Redemption is not just one of my life themes; it’s something I consider the greatest theme through all of the Bible and all of history. It’s huge and sweeping…and deeply, intimately personal. That’s why this article caught me eye in a sea of articles about the Duggar mess: Finding Redemption in the Josh Duggar Story. Up until now, I’ve avoided the temptation to add a blog post to the many words already out there on the internet about this tragic situation. But then this troubling statement in Michael Brown’s article popped out at me:
“Josh can be an ambassador on behalf of the abused…”
Here is the context:
Josh can be an ambassador on behalf of the abused, even helping the abusers as well. While it can feel like your life is over when your past, largely private sins become public (how many of us would like for that to happen?), the fact is that Josh’s future can be bright in the Lord.
He can call on others who are sinning to come clean and get help, using his own example redemptively. And he can encourage those who have been abused to realize that they are not guilty and should not feel shame, also encouraging churches to embrace those who come for help rather than making them feel as if there is something wrong with them.
Why should those who have suffered abuse be stigmatized? They should be our priority for healing and restoration.
I’m all for redemption, and I’m sure the author of this article means well, but this is not what redemption looks like. It does not consist of sexual abusers, no matter how repentant, being allowed to do anything that might even remotely further traumatize victims of abuse.
Just to be sure, I looked up definitions for “ambassador”. Let’s all assume Michael Brown means “unofficial representative” and not “a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity”. Even so, his word choice, and the idea behind it, is both troubling and problematic.
As a victim of rape and multiple instances of sexual abuse ranging in severity, I would like to emphasize the following:
- Sexual abusers do not and cannot represent me. I do not want them speaking on my behalf. The audacity behind such a statement is appalling to me. We don’t need people speaking for us or usurping our voice and our agency. We need people to encourage and empower us to speak for ourselves. Sexual abusers — no matter how repentant — are not the people to take on that role. They have not earned that right; in fact, they have disqualified themselves completely. Even if it turns out that a sexual abuser was previously victimized himself, he still does not speak for me, nor for most sexual trauma survivors, nor should he attempt to act as my “ally”.
- I don’t need sexual abusers telling me what I should or should not feel. The sexual abusers and rapists in my life already did exactly that. I don’t want or need another one presuming to tell me, yet again, how I should react to the crimes and sins perpetrated against me by people like him.
- I have no interest in anything an ambassador from the “sexual abuser community” might have to say to me as a sexual trauma survivor. By the grace of God, I have done the near impossible and have forgiven those who have perpetrated sexual sins and crimes against me. I do not want to hear any more excuses, justifications, pity parties, blame-shifting, minimizing, denial, or explanations. I’ve already heard far more than I ever wanted to hear. If you are a sexual abuser, I don’t want to understand how or why you did what you did. I’m sorry if that hurts anyone’s feelings, but I really do not want to comprehend the thinking and attitudes of the men who raped me, or the males who have wounded me sexually. There are things I never want to understand. I refuse to be dragged into such cesspools of evil thoughts and selfish, twisted desires. A truly repentant sexual abuser would not want to inflict that on survivors. We already had to deal with the abuse and trauma; don’t make things worse.
- Sexual abusers and sexual abuse survivors are not two “communities” that need to make peace with each other or bridge some gap of misunderstanding. Anyone who thinks that there is even a role for “ambassadors” is woefully ignorant of the very nature of sexual trauma. This isn’t a “but can’t we all just get along?” situation. As individual survivors, we may choose to forgive our abusers, but that doesn’t mean it would necessarily be wise to reconcile with them or to enter into relationships with other abusers, no matter how wholesome or contrite their “ambassadors” might appear to be.
Josh Duggar and others like him have nothing to say on my behalf, and little or nothing that I need to hear. They should never attempt to be ambassadors to or from survivors. Sexual abusers like him do not possess wonderful, compassionate insights that would aid me in walking out my healing. At this point, there is no need for apologies or forgiveness, because his sins and crimes were against his sisters and another unnamed victim, not me. However, should he take Michael Brown’s article to heart and try to usurp some sort of “ambassador” role that is not his to take, I think he will owe a major apology to many, if not all, survivors.