’s pretty much off the hook: Arkansas law mandates child sexual abuse charges be filed within three years (Duggar’s crimes were committed in his home state of Arkansas). With charges never filed, Duggar will face no prosecution.

Of course the same is not true for millions of black Americans, who routinely face prosecution, violence, and even death at the hands of police for often minor or nonexistent crimes. Adding to this confused morality, in January, Huckabee criticized Barack and Michelle Obama for letting their teenage daughters listen to pop juggernaut Beyoncé, calling her music mental poison. If you are keeping score, listening to Beyoncé: bad parenting. Sexual abuse: forgivable.

When you’re straight, white, Christian, and male, even horrific crimes can be forgiven. When you’re a black teenager who has been accused of shoplifting, you’re a thug—your life has no value. White privilege is being a sexual abuser and finding more support than a 12-year-old shot by police while playing in a park.

 

By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, May 28, 2015

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Josh Duggar, Mike Huckabee, Sexual Asault | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oops, I Dropped My Coffee is A Mistake”: Josh Duggar Didn’t Make A ‘Mistake’ — He’s Going To Get Away With Sexual Assault

Just before the long weekend, Josh Duggar apologized for having “acted inexcusably” when he was a teenager. Because we have access to recently unearthed police reports and other accounts published by In Touch magazine, we know the connotation of Duggar’s phrasing: He is requesting forgiveness for sexually assaulting multiple young girls.

It is a crime for which Duggar will never be charged; which neither he nor his family will likely ever call by name; and which he’ll get away with committing. He admitted to something — ostensibly, to committing acts of violence against children, against his own sisters — but it doesn’t matter. Duggar might have resigned from his job, but otherwise, the whole situation has been set up to play out in his favor.

Duggar’s parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, are well-known Quiverfull adherents, members of an extremist Christian denomination steeped deeply in the purity movement. As several commentators have already pointed out, that movement grants Duggar and other abusers like him a reprieve from ever being held accountable for their actions; it is a culture that places blame on the victims of sexual abuse, and demands not only mercy for abusers, but protection for them as well.

As Stephanie McNeal points out at BuzzFeed, that’s exactly the sort of response Jim Bob and Michelle have already had to their son’s confession, and could cause irreparable harm to his victims. The language the Duggars have chosen to describe the assaults — that they were merely “mistakes” — undermines the seriousness of the abuse, McNeal writes:

Abuse survivors and experts told BuzzFeed News the Duggars’ description of the abuse as a “mistake” diminishes both the effect on victims and the seriousness of the crime.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a mistake, I would say it’s sexual abuse, something that is such a serious crime,” one survivor of sibling sexual assault, who wished to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News. “You say, oops I dropped my coffee, that’s a mistake.”

[California School of Professional Psychology] Professor [John] Caffaro agreed, telling BuzzFeed News that the incidents described in the allegations against Josh Duggar are “clearly more than a ‘mistake.’”

“[The abuse] potentially signals the presence of individual psychopathology, developmental trauma, and significant family dysfunction,” he said. […]

The family environment can also play a factor in sibling sexual abuse. Research suggests this type of abuse is more common in large families where there are blurred lines between who is a parent and who is a child, Caffaro said.

“Emotionally and/or physically absent parents may empower older siblings to assume parental roles,” he said.

Parents in these types of families are also more prone to dismissing the abuse, he said.

“If sexual behaviors are noticed, they are likely to be minimized and misinterpreted as a normal aspect of childhood development,” Caffaro said.

But as Samantha Field points out on her blog Defeating the Dragons, it is not simply the size of the Duggar family that could allow for the perpetuation of abuse and protection of an abuser, but also a very specific set of teachings that echo the most fundamental, dangerous messages of rape culture (emphasis original):

Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

What’s at stake for victims, Field notes, isn’t forgiveness, but justice. And the chances of finding it can be reduced by the language people choose to describe the crimes they experienced.

“This is why I never use softening, minimizing language,” Field writes. “I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.”

 

By: Jenny Kutner, Assisstant Editor, Salon, May 26, 2015

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Josh Duggar, Sexual Asault, The Duggars | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Josh Duggar And The Purity Lie”: ‘Pure’ And ‘Godly’ Because They Police And Condemn Other People’s Sexual Lives

Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of “reality” TV and the real life conservative movement, has resigned his position as executive director of FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, after In Touch magazine reported that he sexually abused young girls, including, apparently, his sisters, as a teenager.

In a statement to People magazine, Duggar, now 27, said:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. . . . I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.

Ruining his life.

