Saturday, June 6, 2015

Did Duggars Do the Right Thing When Son Confessed to Sex Abuse?

 update - added article by Prof Emily Horowitz

NBC News    [Contrary to what many child abuse advocates claim - calling the police does not automatically protect potential victims - and in addition in many cases not only do the police handle the matter in an insensitive manner - the perpetrator is labeled for life as a deviant when he often is not a danger. In short I agree with the views expressed by Dr. Horowitz cited in the article that there needs to be a middle path between handling the matter by the famiy and having the police label perpetrators as lifetime sex abusers. and focusing on punishment.]

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have defended their decision to delay contacting police when they learned their teenage son Josh had molested young girls — but victims' advocates say they made the wrong move. 

"We must involve the authorities to protect our children," said Stacy Thompson, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. 

Teresa Huizar, executive director of National Children's Alliance, noted that in 18 states, parents and any other citizens are legally required to report abuse to authorities, even if the perpetrator is their child. Arkansas, where the "19 Kids and Counting" family lived, is not one of those states. 

In a Fox News interview on Wednesday night, the couple gave a timeline of how they handled the admission by Josh, now a 27-year-old father of three, that he inappropriately touched four of his sisters and a girl who was not a family member in a series of incidents that began in 2002.[...]

Josh Duggar has never been arrested or charged, and he has publicly apologized. 

Emily Horowitz, a sociology professor at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, said the Duggars' decision to keep law enforcement out of it at first is understandable — even defensible. 

"I don't condone this behavior, but I spoke to so many families that did the 'right thing' and the reaction was so excessive and Draconian that it destroyed the lives of their children," said Horowitz, author of the new book "Protecting Our Kids: How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing."

Horowitz said that juvenile offenders are the most treatable group of sex abusers, but law enforcement is more focused on punishment, including criminal prosecution with possible jail terms and lifetime listing on a sex-offender registry. 

She said Justice Department data shows that one-third of sex offenses involving children also involve underage perpetrators. The most common age, she said, is 14 — the age Josh Duggar was. 

"I'm pro-punishment," Horowitz said. "I'm just not pro-Draconian, permanent punishment."[...]

NY Daily News
In defense of Josh Duggar’s parents: It's no secret why a mother and father would hesitate before reporting a child to police on sex abuse allegations by Prof Emily Horowitz

The case reminded me of Josh Gravens — who, like Josh Duggar, was from a conservative Christian homeschooling family, with parents who turned to their church after learning their 13-year-old inappropriately touched his younger sisters.

In Gravens’ case, the church reported him to police, and he was sent to prison for over three years. Released at 17, Gravens then spent a decade on the public sex-offender registry. Today, at 28, he has never re-offended. Yet he is still required to update police when moving, and is now facing up to 25 years in prison — for registering a new address a week late.

As a researcher trying to understand widespread and exaggerated fears of sex offenders, I have a different perspective than those enraged at the Duggars for not turning to law enforcement or therapists (many counselors are mandated reporters, like the Christian counselor who reported Gravens to police).

While most express disbelief and anger about the response of the Duggars, I understand why they bent over backward to keep their son from being chewed up by the cops and courts.

Our sex-offender laws start with excessive punishment followed by long-term labeling and public shaming. Those convicted of crimes join 800,000 other Americans on lifetime registries.
Sex offenses, it’s crucial to understand, aren’t just predatory acts involving young children. About one-third of child sex abusers are minors. Fewer than 10% involve stranger perpetrators. Sex offenses can include statutory rape, Romeo-and-Juliet scenarios, teenage consensual sex, prostitution-related crimes and indecent exposure. Most sex offenders I interviewed were older men caught with adolescent girls — non-violent, but legally non-consensual.

Yet the registry treats all offenders as permanent threats to young children, regardless of the victim’s age or the perpetrator’s potential for rehabilitation. [...]


  1. What I can't understand: why did they agree to do those reality shows after that happened? There has to be some major cognitive dissonance there...

  2. @freya - it is not clear that what they did was wrong or inappropriate - and it was not illegal.

  3. all this happened before the reality show started.

    As parents who have children who do things like that, I would protect them from large public exposure and therefore not participate in a reality show.

