When “Family Values” Means Covering for Child Sexual Assault

Matt Walsh (l) with Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar (r).

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 26, 2015.

In March 2002, Jim Bob Duggar found out that his fourteen-year-old son, Josh, was sexually molesting prepubescent girls. Jim Bob did not say anything about this to the authorities until July 2003, even as it continued to happen and the list of victims grew. And in the wake of these revelations, I have been absolutely horrified by the number of people who have said they would not have immediately reported their fourteen-year-old son for molesting prepubescent girls either.

I have a six-year-old daughter. The number of people who have said they wouldn’t report their teenage son for molesting girls either makes me worried for my own daughter. I look around at families with teenage sons and I wonder. If that boy molested children, would his parents turn him in, or would they cover for him? Whose safety and wellbeing would they prioritize—their son’s, or my daughter’s?

Here is Matt Walsh’s answer:

3) I know I’m opening myself up to serious criticism here, but let me be honest with you: If my own son, God forbid, came to me and admitted to doing what Josh Duggar did, I don’t know that I’d immediately run to the cops.

Would you? Is it really that simple? The decision to have your child arrested as a sex offender would be an automatic thing for you? Really?

I guess I’m just a horrible person then.

. . .

As a parent, you have to think whether your 14 year old son deserves to have his life ruined over his mistakes. Maybe you’d decide that he does. I can’t say I’d agree.

Mistakes?! That’s what we’re calling sexually assaulting a child now?!

Do you see what I mean about prioritizing the wellbeing of the abuser over that of his current and future victims? Walsh says a fourteen-year-old child molester doesn’t deserve “to have his life ruined over his mistakes,” because apparently ensuring that he is punished for his abuse and prevented from abusing in the future is just too much to ask for.

Did I mention that I have a six-year-old daughter?

I suspect Walsh would say that his hypothetical son’s abuse would be punished and future abuse prevented, it’s just that this would be carried out by him as father rather than by the authorities. But we have authorities and a process for dealing with child sexual abuse for a reason. Parents frequently make excuses for their own children, as we see Walsh doing in his hypothetical. Parents are less likely to play hardball and more likely to believe justifications or excuses.

I’m sure Jim Bob felt he appropriately punished Josh in March 2002, when he first learned of Josh’s behavior, but for a full year after that Josh went on to victimize more girls. Had Jim Bob immediately taken the matter to the authorities and sought professional help for his son, this might have been prevented.

I’m honestly not sure how it’s not painfully obvious that parents should not be the ones handling punishment and prevention if their child sexually assaults another child. It is very common for someone who has molested one child to molest other children. Josh Duggar, for his part, molested five girls from two different families. Parents should not be the ones dealing with this. We have authorities and professionals for a reason!

Well sure, Walsh would say, but what if you had a teenage son and found out he’d sexually fondled a young girl? Would you turn him in, and ruin his life? Yes I absolutely would, but I reject the framing of the question. Turning someone in for child sexual assault helps ensure that they will get help, that they will get treatment, and (hopefully) that they will turn their lives around and not victimize more children. And yes, I do have a son. He’s not fourteen yet, but he will be someday.

Turning someone in for child sexual assault can only be framed as “ruining their life” if you remove their victims, present and future, from the picture entirely. Does life as a registered sex offender truly weigh more on the scale than the life of a sexually abused child whose abuser walks the street with no record or legal consequences for his actions?

My daughter’s school does background checks not only for teachers and school staff but also for volunteers and chaperones. An increasing number of churches do background checks for their childcare workers and Sunday school teachers as well. The goal is to protect children by ensuring that they will not be placed in the care of someone with a history of molesting children. Denying child sex offenders this sort of access also helps ensure that they will not reoffend. If Josh Duggar wanted to volunteer at my daughter’s school, or work in the religious education program at our church, he would be permitted to do so, because a background check wouldn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary, even though he sexually molested five girls, some as young as five years old.

Background checks only do what they’re supposed to do if people report child sexual abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is.

Mostly, right now, I want Matt Walsh and all of the other conservatives saying that they, too, would not have reported their son to get off the moral high horse they ride so often when it comes to religion and family. How can they proclaim “family values” from the rooftops and yet openly state that they would cover for their fourteen-year-old son if they found out he was sexually assaulting children?

Matt Walsh is on record arguing that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, because of the potential harm to children, and that transgender women shouldn’t be allowed to use the women’s bathroom because of concerns about women’s safety. But when it comes to the potential harm to children and threat to children’s safety posed by unreported child sexual abuse, suddenly what matters is protecting the abuser? For all Walsh’s claims of “progressive hypocrisy,” he really needs to look in mirror.


  • Matthew,

    Your “showing love” seems perversely selective.

    First you have pity on Josh by saying: “If you show someone love, then maybe they turn their life around”

    Then you dispose of the girls to a world of hate and despair: “I expect those girls have a 50/50 chance of becoming porn stars or strippers.”