According to the police report, Jim Bob and Michelle, paragons of parenting, hid Josh’s crimes from the police and the public. In Touchreports, based on the police report it obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, that:

Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview [sic] by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.

The police report reveals that Jim Bob Duggar “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on” rather than contacting law enforcement. Josh was then sent to “Christian counseling” for three months, which, according to his mother’s admission, was not any sort of licensed counseling facility:

Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”

In their own statement to People, Jim Bob and Michelle say that “when Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong,” that “each one of our family members drew closer to God,” and that they “pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family.”

But the Duggars and their supporters have very deliberately marketed them as a perfect family—or if not perfect, at least pure, and in particular, sexually pure.

The first episode of their “reality” television show aired in 2008, two years after the police interviewed family members about the sexual assaults that had taken place in 2002 and 2003; the statute of limitations had already run and the police could not pursue charges.

In 2010, the Family Research Council, Josh’s future employer, gave Jim Bob and Michelle the “Pro-Family Entertainment” award, describing the family as “outspoken ambassadors for Christian values in a secular world.”

On their television program in 2009, Josh Duggar was portrayed as devoting himself to a “courtship” with his future wife Anna, rather than dating, which was derided as part of the “divorce culture:”

Tonight, Anna described her husband to People as “someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended.”

This week, a recap of their television show on their blog discussed how Jim Bob and Michelle “encourage their kids to take a chaperone along on all their dates so they have someone to keep them accountable and ensure that they stick to their courtship standards.” In their family, they police sex outside of marriage. In politics they police sex between consenting adults, sex between people of the same sex; they are “pure” and “godly” because they police and condemn other people’s sexual lives. But now the public knows that this family which enforces “purity” has covered up the sexual predations—against children, even their own children— of their star son.

The Duggars haven’t shied away from “protecting” children in other contexts. As Right Wing Watch reports, last year Josh Duggar “led a successful campaign to defeat a LGBT nondiscrimination measure in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which he said jeopardized the safety of children,” and that his mother “also ran a robocall pushing for the repeal of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which she warned would empower ‘child predators’ to threaten ‘the safety and innocence of a child.’”

The Duggars are no ordinary spokespeople for the religious right; they are super-spokespeople. For years, they have been held up as exemplars of biblical living, of devotion to Christ, and of, especially, homespun honest living and sexual purity. It’s long been obvious to many that this is a product of marketing and packaging, not reality. But now no one can pretend anymore.

 

By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, May 21, 2015

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Sexual Asault, The Duggars | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Is It With Some Cops And Girls?”: When Police Officers Are The Sexual Predators

D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department has asked members of the public to call its Youth Investigations Division if they have information on Darrell Best, the 45-year-old police officer accused this week of sexually abusing two teenage girls. Best, who lives in Upper Marlboro, was held without bond after a court hearing Thursday. The MPD, I kindly suggest, may wish to direct the plea for information to officers within its own ranks. Apparently, Best’s worst side may have been displayed well before December, when he allegedly assaulted a then-17-year-old at police headquarters and a 16-year-old who attended his church. Yes, you read correctly, his church.

Best, who has been on administrative leave since his arrest Monday, is also a pastor who preaches at God-A Second Chance Ministry in Southeast.

Officer Best was once Sgt. Best. He held that rank until 2009, according to both a retired and a currently senior MPD official. They say he was demoted following a department Disciplinary Review Board decision sustaining a sexual harassment complaint filed by a 5th District officer. Additionally, in 2007, prosecutors said during Thursday’s hearing, a 20-year-old female cadet reported that Best inappropriately touched and kissed her at the police academy, where Best was assigned at the time.

What is it with some cops and girls?

Last July, another veteran D.C. officer, 46-year-old Wendel Palmer, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl from 2004 to 2006. She sang in the youth choir at the Southeast church where Palmer served as the choir director.

Then there’s Linwood Barnhill Jr. , the 24-year D.C. cop who pleaded guilty last year to forcing underage girls to work as prostitutes out of his Southeast apartment. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

And let’s not forget Marc Washington, the 7th District officer found dead in the Washington Channel from an apparent suicide after he was arrested in a child sex case in 2013. Washington stood accused of taking partially nude pictures of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly while wearing his police uniform and saying he was following police “procedure.”

There isn’t much worse than police officers who use their badges to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable citizens whom they are recruited, trained and sworn to protect.

But the damage they cause extends beyond their immediate victims.

Consider the impact in the community, and particularly on children, when police officers don’t follow the law. Officers who are unfit to wear the badge not only affect the reputation and morale of their fellow department members but also undermine public confidence in the entire force.