    Furthermore, a big part of the reality show consisted in painting the image of a wholesome,, healthy family, and they knew it was not true. So the whole project way hypocrisy. They should have abstained.

  4. @freya - why aren't they a wholesome healthy family? They had a problem and handled it. Are wholesome healthy families only those that never had problems and serious issues?

  5. Interesting side fact: they consulted / referred this to a neighbor state policeman who lived across the street. Unfortunately, this former neighbor state policeman is now a resident of the state, serving a 56 year term for child pornography.

    Unless they were involved with the pornography, they took good faith steps to handle the matter. Can't hold this against this family / parents.

  6. Actually by law the police report needed to be released because a request was filed for it under the "freedom of information act". And because the police report was not filed until Josh Duggar was 18, he was not someone who fell under "protected minor". All the victims names were redacted .. and one Duggar daughter announced on her own that she was one of the victims after it was circulated in the media.

  7. @Kanter - not clear at all

    The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer on whether Josh’s records were legally obtained. Indeed, under Arkansas’ Code Ann. 9-28-217, a juvenile’s records shall not be released publicly, even under the Freedom of Information Act. However, although Josh was a juvenile when the incidents occurred, he was 18 when the 2006 investigation was conducted.

    As for whether the records should have remained sealed to protect the victims, the rules are not quite as clear. Under the national Freedom of Information Act’s list of exemptions, files should not be disclosed if they “would invade another individual’s personal privacy.” However, Arkansas’ specific FOIA explains in more detail that is limited to issues about medical records, school records, adoption records and more. There is no mention of what rights are provided to minors who are victims. As is standard procedure, their names were redacted — although, unfortunately, there were other details in place that allowed people to assume who four of the victims are.

    Even on an episode of The Kelly File before Jim Bob and Michelle’s interview, experts couldn’t agree on whether the information was legally or illegally released.

    “We sealed the records of juveniles in this country, because we made a policy decision that we’re not going to hold their acts against them, unless a judge says we can release them, or they commit a felony for which they’re charged as an adult,” said Megyn, an attorney. “Neither of which happened here.”

    Arthur Aidala, a Fox News contributor, disagreed, saying, “They made a decision that if everyone’s name was redacted, the defendant and the victims, and that document turned over, you’re just turning over a fact scenario, that nobody, and it would have been in the public interest to turn that over.”

    Speaking on Wednesday, Jim Bob and Michelle said they are meeting with an attorney for guidance on what kind of legal recourse they may take — which may give us a better answer on whether the release of the information was legal or illegal.

  8. "why aren't they a wholesome healthy family?"
    Are you serious? a wholesome healthy incest family?

  9. @feya is there something unique about the atmosphere in Zurich that keeps you from making reasonable comments. You start out fine but then you insist on making extreme comments which don't further the discussion.

  10. The duggars are lying and have spun it the way they wanted to and picked Fox for a reason. They have no justification to take legal action.

  11. @kanter- your obnoxious comment indicates you haven't bothered reading the sources I posted that support the claim that the release was illegal

  12. Here's some info on the subject I gathered from the son of a friend. I can't vouch for all the details, but more or less this is what happened:

    1. While a teenager, he went online to some website and established contact with someone he took to be a teenage girl.

    2. Subsequently, he joined the Air Force.

    3. The person he thought was a girl was actually a man who posed as a girl online. The man had sent my friend's son pictures, the type of pictures that are illegal to possess.

    4. The emails with the pictures went into an inactive email account. In other words, he had an email account he no longer checked, and the email just piled up in there. My friend's son claims he never opened the emails with the pictures.

    5. The police arrested the man who sent the pictures and determined that one of the people who the man sent pictures to was my friend's son.

    6. My friend's son was discharged from the Air Force, and went back to live with his mother. At the house was his old computer.

    7. One night the police raided the house, arrested my friend's son, and confiscated the computer.

    8. My friend's son was transported to another State hundreds of miles away and kept in jail there. He was told he was facing ten years in jail if he was convicted at trial. He was told he would almost certainly lose at trial. He was offered two years in prison if he pled guilty. He pled guilty.

    That was only the beginning of his troubles.

