Only a few short months ago my Facebook feed, every news station, every gossip program, and most of the websites I frequent were filled with stories about the Duggar family.
I'm not going to link to any of those stories. I'm sure you've already heard them. I'm sure they've already had plenty of traffic.
I'm not going to talk about Josh Duggar or tell you my thoughts about him. Enough has been said by other people and I'm sure you don't care about my opinion anyway as you've formed your own.
What I want to talk about is you.
If you are reading this and someone has hurt you, I want to say I'm so sorry.
I want to tell you that it wasn't your fault.
I want to tell you that if you didn't get the support you needed when you were a little girl or a little boy that the people who didn't help you were wrong and I'm sorry.
If you were afraid to tell someone when you were younger and you've been holding this horrible secret inside for years, I'm sorry. I am sending you love and hugs. You didn't deserve what happened to you and you didn't deserve to have it erode your heart for so long.
I always read the comments, which is just a terrible thing to do particularly on local news stories, but I read them just the same. In the comments on this particular scandal I was floored by two things:
1) The number of people who were calling this crime a "youthful mistake" and saying "he's sorry, leave him alone! It was a long time ago!"
2) The number of people who were hurt in a similar way who said, "I wish I could get over this. This was my uncle/cousin/brother/step-dad and I still have to see them all the time"
To point #1 I say:
It was a crime. Period. I know he was a teenager. It was still a crime.
Maybe he is sorry, maybe he isn't. I don't know his heart and neither do you. I hope he is sorry and I hope there are not more victims who didn't come forward.
I don't care if it was a long time ago. I don't care if it was a hundred years ago. It was not a long time ago for the people he hurt. It's every. single. day. For the rest of their lives.
I cannot imagine what it feels like to have to live with someone who hurt you. To have to serve someone who hurt you (because, remember, in this particular household women serve the men). I don't know what these parents told these daughters. I don't know their hearts either. As a mother, I would like to believe that they did what they thought was right at the time and hopefully, in retrospect, they realize what they could have done differently.
All I know is I am so, so sad for these girls. My heart breaks for them.
I love my son dearly. I love my daughter just as dearly. She is no less valuable and important because she is a girl. She is no less amazing because she is a girl. If my son hurt my daughter, I would still love my son but I would get him away from her with quickness. In a minute. In a heartbeat. Without one second of hesitation.
My daughter deserves no less protection than my son. Period.
To point #2:
You can say no.
You really can.
You can just say no and that can be the end of it.
If you are invited to Christmas dinner and the person who hurt you is going to be there, you can say no. You don't have to go.
If someone says, "Get over it! It's been a long time ago! He's sorry! Move on! You're causing problems!" You can still say no. Yes, you can. You aren't the one who caused the problem in the first place. If you have to be in the same room as this person, you don't have to hug them. You don't have to speak to them. You don't have to pretend that everything is okay if it's not. You really don't. I'm not saying you have to start screaming or slapping them or anything (although I guess you could if you really wanted to), but you don't have to pretend you are best friends.
You don't owe anyone an explanation. You don't have to make a big scene about it. You can just say no. You can take yourself out of the life of someone who hurt you. You really can.
You don't have to be nice to this person because they are your cousin or your brother or your uncle. You don't have to pretend that everything is okay if you are not okay. If someone didn't protect you when you were little, I'm sorry. I hate that so much. You can protect yourself now, though. You wrongly got the message when you were little that you weren't worth protecting and you are.
Do you hear me?
I'm a Christian and we tend to be all about forgiveness and WWJD and all that. Forgiveness is a good thing, a great thing, if you are able.
If you aren't able to forgive right now, that's okay too. Especially if the person has never told you they are sorry. You aren't a bad Christian. You aren't a bad person. You are human. You didn't deserve this and you didn't deserve the mess that's come afterward. It takes time to work through pain and it's okay if you need more time.
Forgiveness is hard. I know this. I also know that once you forgive that person doesn't get space in your head anymore. That forgiveness makes it easier for you to have a happy life, regardless of the person who hurt you. That you can forgive someone, even if they aren't sorry, just because it makes your life better. I know all of this, every bit of it.
I've never had to forgive anyone for hurting me in this way so I have no idea how hard it would be. I imagine it would be tremendously difficult and if you are reading this right now and have been trying unsuccessfully to forgive someone, I want you to know I am sorry and I understand. Even if it feels like no one understands, I promise. I am on your side.
If you decide to forgive, you don't have to forget. In fact, I would argue that you need not forget. Not ever. That you continue to protect yourself, your heart, your children, the other children in your family, whoever you think needs protecting. I don't like to think of the world as this dark, scary place, but the reality is there are some dark, scary people in this world and sometimes they look just like your next-door neighbor or the guy sitting in the pew next to you at church. If you are a parent, you have an obligation to teach your children what to look out for. It's your responsibility to pay attention to what's going on with your children and who they are around. We have to talk about this crap even though we hate it. Even though we loathe the fact that it exists and it goes on and people get hurt. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. Sweeping it under the rug or saying "he's just a teenager" or "he didn't mean anything by it"...these things don't help. It's not necessary to scare your children or make them feel like the whole world is bad. Most people in this world are good, I will always believe that. Most people are not out to hurt you or your child.
I'm just saying. Pay attention.
Above all, take care of yourself. You are worth taking care of and the person who made you feel like you aren't is wrong. Period.
If you haven't already, please talk to someone. There are many wonderful, qualified therapists who can help you. Talk to a friend. Talk to your spouse. It's okay to say it out loud. It's not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you. You didn't cause this.
If you are struggling, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
Your feelings matter, and if people try to act like they don't? You can say no.