"19 Kids and Cancelled" – Why It’s Bullshit

“You can’t comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable.”

Diana, Princess of Wales

TLC has temporarily pulled all episodes of the show “19 Kids and Counting” from their schedule as well as online.

Ace Hardware pulled their advertising from the show as did David’s Bridal and Payless Shoes. General Mills joined CVS, Walgreens, H&R Block, Keurig, and ConAgra Foods who, among others, have also pulled the plug on any ad dollars feeding the show.

Social media is outraged that any news entity would even entertain the idea of interviewing the Duggar parents amid the revelations that they knew about their son Josh’s molestation of his sisters and failed to report it for many months.

Show cancelled. Advertising pulled. Cast members shamed.

And it’s all bullshit.

What happens now? Social media screams, advertisers pull, show cancels, Josh apologizes, and a few interviews and headlines later we’ve forgotten all about the Duggars. We move on to the next thing. It’s what we do.

I don’t watch the show. I never have. Needless to say, I never thought I would be writing a blog about the Duggar Family. I most certainly never thought I would be advocating for their show to remain on the air. But it should. The show should remain on the air. Advertisers should continue funding the show. And you should shut up about it.

You should shut up and listen.

When we bitch and scream and protest and call for networks to pull shows like “19 Kids and Counting” amid a tragedy such as child sexual abuse, we miss a wealth of opportunities to actually deal with the issue. We lose an opportunity to shed light on a subject that we keep hidden in a dark and dingy place. When we pull advertising dollars and websites and schedules dedicated to shows like “19 Kids”, we allow families like the Duggars to hide from the truth. We allow them to shroud themselves in secrecy. We allow them to use their shame as a cloak. We allow their lack of understanding of child sexual abuse to continue and ultimately perpetuate more abuse. The problem does not go away simply because we cancel a television show and turn off the T.V. Children are still being sexually abused. They are being abused every day in their schools, on playgrounds, and in their own beds. And most of the time, they are being abused at the hands of the people who they love and trust the most. Cancelling the Duggar show is strictly punitive but it’s what we do. The problem is that it’s not working.

You and me and your children – we should be able to watch the fall out. We should be able to learn from families like the Duggars on how to deal with child sexual abuse (or how not to deal with it in the Duggar’s case). If we could keep our mouths shut long enough we could learn about prevention, intervention, and recovery. We could better educate adults on child sexual abuse; how to recognize it and how to react responsibly. But it won’t happen.

We don’t want to learn about it because we don’t want to consider the possibility that our own children could be victims. Instead, we want to occasionally tell them not to talk to strangers and to be sure to tell an adult if someone ever touches their body in an uncomfortable way. We can’t stomach the idea that a person we love and trust could be capable of sexually abusing a child. Instead, we want to watch for “signs” we aren’t educated enough to look for and blindly trust that our children will come to us if anyone ever abuses them – after the fact. But that’s it. We want the dialogue to stop there. We cannot handle anymore than that. It’s far too unconformable; far too insidious.

In the end, the reality show will go from a temporary hiatus to being cancelled altogether – The Duggar family’s scarlet letter, the one we assigned because we needed to escape the reality of child abuse and its repulsive consequences.  We will move on though. There are always bachelors that need dating, and stars that need dancing, and housewives that need arguing.  The reality stars of tomorrow await, and we anticipate their arrival because we are okay with watching “reality” as long as we can turn it off the moment it becomes too real.

Perhaps we will, in fact, learn from the Duggars. But the issue doesn’t begin and end with this family, and just because we can cancel a contract, or turn off an episode, doesn’t mean the issue goes away. Child sexual abuse really isn’t the “hidden crime” we pretend it is. We could see it if we would look. Most of us choose not to.
last updated June 4, 2015

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