Why Jill & #JessaDuggar were not "speaking for themselves" in their interview with @megynkelly

This is what you need to understand about Megyn Kelly's interview with the Duggar girls: she wasn't speaking with Jill & Jessa themselves; she was speaking with an ideology.

Why? Because context is EVERYTHING. A free woman? Yes, she can speak for herself. But women inside families like the Duggars' are not free. In that environment, everything a woman speaks has been pre-approved and vetted by the men in "authority" over her.

From infancy, they are literally TRAINED to submit themselves to the "headship" and "authority" of men—first their fathers, then their husbands—because submitting to your father/husband is the same as submitting to God.

In this environment, it's impossible to think for yourself, let alone speak for yourself.

So, if you watched Megyn Kelly interview Jill & Jessa Duggar, you were listening to pre-approved talking points. You were listening to a cleverly crafted, Daddy-and-husband-approved message.

How do I know this? Because I had to do the same exact thing.

When I was living inside a fundamentalist group (you can read more about that in my book), I was coached on how to "give an answer" to anyone who asked about our way of life. I was told that whenever I spoke, I was representing The Family or The Church. If I ever spoke "off message," my good standing with God AND my family was in jeopardy. 

My well-being DEPENDED on me staying on message. Thus, I would have told ANY media outlet that I WANTED to be in my church and not to call my abusers ABUSERS. I, too, would have claimed to have forgiven and "moved on."

Most heartbreaking of all? I sincerely believed what I said. It was like religious Stockholm Syndrome. I loved my abusers.

Back to the interview.


Here are the talking points I noticed:

1.) The abuse wasn't abusive but the media talking about it is TOTALLY abusive. 

During the interview, Josh's sexual abuse was NEVER ONCE referred to as sexual abuse. It was repeatedly called "inappropriate touch" and "a mistake." When you can't name the evil, then you can pretend it doesn't exist. And that makes it easy to sweep it under the rug, tell yourself you're OK (hey, it could have been worse!) and "move on." Cleverly, though, the girls still hung onto the "victim" label—not as victims of Josh but as victims of the media. Megyn Kelly picked up this refrain and by the end of her show she was actually suggesting that public discussion of child abuse will PREVENT and DISCOURAGE other people from speaking up. Ugh. So irresponsible. The truth is that by raising awareness about this issue, MORE of us will recognize abusive behavior and SPEAK UP. 

2.) We didn't even know what had happened.

Both girls claimed they didn't "know what had happened." But there's a big difference between NOT KNOWING what had happened and NOT REMEMBERING it. Megyn Kelly *almost* made the distinction, but didn't follow up on it. My guess: Jill & Jessa remember very clearly what happened but because no-one had ever talked to them about sexual assault, they literally didn't KNOW it WAS sexual assault. 

3.) Our parents protected us. SAFEGUARDS!

This is probably the most heartbreaking talking point because it's the one most fraught with fear. In fundamentalism, the worst sin of all is to "bring shame" upon your parents. Speaking up, questioning, casting ANY doubt on your parents is a huge no-no. Even if Jim-Bob and Michelle HAD acted negligently, Jill & Jessa would NEVER say this outloud—and especially not on TV. Remember, they are under intense pressure to preserve the family reputation. I'm not Jim-Bob and Michelle did NOTHING to protect their daughters, but it's pretty clear it wasn't enough because the abuse happened repeatedly. My point, here, is that the context from which Jill & Jessa were speaking absolutely prevented them from even suggesting that their parents could have done more.

Many of you have asked: "Well, what SHOULD the Duggars have done?"

My friend, Mary DeMuth has a beautiful and touching response to this question. Please read her post: WHAT IF? 

THAT is how a Daddy defends and protects his daughter. THAT is what we ALL should do to protect our children.

That is what our precious children deserve.