07 June 2015

Michelle Duggar's transphobia and stranger danger

The latest trending scandal in American popular culture involves the Duggars, the large family behind the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting. This is because the Duggars' eldest son Josh, now 27, was revealed to have molested some of his younger sisters when he was 14. He confessed to his actions to his parents multiple times in 2002, who waited until late 2003 to report Josh's behavior to the police. Before that, the Duggar parents sent Josh to the Basic Life Principles Training Center, a Christian-based clinic, for treatment.

I'm writing not to rehash all the nasty details about the Basic Life Principles Training Center or the police officer who gave Josh a "stern talk" that have been already discussed in depth elsewhere. Rather, the political activism of the Duggar family show an interesting intersection between anti-LGBT discrimination and social science.

What's been revealed about Josh shines a rather hypocritical light on the Duggar family's political advocacy with regards to sex and the law.

As a Republican US Senate candidate in 2002 (who lost in the primary) for the seat that would be won by Democrat Mark Pryor, Jim Bob Duggar (then a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives) ran on a platform that included advocating the death penalty for rape or incest. And you could not make this up: As state representative in Arkansas, Jim Bob Duggar was vice chair of the Corrections and Criminal Law Subcommittee. So Jim Bob is not only a coward but a hypocrite: a man whose "tough on crime" standards expire within his own family. He can't ruin his political or media opportunities, after all!

Jim Bob's wife Michelle also partook in some political activism of her own last year. A resident of neighboring Tontitown, she recorded a robocall for voters in Fayetteville (home of the University of Arkansas), opposing a ballot initiative that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the city's public accommodations. Michelle Duggar stated in her robocall:
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.
Slightly off-topic: Do political robocalls reach cell phone users, not just landlines? In my nearly 9 years having the same cell number, I have never had a political campaign call my cell number, not even leave a voicemail. But I recall plenty of times when my landline (which was disconnected around 2010, 2011 maybe) got political campaign voicemails. The Fayetteville anti-discrimination ordinance was repealed in the ballot box. No doubt in my mind that Michelle Duggar's hateful, frightening robocall reached plenty of older, more conservative voters who voted to repeal, since younger, more socially progressive voters are less likely to even have a landline phone at all (gotta be as likely the case in Fayetteville, Ark. as it is in the San Francisco Bay Area).

Fast forward to today. Michelle Duggar, about a decade after knowing that her daughters were abused by their own older brother, had (and still has) the gall to accuse transgender people of being child molesters? That's so appalling that even Megyn Kelly of Fox News (not exactly an LGBT-friendly TV network) had to ask Michelle Duggar in her "exclusive" with Jim Bob and Michelle: “How could you unfairly… compare transgender people to child molesters, suggest they are child molesters, knowing what you know about Josh?”

The myth that ending transgender discrimination will lead to male child molesters dressing up as women in order to prey on girls is not only bigoted but based on the "stranger danger" myth: "According to numbers provided by the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, the vast majority of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know -- most often a family member, an adult the family trusts or, in some instances, another child." And Michelle Duggar had very evidence of this fact in her own home! (But given her fundamentalist Christianity, she's probably a creationist too, I doubt she's well-informed about the scientific method at all.)  When her daughters were molested, the perpetrator was their own older brother, not the mythological cross-dressing male adult child predator. The anti-transgender "bathroom/locker room argument" uses the same slippery slope logical fallacy as Rick Santorum's infamous "man on child, man on dog" argument against same-sex marriage. (And can you believe there are people in this country who want Santorum as president? Sure, I have issues with Obama, but Santorum as president? I'd rather live in China where political dissent like in my blog is censored, than in America with a homophobic theocrat as president.)

Oh, Josh Duggar himself. Until he resigned after his past molestations were publicized, Josh Duggar was executive director of FRC Action, the political action committee of the Family Research Council. So Duggar - a heterosexual Christian who admittedly molested children - advocated for an organization whose president Tony Perkins has asserted there is "a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia." Which is complete pseudoscientific hokum.

A child abuse investigator in Illinois who blogs as QuadCityPat also has some insights as to what could have happened if Josh Duggar's parents promptly reported their son's behavior to law enforcement:

Jim Bob and Michelle talked about being devastated when they found out.  The did send Josh away for a while, but paid no mind to the trauma their daughters experienced.  If this had been handled properly at the time Josh and his sisters would have been sent to specialized treatment for offenders and victims. 


Since the Duggar's failed all of their children miserably, here's what should be happening now.  If this case was in Illinois, there would be a hotline report on Josh's own children for Risk of Sexual Abuse.  This is taken when an offender has access and it is unknown if he has completed treatment and or an evaluation determining that he is at low or no risk to reoffend.  

...Jim Bob and Michelle still allow Josh to be around his siblings who are still minors, so a report of risk would be taken on  them too.  If Josh sees an evaluator who determines him to be low risk, the reports would be unfounded. If not he would be indicated (founded) as would the elder Duggars and the family would be ordered into counseling.
Thankfully, Americans aren't buying into the junk science peddled by the anti-gay industry's snake oil sellers like Josh Duggar, Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, etc. anymore. Josh Duggar "repented" for being a child molester by working for an organization that tars LGBT's as child molesters. Michelle Duggar took out her grief  by projecting her son's misdeeds on a group of people she tarred as sexual deviants. The Duggars made their fortune selling themselves as an exceptionally large but still Cleaver-like family. But now that their image has been revealed to be the result of a decade-long cover-up, it is time for the Duggars' gravy train to end. The parents put their quest for fame over the welfare of their daughters. If there is a God, TLC would disassociate from these hucksters now.

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