    What is it about Josh that makes him more deserving of love, forgiveness, and rehabilitation than the victims?

    How is it you can speak the phrase “sexual abuse” and not understand that abuse is bad?

    If you are looking to the Bible for guidance in life, you first need to know how to read, use language and understand that the world does not revolve around your biases.

    • Comments by Matthew Chiglinsky have been removed for violating our comment policy.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      First you have pity on Josh by saying: “If you show someone love, then maybe they turn their life around”

      Then you dispose of the girls to a world of hate and despair: “I expect those girls have a 50/50 chance of becoming porn stars or strippers.”

      What is it about Josh that makes him more deserving of love, forgiveness, and rehabilitation than the victims?

      Josh is MALE.
      His victims are FEMALE.
      Do I need to say more?

  • Fundamentalist family values means ignoring the government and covering up things like sexual assault when Christians do it and then forcing their morality on everyone else and wanting to jail non-Christians for consensual crimes like porn or marijuana. There’s a huge inconsistency.

    The idea that the sex criminal has an interest above that of the victims not to be abused in Christianity is one reason I’ve rejected the church and will never be back. The police are love from the perspective of an innocent child who has been sexually abused.

    The idea that practically speaking the continued sexual abuse of a small child doesn’t matter because they are already damaged from the first incident is one of the most morally repulsive things I’ve ever heard.

    Luckily in a secular democracy our freedom of speech prevails and ideas this crazy can really only be spread by giving birth to the adherents. Where the sane among us can simply share our ideas of consent and find almost everyone agrees and fundamentalists must literally give birth to each person they expect to accept this garbage. It’s a lot more work and really will never scale the way they hope it will.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Luckily in a secular democracy our freedom of speech prevails and ideas this crazy can really only be spread by giving birth to the adherents.

      That’s the reason for Quiverfull.
      Outbreed the Heathen and take over by numbers.

  • So, since I was the victim of a teen sex abuser, I should feel less molested because they were a teen? No. I don’t think so.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Overheard this morning on a bus from the Metrolink station:

    “Bla bla bla DUGGARS bla bla They’re CHRISTIAN bla bla Guess its okay to bang your sisters as long as you’re not GAY…”

  • “As a parent, you have to think whether your 14 year old son deserves to have his life ruined over his mistakes.”

    Completely forgetting to mention that those mistakes have just ruined multiple other people’s lives.

  • People who are concerned about women’s safety should be concerned about the transwomen who are afraid they’ll get yelled at or assaulted just for using the bathroom. Especially the ones who are also kids, and who are thus more likely to have those things happen to them.

    The first time I used the restroom matching my gender, I was shaking with fear the whole time, which is not what you want to be doing while using the restroom. It felt like I was being smuggled out of Soviet Russia, and any minute now the KGB were going to haul me away.

    Anyway, I really like how raping a child is just an understandable mistake, to them, when you’re someone they like and can sympathize with. But if your voice or appearance makes them uncomfortable, you aren’t even allowed to use the freaking toilet because won’t somebody think of the children!!!

  • Here is, perhaps, one of their motives for not talking: It is illegal in Arkansas to home school if you have a registered sexual offender in the home:

    Had they reported Josh, they would have had to either send him away, or send the other children to school.

  • Pingback: Josh Duggar Checks Into Treatment Center After Porn Star Details “Very Traumatic” and “Terrifying” Sexual Encounter | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  • Imagine attending a church where one main Quiverfull family makes up a large part of the congregation. People prioritizing their families over the needs of the rest of the congregation can be downright creepy. All for the sake of deifying blood relatives in order to maintain “family values”. It makes you wonder if this is at the heart of every instance of sexual abuse that takes place within churches.

  • Be careful making this a conservative Christian vs progressive (or liberal) Christian argument. My family who is split between conservatives and liberals are covering up sexual abuse that happened to me when I was a teenager. 17 years later and my family is using manipulation, threats and now shunning me from the family. These are Progressive Christians who out of one corner of their mouth proclaim to love the poor, hurting and weak, but when their hearts were truly tested, they have thrown me under the bus in favor of protecting the abuser. I am causing the family “harm” now by speaking up (and refusing to shut up).

    So this is not a conservative vs liberal issue. This is a sin issue. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

    You do a great disservice in trying to blame conservatives. Do you think sexual abuse only happens in conservative homes?

    • i am very sorry for all that you went through.

      no one is trying to say that only conservatives do these things, rather it is trying to say to beware of these values. that too often, they are hiding abuse.

  • Currently I am fighting 3 families and two cults who covered up both my husband’s abuse to me and my kids. I want to know why a good mom and wife had to be beaten and harassed threatened and more to get my innocent kids to the hands of the abusers and why the agencies supposed to help don’t help!!!

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