[Before you attack me too, please realize that this isn’t about the “case”—it’s about our response.]

UPDATE: Aug. 28, 2016

With the release of Ashley Madison’s hacked data, sickening evidence that Josh Duggar used the site to cheat on his wife has come to light. Now that we know that his youthful mistakes (crimes) have extended beyond whatever counseling he received and into his adult years, there is no more room for the “maybes” I asked for in this article posted in May. “Maybes” must surrender to evidence–every time.
My greatest disappointment is that Josh’s failures will perpetuate the belief that a person who is sexually deviant as a youth is incapable of healing and lasting change. When we lose that kind of hope (which must be grounded in fact), we condemn every 6-, 10- and 14-year old caught sexually harming someone to being a lifelong sexual felon, incapable of healing and doomed to keep molesting and raping victims.
Don’t get me wrong–outrage over crimes like Josh’s is warranted and honorable. But declaring all children and teens to be beyond repair once they’ve been confronted with their crime flies in the face of a possible redemption which can be achieved. Josh Duggar, sadly, makes that point all the harder to support.


I am the survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I know the terror and brokenness, the years-long healing and life-long remembering.

And I call for maybes.

I am sickened by the thought that predators roam among us, their eyes breaching innocence while their minds search for inroads.

I crave justice for the perpetrators.
I pray safety for the victims.

I’m not afraid to speak up and indict when my information is first-hand and my perspective is unmuddied.

There are no “buts” that make sexual abuse okay.
No excuses.
The pain is too deep to be explained away.

So I read what happened to the Duggar victims and I feel my scars stretch taut with compassion.
Stretch angry with disgust.

Yet even as my outrage mounts, a call for “maybes” rises too.
Not “buts” that would dismiss the perpetrator’s guilt.


“Maybes” that move the conversation from reactionary rants to redemptive responses.

There should bemaybes” before assumption-based bloodletting.

There must bemaybes” before calls for public lynching.

I am the survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I know the terror and brokenness, the years-long healing and life-long remembering.

And I call for maybes.

I call for “maybes” from intelligent observers.
I call for “maybes” from the scandal-thirsty media.
I call for “maybes” from knee-jerk influencers—yes, you, Jen Hatmaker—whose followers imbue your every word with inherent authority.
I call for “maybes” from the bloodhounds who have worn a morbid path dragging their targets to the gallows.

Preferably Christians—they’re great at falls from grace
And seldom stick the landing.

I call for “maybes” from incensed survivors who, like me, feel gut-sick and heart-stricken to see others emotionally dismembered and sexually dismantled every day.   Every.   Day.

There must be “maybes” before our calls for public execution make more victims.

But the “maybes” are uncomfortable.
The “maybes” feel like excuses.
The “maybes” lack outrage.
(And outrage feels good.)

The “maybes” require that we hush our indignation
long enough to admit how little we know.

How truly fact-poor we are.

Josh Duggar abused his sisters and another girl.

There is no questioning or excusing that reality.

The “maybes” are about our response, not his crime.

They’re about our (often gleeful) hatred.

Maybe our speculation about the hearts of those involved is skewed by our biases. (And maybe there was deliberate negligence.)
Maybe our assumptions about closed-door discussions are based on pre-judgments. (And maybe there was a coordinated cover-up.)
Maybe our conjecture about a 14-year old’s awareness of his wrongness is predicated on our adult understanding of abuse. (And maybe he did knowingly commit the crime.)
Maybe we don’t know what the victim’s begged for from their parents.
Maybe those who offered counsel understood the family well enough to know the measures they suggested would be healing and restorative.

Maybe what we call cover-up was parents, devastated by the crime of their son on their daughters, doing what they thought was best in that life-crushing moment.

Maybe there was negligence.
Maybe there was concealment.
Maybe the reality was too horrendous for anyone to think clearly and respond wisely.

We simply don’t know.

Here’s something else we just don’t know:

Maybe that 14-year old never abused anyone again.

Maybe the family reknit itself when the brother came home.

Maybe the victims learned to love him in a different, cautious way.

Maybe he grew into a respectable man whose remorse shaped his healing.

Maybe he became a good husband and a good father.

Maybe he was renewed, restored and redeemed.

            (Maybe we still believe God can do that?)

Maybe the media-wide obsession with pummeling the Duggars and now specifically their son—without sufficient knowledge of the criminal, the victims, the family’s dynamics, the parents’ heart and the aftermath of the revelation—is revictimizing the victims.

Maybe the whole family was victimized then
and is being victimized again.

Maybe they did things in their grief and horror that we consider irresponsible, negligent or illegal.

And maybe we don’t know enough to hate them all so viciously.

There is so much

Maybe wisdom is leaving the accusations and sentencing to those who actually do know.
Maybe intelligence is deploring the abuse, standing with the harmed, and caring for the victims we have in our own lives.

Maybe moving society forward is doing what we can to increase awareness, engage in helpful discourse and foster healing in those situations where we know the people and the facts, without the self-satisfying hysteria that serves no higher purpose.

I am the survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I know the terror and brokenness, the years-long healing and life-long remembering.

And I call for maybes.


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  1. I am SO glad to read this about the Duggars. On our 30+ years of pastoring, this is probably one of the highest ranked things that we deal with, no matter the age of the person. We have seen the devastation abuse leaves behind, and tried to help pick up the pieces and live a full life with God’s help. I was sickened when I read about Josh, yet the way the media and those who are always looking for a way to bash Christians attacked the story, I was sickened even more! One thing that I have learned over the years is that MOST people NEVER know the real story and in something so crucial, should keep their mouths shut and just love and support those going through it. Sometimes the guilty go free, sometimes the victims are brave enough to put them in jail. Other times, innocent lives are shattered by false accusations and prison time. We have seen it happen both ways. I love the 2 lines you wrote, “Maybe he was renewed, restored and redeemed. (Maybe we still believe God can do that?)” Thank you for writing this. I am so sorry that you had to go through such horrors – I see in you living proof that God has restored you!

  2. I have watched the ’19 Kids and Counting’ for some time, with fascination, because having raised seven, I cannot imagine how hard it would be to raise 19 children.
    I have watched how carefully these parents have nurtured and are nurturing their family and I marvel at their wisdom in various situations. Now one boy has ‘a past’ and everyone suddenly decides to become a self appointed judge and jury. I think of Christ who said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,’ or, ‘Neither do I condemn thee,’ and I cannot help but think, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’
    Yes, this boy did wrong, but he is honest enough to own up to it. The situation was dealt with in as redemptive a way as possible by the best wisdom a hurting father could employ. Christian parents, in particular, should be thanking God that their sons are not being attacked as is the Dugger boy. Christ taught forgiveness, redemption and acceptance, despite our sins. His was a ministry of restoration, while in this situation, people who are so righteously indignant will insist that God is love, yet show absolutely no love to a family reeling from society’s blows. Who of us has the perfection to cast the first stone? I’d like to meet that unique individual!

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