So my day job consists of managing a magazine about translation and cultural differences, including editing a host of articles written by people whose first language is not English. In these instances, it is very helpful to know how language works — the way French deals with certain idiomatic expressions that would not make sense translated literally, for example.
Over my years of editing, I also got pretty good at reading between the lines of a certain kind of person who was allergic to being wrong or to admitting to wrongdoing in writing — namely, lawyers. I edited my ex-husband’s legal briefs and memos, and I also dealt with the way he argued with me. His claim was, typically, that nothing existed unless it was written down. Because of this, he would insinuate things in writing but not state them explicitly — because that would get him in trouble.
My ex-husband received his education in debate from Doug Wilson, personally. And I’m strongly reminded of his style of discourse when I look over the things Doug has been writing. Although, credit where credit is due — my ex-husband, unlike Doug, would occasionally break down and admit he was wrong about something.
Doug’s letters to Natalie’s dad and to an investigating officer in the case of Natalie’s sexual abuse by Jamin Wight do just that: insinuate the opposite of what they’re explicitly stating. For example, in his letter to the investigating officer, he notes that Jamin has committed a crime, but he also claims that Jamin “is not a sexual predator” and, moreover, the only wrongdoing Doug mentions explicitly (aside from Jamin not living up to his duties as seminary student) is what Doug claims the parents did. In his letter to Natalie’s dad, he frames “protection” as the “protection” of not taking the case to trial — without ever explicitly saying so. And if you ask any number of the people who have interacted with Doug over matters of church concern, and subsequently left, the letters Doug wrote them were similar: unspecific, vaguely threatening and full of double-speak. There is a cloud of witnesses on this issue, and Doug’s still insisting they’ve all got it wrong, that they’re persecuting him with a pack of lies.
The thing is, I bet even his staunchest supporters would agree with me if they could shift their assumptions even a little bit. I encourage you who are, go back and re-read Doug’s communications imagining that Doug is someone else, from somewhere else other than your own culture — a Catholic priest or a Muslim cleric, for example.
However, Doug has been getting sloppy lately with his discourse and is actually going on record with things that are easily provable as false. What Doug has asserted in writing recently: that “it [the Jamin Wight/Natalie case] was a foolish parent-approved relationship, which led to statutory rape, as was shown in court.”
This is actually a lie, and here’s the proof, in writing. The court case did not show this; in fact, the court records stated that it was legally impossible to argue “consent” (by the victims or her parents) in this case given the age of the victim, and the “consent” of the parents never came into the court case either way — other than in what Doug himself wrote, and this notation by the court. So I find it ironic that Doug started this particular twitter conversation with a quote about truth. Here’s a link to the actual court documents, and if you are more up on courtspeak than Wilson appears to be, you’ll notice that the case ends in a plea deal where Wight pleads guilty — the case never even went to trial, so “the court,” by definition, never “showed” anything. Which Doug should know, since he sat in an adjacent room during the moderation.
Moreover, just because parents approve a courtship, that doesn’t mean courtship “leads” to statutory rape. Or is Doug actually arguing that it does? Is Doug actually arguing that two parents allowing one of his seminary students to be interested in someone — hold her hand, smile at her — “leads” to the kinds of grotesque things that Natalie describes on her blog, the kinds of things so vile that I don’t even want to think about them? If so, Doug should burn all the stuff on courtship he’s ever written. Because he can’t have it both ways. He can’t encourage parents to board his seminary students and college students, and encourage early marriage in his congregation, and encourage chaste getting to know one another under the eye of the parents, and then claim the parents were negligent because they followed his advice.
And for all of Doug’s recent private assertions to Natalie that she was so tall and mature and pretty at age 14 (you know, the really important things when looking at a sex abuse case), Natalie herself has said that her sex education consisted of her reading the dictionary at age 13. The rest of it, she said, she found out six months later when Jamin started abusing her. And this lack of sex education for females is entirely consistent with what the CREC teaches.
I’m not sure what tenuous “proof” Doug is holding on to in order to claim that there was a “secret courtship.” I don’t think he actually has any, other than his own faulty memory of something Natalie’s parents told him ten years ago, and which Jamin Wight spun to his own advantage. But I do know that when I shared his letter to the officer with Natalie (who had never seen it before), she was genuinely confused and horrified, as no such courtship had existed. Her reaction was not the reaction of someone who’d been holding back knowledge of some “secret courtship,” and as she pointed out, she would be the one to know, not Doug Wilson. Her family would be the ones to know, not Doug Wilson. You know, the family that nearly all left Christ Church after Natalie was treated so badly by the church in the wake of her abuse.