    9. He got out of Federal prison after two years and has to register whenever he moves. Late registering has monumental consequences, as noted in the article above. At one job he took, a customer found out he's on the registry and harassed him, contributing to the loss of the job. Where he lives now, he doesn't take work in the town, but in another town further away, to avoid the possibility of word getting around where he lives that he's on the registry. He doesn't want to get hounded out of town.

    10. My friend's son is now in his thirties. There doesn't seem to be any way to end his difficulties stemming from his "crime".

  13. A lot of people don't know that the Recidivism rate for Juvenile sex offenders following treatment is actually very low-compared to Adult offenders. A lot also depends on the severity of the "offense". Are we talking about inappropriate touch, or full on Incest for example.

    This is why in NYC, for example, Juvenile sexual offenses are actually handled in family court. Very frequently in the case of Juvenile offenders, the victims are family members. The environment is often sited as a causal factor such as intense overcrowding-something likely to have been present in this family.

    If a case is handled insensitively as this was, it is liable to harm the Victims, perhaps as much if not more then the actual offense.

  14. No sir, my comment to you was not "obnoxious" but simply, fact. (your reply to me, however, is another matter). The first site in which you quoted me a law is a site called "" ... it is a site for pop culture and entertainment enthusiasts and includes the disclaimer "

    Posts on contain facts, rumors, speculation,
    assumptions, and opinions. We cannot attest for the validity of any
    information on the site.

    While the law in and of itself exists, it is not a law that can be applied to this particular case .. Even starcasm has included an update to quote Attorney Cate on the matter. The second site you posted is Fox owned .. and being that the Duggers chose the conservative Fox and only Fox to use as a platform, Fox can no longer be considered impartial.

    The bottom line is that the Attorney - Cate is the one with the authority to put any doubt to rest. The law is that the age of concern would be the age at which the perpetrator was when the report was filed, not when he committed the act. Josh was over 18 .. that is actually on the Duggars themselves who chose to wait on reporting to authorities. (and going to an off duty neighbor across the street to get advice, was not a reporting either). As far as the victims .. 1. Although it was obvious from the report that some of his victims were sisters, the fact remains their names were redacted and until they shared they were victims, no one would be able to assume exactly which were. Only two have stepped forward at this point, both married (maybe the other two are remaining quiet to preserve their "shidduch" prospects). 2. It is just an unfortunate byproduct of FAMILY abuse, that one will be more able to assume whom the victims are, that can not be helped when all other laws of report were followed.

  15. @Kanter - I stand by my statements on the matter. It is not a clear cut legal issue and perhaps more important - if you read Dr. Emily Horowitz - the way this case has been handled is not a benefit to society or the victims

  16. @Kanter my reference to your obnoxious comment was referring to calling the Duggars liars - when you presented no evidence for that slanderous comment.

    At most you could claim that they had a mistaken understanding of the law.

    If you want to drop and atom bomb as an opener - don't be surprised if I object or even delete your comments.

    In fact all you had to say you disagreed with their legal position and that you thought they were wrong. Doing otherwise is obnoxious.

  17. 1. A mature person does not refer to someone's comment as "obnoxious" because they did not bring support to their claim .. A mature person would simply ask that person to please support their claim.
    2. Even if I were to assume that the Duggers were unfamiliar with the law, Fox news and megan Kelly as professional researchers knew full well not only what the law was, but also knew the documents were released legally.
    3. The duggars did not STOP at claiming the documents were released illegally, they further "lied" and stated that the Springdale Police chief had an agenda and possibly took a bribe. He knew this had no credibility because a second report was released under FOIA by the Washington County Sherrif's office, which has nothing to do with the Springdale police Chief
    4. I did not just call the Diggars a liar, over this one topic. The Duggars have been caught in either lies, or whitewashing or hypocrisy over the course of their years on television.

    Since it was In touch weekly that originally released the documents - you can see from their direct site where the Duggars lied, whitewashed and lied by omission.

    In general, I was not at all conversing over whether or not the approach to taking a 14 year old to jail and labeling him a pedophile is or is not a productive approach. I had no opinion on that matter and was only touching on the very specific issue regarding the release of the report and the contradiction between what the Duggars claim and what the documents and authorities involve claim.


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