I’ve been trying to write a blog post since Thursday, but writing about good and beautiful things became impossible for me after the Duggar sexual abuse story came to light.
As longtime readers will know, I was in the same religious cult as the Duggars from age 15-25. I experienced firsthand the systematic brainwashing, abuse, and cruelty that crushed spirits, obliterated personalities, violated bodies, and left many of us traumatized with deep fear, shame, guilt, and grief.
Thankfully I was able to get away from that and start over. I found a safe home in Australia with people who love and support me unreservedly, an amazing husband, counselor, and dear friends who have helped me emerge from that darkness into a world of courage, freedom, peace, and love.
But when the Duggar story came out, it not only sparked anger and grief over Josh’s abuse of his sisters and others, it set off a series of triggers that brought a flurry of flashbacks to the darkest moments of my life when I was stalked, groped, abused, and betrayed. My body reacted as if those things were happening now instead of years ago, crumpling in fear, insecurity, and shame. Instead of writing about pumpkin harvesting adventures with Bear, I had to pull in close the walls of my world and remind myself that I am safe now, loved now, free now. I had to breathe through anger, frustration, grief, and loss, letting myself feel whatever I needed to feel without judgment or condemnation or shame, until I could find my bearings again.
I was not alone. Many of my fellow survivors were blindsided by these revelations. Not because we were surprised. We weren’t. The twisted teachings and isolationism practiced by this Cult virtually ensure abuse of all kinds have and will take place. So no, we weren’t surprised, but we were gutted. I think we all keep hoping that one day these stories will stop. That the Doug Phillips, Bill Gothards, and Josh Duggars of this world will no longer be able to harm those around them. That the sick teachings they embrace and promote will be exposed for the lies they are, and that anyone conditioned to believe them will be able to break free and find healing, safety, and real love that always protects and never harms.
I’m in a better place tonight. I can face this situation without debilitating grief and anger. I can rest and think about, “What do I do now?”
Consistently remind myself and others that we are worth protecting and worth loving. The more we love ourselves and others, the more unloving people stand out and we can protect ourselves from them.
Respect and hold good boundaries.
Honor whatever boundaries the people in my life set, whether I understand them or not. If I truly value them I will do whatever I can to ensure they feel safe. And if I truly value myself, I will make sure that I only spend time with those who respect the boundaries I set for my own wellbeing.
Look for the good ones.
There are always bad people in this world, but there are so many more good ones. I’ve been thanking Bear all weekend for not being a bastard. It makes him laugh, but I really, truly mean it. Tonight I made a list of all the good men I know. Men who don’t rape, beat, abuse, or neglect. Men who proactively love, respect, and protect. My list grew longer and longer and I wanted to dash around the world and give them all big hugs and say thank you.
I can’t fix Josh or heal his victims, none of us can, but we can be love, show love, and link arms with love wherever we find it. And maybe all that love will shine into the dark places and be a beacon to those who need it.