Gee whiz! Was it just last November that I was talking about Lena Duhnam’s inappropriate sexual behavior with her sister? And here we are again!
It’s been revealed that Josh Duggar, the firstborn child from the TV show 19 Kids And Counting, sexually molested his sisters when he was 14. He too, engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, but it was with with five younger girls instead of one.
I talked to my colleague and sexual abuse expert, Kim Estes with Savvy Parents Safe Kids about Josh. She said he is a “opportunist molester” which means what it sounds like: he has the opportunity, he molests. Kim says that because he molested multiple girls, multiple time, his behavior is definitely sexually abusive.
According to Kim, people who sexually abuse generally do not “recover.” Much like recovered alcoholics, they can learn to manage their problem with the proper support, but it’s always there. Whatever “praying the molester away” sort of “treatment” Josh received could not possibly provide the tools he needs to control his behavior. In her mind, he’s still a risk to young girls.
When I asked her about the girls he abused, who don’t appear to be particularly traumatized by these events, she said, “The girls are still very young and because their parents, church and culture probably told them ‘boys sometimes do these things because they can’t help it and he made a mistake and was really sorry’ they minimized his behavior. She also most likely told the girls that they are just fine, and it’s not a big deal.”
Because the parents and other adults did not treat this with the seriousness it requires, these poor girls may suffer life-long problems related to their molestation. Brushing this under the rug only serves to support the molester and the “picture perfect” life the Duggar’s pretend to lead.
Back to who’s the worst offender, Lena or Josh. I think it’s probably clear who wins that title but I thought it would be a great teachable moment to compare Lena and Josh’s situations, so you can learn a thing or two about sexual
Here’s what’s similar:
– They were older, bigger, smarter and more powerful than their sisters.
– The behavior was non-consensual, meaning the girls did not agree to it.
Here’s what’s not:
1. Josh was a 14 year-old adolescent; Lena was a 7 year-old girl.
2. Josh was in puberty and feeling full-on sexual feelings; Lena was not in puberty, therefore she had no hormonal powerhouse encouraging her behavior.
3. Josh repeated sexual behavior with multiple girls; Lena did not.
4. Josh knew what he was doing was wrong; Lena did not.
5. Josh was secretive about his behavior; Lena was playful and open about her behavior.
6. Josh grew up in a sexually repressive culture; Lena did not (I am assuming this because she knew the word vagina at 7).
You might be a little hung up on Lena’s taking advantage of her sister, but you need to know (actually if everyone knew this, the world would be a better place) that it is within the range of developmentally typical behavior for kids to do what she did. It happens all the time and all over the planet.
One of the main ways young children learn about sexuality and bodies is through their natural curiosity and play. While Lena’s behaviors pushed those boundaries, and were not okay or safe for her sister, they are not outside of the range of typical for a seven year old girl. This sort of sexual or body exploration can become problematic and because of this, should always be stopped. Sex and sexual touching isn’t for kids, right?
These days, the main way 14 year-old boys learn about sexuality and bodies is through the damned internet. Or, ideally, they learn about this when they have access to another human through consensual, same-age (2 +/- years) experimentation with kissing, fondling, touching and actual vaginal or oral sex.
Lena did not sexually abuse her sister. Her behavior wasn’t okay and should have been stopped, but compared to Josh, it was small potatoes.
Josh sexually molested and abused these girls. The good news is he told his parents what happened, which tells me he knew he needed help. I would feel better about him if he’d had the correct kind of therapy that would be more certain to help him but he did not. It’s never too late, however, and perhaps he will seek out some support as he goes through the media wringer.
My heart goes out to the girls Josh molested. Their families, church, and law enforcement clearly failed them. Perhaps all this attention will allow them to get the help they really need: counseling with a skilled and knowledgeable therapist.
For more information about sexual behavior in children, child sexual abuse and red flags in adults and kids, check out www.stopitnow.org.