That’s a confidence, I might add, that was shaken all the more by the disturbing story last week in The Post about an 11-year-old girl whose reports of being raped in her Northwest neighborhood were met with only “sporadic” police attention and ended with her being charged with filing a false report — despite medical evidence that she was, in fact, ­assaulted.

This part of the story jumped off the page and grabbed me by the throat: “But after Danielle reported the rapes, the police interviewed her in a manner that violated guidelines for handling child sexual assault cases, records and interviews show. They delayed analyzing evidence — and then analyzed only some of it. An officer misled her to get her to contradict her account, and then had her charged with lying, according to police reports. And many officers treated her with extreme skepticism; in one internal e-mail, a lieutenant called her ‘promiscuous’ and the ‘sex’ consensual.

“Yet Danielle was just 11 years old, well under the age of consent, which is 16 in the District.”

Now it pays to keep stories such as these in context. The D.C. police department has about 4,000 members. These bad-news stories shouldn’t trigger charges of widespread corruption. But neither should they simply get dismissed as isolated incidents and no cause for alarm. Sexual violence against adolescent and teenage girls by perpetrators who turn out to be cops is outrageous and intolerable.

Exploitation of an underage girl in, of all places, the police headquarters?

Any officer who would do that deserves a special place in hell. If Best is guilty, that’s where the chief and the city should send him.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 20, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Police Abuse, Sexual Asault | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Advancing An NRA Agenda”: Guns On Campus; Not An Agenda For Women’s Safety

Two years ago, Republican leaders released a post-mortem analysis of the 2012 election in an effort to better understand how they lost the single women’s vote by 36 percent. The 100-page report recommended that GOP lawmakers do a better job listening to female voters, remind them of the party’s “historical role in advancing the women’s rights movement,” and fight against the “so-called War on Women.” Look no further than recent GOP-led efforts to expand gun rights on college campuses under the guise of preventing campus sexual assault for evidence that conservative lawmakers have failed to take their own advice.

Today, lawmakers in at least 14 states are pushing forward measures that would loosen gun regulations on college campuses. In the last few days, a number of them have seized upon the growing public outcry over campus sexual assault to argue that carrying a gun would prevent women from being raped. (So far they’ve been silent on how we might prevent young men – who, of course, would also be allowed to carry a gun – from attempting to rape women in the first place.)

Republican assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Nevada recently told The New York Times: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them? The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.” (Really? Hot little girls?) And as the Times highlighted, Florida representative Dennis Baxley jumped on the “stop campus rape” bandwagon recently when he successfully lobbied for a bill that would allow students to carry loaded, concealed weapons. “If you’ve got a person that’s raped because you wouldn’t let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you’re responsible,” he said.

Let’s be clear. People aren’t raped because they aren’t carrying firearms. They are raped because someone rapes them. What a sinister new twist on victim blaming. As if anything positive could come from adding loaded weapons to the already toxic mix of drugs, alcohol, masculine groupthink, and the rape culture endemic in college sports and Greek life on campuses around the country.

These lawmakers have appropriated the battle cry of students who are demanding more accountability from academic institutions to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault. It’s a vain attempt to advance their own conservative agenda of liberalizing gun laws. This is an NRA agenda, not a women’s rights agenda. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, each of the lawmakers who have supported such legislation has received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). They have enjoyed endorsements from the NRA during election years and some – including Fiore and Baxley – received campaign contributions from the organization.

These lawmakers are pointing to the demands of a handful of women who have survived sexual assault and are advocating for liberalized campus gun laws. The experiences of these students are real and deserve to be heard and considered as we debate how to make campuses safer. We must also recognize that these students are outliers. Surveys have shown that nearly 80 percent of college students say they would not feel safe if guns were allowed on campus, and according to the Times, 86 percent of women said they were opposed to having weapons on campus. And for good reason.

Research shows that guns do not make women safer. In fact, just the opposite is true. Over the past 25 years, guns have accounted for more intimate partner homicides than all other weapons combined. In states that that require a background check for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. And women in the United States are 11 times more likely than women from other high-income countries to be murdered with a gun. Guns on college campuses would only make these statistics worse.

If the GOP wants to show they care about women – or at the very least care about their votes – this is just one of the realities they need to acknowledge. And they need to listen to the experiences of all women who have experienced sexual assault – like those who have created the powerful Know Your IX campaign – not just those who will help advance their NRA-sponsored agenda.

 

By: Andrea Flynn, a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, February 25, 2015

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Guns, Sexual Asault, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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