Doug has been using the “proof” he claimed he had as a threat to shut Natalie up, and actually wrote her a letter in which he the first thing he asks is “Did your mom hurt you or wrong you in some way that makes you want to get back at her like this? Is there something we don’t know? Are you aware that my central reason for not talking publicly about all this has been to protect your mom from accusations of parental negligence?” Translation: if you don’t stop talking about this, I’m going to have to try to vilify your mother publicly, even though, legally speaking, she had nothing to do with the case. So stop talking!
It’s important to note that, up until this point in time, Doug has been fighting tooth and nail to explain away why he felt the need to severely minimize Jamin’s crimes. And it’s relevant that Jamin, like Natalie has been telling anyone who would listen for the past ten years, was a violent, manipulative person, who, according to public court records, went on to throttle his now-ex-wife while she was holding their child.
But to Doug, everything Natalie is saying about Jamin is still untrue, because Natalie was tall at age 14, and because Doug has convinced himself that Natalie’s parents let Jamin show her affection. Doug wrote to Natalie a few days ago and told her, “what [Jamin] had done was very different from subsequent reconstructions that [you have] been periodically posting.” No hint of what, exactly, Natalie was supposedly lying about, except the “consent” thing — and Doug has claimed to Natalie repeatedly, that at least in a certain sense, she had consented to the “relationship” with Jamin.
Another thing Doug shared with Natalie a few days ago: “Though Jamin has been in possession of this entire set of facts through various Internet dust-ups (demonstrable facts which enabled him to show that his crimes did not include pedophilia), he has shown more respect for the feelings of others than have all the so-called ‘victim advocates’ in all our comment threads put together.” Translation: Jamin might have been a rapist and a wife-abuser, but at least he kept his mouth shut when I told him to, and that’s what really matters.
Now, Doug has recently indicated privately to Natalie that he was sorry about one thing — not finding a way around Natalie’s Dad to meet with her during the aftermath of her abuse (translation: it’s your Dad’s fault that you didn’t get the care from the church that you needed). But, in fact, he did meet with her then against her father’s wishes, and it was not an experience that resulted in anything but her feeling shamed and blamed for the abuse. Additionally, she was prodded for information about her father, as were other members of her family. Someone else recorded the conversation he had with Doug about this very thing:
Me: . . . did you meet with this girl alone in a room?
Wilson: Yes, for 15 minutes.
Me: So [Natalie’s father] gave you permission to meet with his little girl?
Wilson: Well, ah, no.
Me: Oh, I see.
Wilson: He did give me permission to counsel his family.
Me: Did he give you permission to interrogate his little girl?
Wilson: I did not interrogate; I met with her only to offer her encouragement during this hard time.
Me: Did you ask her if her father had made reference to Christ Church [Wilson’s congregation] as a “cult”?
Wilson: Yes, I did.
So there you have it — in Wilson’s accounts he gives of his actions versus what history actually shows, you have more posing, more wrangling, and no actual acknowledgement of cause and effect.
So what would the “internet mob,” as Doug is so charitably calling the people who want to see reform in the way the CREC handles abuse, like Doug to do in this instance?
First: we’d like to see him publicly retract his false statements that e.g. “it [the Jamin Wight/Natalie case] was a foolish parent-approved relationship, which led to statutory rape, as was shown in court.” And we mean actually retract — not pretend like those words mean something other than what they so clearly mean. Or that we all just misunderstand him.
Second, we’d like to see him demand that abusers pay restitution to their victims — all their victims, not just the ones they plea-bargain out for — in the form of, at the bare minimum, an acknowledgement that they abused the victims and that this will have lasting psychological consequences that will probably need professional psychological help. The more public the abuse, the more publicly it got hastened away into the shadows, the more public the restitution should be. In this case, Wilson himself is one of the abusers, since he used his power to silence the victim and insinuate, both privately and publicly, that she was lying, that her parents were to blame for her abuse, and that publicly calling for change within his denomination was an act of treason or war. Because Wilson said all this publicly, he should make his restitution public. He should make his retractions public.
But I would probably have a heart attack if Doug Wilson did either of these things. What we will likely see, instead, is what we’ve seen all along: more of the carefully-worded “my bad behavior was someone else’s fault,” more revising of clear historical statements in the vein of “see, when I said that Jamin was not a sexual predator, I actually meant that he was sexual predator — and it’s your fault if you couldn’t tell what I really meant,” or “I sneezed in Natalie’s direction once, and she didn’t take this as a sincere apology, so what are you going to do?”