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Very consistently in the apologies that people like Josh Duggar and Doug Phillips offered the public, there was no mention whatsoever of the victims of their crimes. Duggar refers to “those affected by my actions,” as if he were discussing a game of Monopoly. This is not an accident. The word “victim” is rarely or never used in these circles, except in the phrase “play the victim.” It’s easy to play the victim; actually being one is next to impossible. Victimization, according to this branch of patriarchy, means one party abdicating responsibility in whatever happened. Everyone is a sinner, so in any given sin involving two people, both parties are probably partially at fault. Homeschool guru Bill Gothard’s message to sexual abuse victims suggests they may be partly to blame due to immodest dress or “being out from the protection of our parents.”

Patriarchy apologist Doug Wilson has said similar things publicly on numerous occasions, so it’s no surprise that, when dealing with his and three parallel churches that were somehow dragged into my divorce dynamics several years ago, any protestation of injustice on my part was met with a virtual roll of the eyes. I was being hacked and followed and my home was physically breached, to put it mildly. How and by whom was not completely clear. The churches had many of the details, and were passing judgement based on “data” thereby collected. Yet every time I insisted something weird was up, that this was not OK, I was met with some version of: “That’s not important. You need to focus on your sins. If you bring up anyone else’s, it means you’re passing the buck, being unrepentant and acting bitter. And we just can’t have that.”

Now, in divorce as in many other areas of life, I do think it’s important to be able to self-examine. However, there’s a huge difference between “think about how you affected things” and the strict refusal to say anything but that. It was keenly disappointing to realize that men I had previously thought wise were actually espousing the logic of three-year-olds too belligerent to see beyond their own demands and too short-sighted to understand a view higher than two feet up.

Because there are times when “think about how you affected things” should never, ever be said — molestation being one of them. The victim has likely asked herself (or himself) this a few thousand times and come up with some tantalizing alternate realities, but no real answers. It happened. There is no way to change that. Blaming the victim in any way (and “think about how you affected things” falls into that category) is counterproductive and, frankly, disgusting.

So is claiming victims need to get over stuff, forgive whoever wronged them and slap a smile on their faces. One of the most bizarre occurrences of my post-divorce fiasco was sitting in Jim Wilson’s living room crying and being told this meant I might not be a Christian, because if I were a Christian, I would be “in the joy of the Lord.” I protested: I was scared. I was upset. Jesus wept. But no: apparently, brief sadness (coupled with repentance) should be followed by “joy,” and a few weeks was well beyond the allotted time Christians were allowed to be upset, no matter how many unanswered questions they had about their situation.

This is why I always find the plastered-on smiles of people like the Duggars a bit suspicious, and all the more so when they’ve been hurt. I sincerely doubt the Duggar girls got to process what happened to them in any real way before they were told to forgive, smile and carry on. “The joy of the Lord” at all costs.

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