Josh Duggar Scandal: How Much Child Sexual Abuse Occurs Within Religious Cults?

Josh and Anna Duggar and their children (E! Online)

Josh and Anna Duggar and their children (E! Online)

Last month, eldest son of the “19 Kids and Counting” Duggar clan Josh Duggar admitted he’d sexually molested five girls when he was 14 years old in 2002, some of which were his sisters. (When these incidents took place, Duggar had five sisters, who ranged in age from four to 12.)

More revelations came out over the days that followed: Duggar was sent away to a friend who had a home remodeling business after he admitted what he’d done; he didn’t receive any counseling, contrary to what had initially been stated, and Duggar was given a minor talking-to from Arkansas State Trooper Jim Hutchens, who’s now in prison for child pornography. After the allegations came to light, a judge ordered the incriminating documents be destroyed, apparently on behalf of one of the alleged victims.

The Duggar family is part of the Quiverfull movement, a worldview that purports to be about Christianity and living Biblically. Earmarks of being Quiverfull include having lots of children (supplying Christian soldiers to prepare for the upcoming spiritual battle), dressing modestly and shaming victims of sexual abuse.

Until now, the fact that the Quiverfull movement is a cult has flown under the radar. But now it’s come under the scrutiny of a full-fledged public spotlight.

I wanted to find some statistics on sexual abuse, especially child/incestual sexual abuse, within cults. Unsurprisingly, I was unable to find anything. No long-range studies have been done. This makes sense: Cults usually want to cover their tracks, and make themselves look like they aren’t cults at all and are completely normal. In terms of gathering information, it’d be very hard to infiltrate and gain members’ trust to get an accurate picture of what occurs within one. Even if a member did admit to something, they might see it as totally normal.

Unfortunately, the statue of limitations on Duggar’s heinous acts has now expired. But now we have some idea of the long-ranging detrimental effects of the Quiverfull movement. There are better ways to help victims of sexual abuse and molestation, regardless of their personal viewpoint.




Michelle Bachelet Proposes Lifting Chile’s Total Abortion Ban

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Late last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proposed lifting her country’s total abortion ban.

Chile is one of seven Latin American countries to completely ban abortion. Bachelet’s bill allows for the measure in case of rape, or if the mother and/or baby are at risk of dying during the pregnancy. The procedure would be allowed up until the 12th week (3rd month) of pregnancy, or until the 18th week for girls younger than 14 years of age. Girls ages 14 to 17 would need their parents’ permission for the procedure.

Abortion has been outlawed in Chile since 1989, imposed under former dictator Augusto Pinochet during his rule. Anyone breaking this law faces up to five years in jail. (Before the ban, abortions were allowed in extenuating circumstances.) Twelve bills decriminalizing the procedure have been proposed since 1991, but none (so far) have passed through the country’s Congress.

The measure would cut down the number of women taking chances on risky, “back-street” abortions detrimental to their health. A “Reuters” estimate puts the number of illegal abortions between 15K and 160K. (Since the numbers would have to be self-reported in this case, it’s difficult to get an accurate count.)

According to an interview in Spanish newspaper “El Pais,” Bachelet was originally planning on proposing the bill in late 2014.

Bachelet faces opposition from anti-abortion activists, and from UDI, the opposing political party. Culturally, the country is also very socially conservative, owing to a large Catholic stronghold. But despite this, recent public polls found that 70% of Chileans support the bill.

This isn’t the first time Bachelet has worked to reform family planning: In her first term as president (2006-2010), she made the morning-after pill free in government hospitals available to women ages 14 and older, with parental consent unneeded.

This is one time where I think having a politician make laws about women’s bodies could work: In addition to being a woman, Bachelet is also a registered pediatrician. #FemaleLeadersKnowBest

Reported vs. Actual Numbers in Same-Sex Attraction

Male homosexual attraction (Science Daily)

Male homosexual attraction (Science Daily)

One of my (many disparate) areas of interest is the concept of stated preference vs. revealed preference. It means that while you may say one thing, your actions may show another thing. “Preference falsification” (term coined by Duke University’s Timur Kuran) relates to this as positing that people aren’t always completely truthful about their preferences in public. (That’s one of the things that interests me about sexuality data: it’s so easy to lie! And nobody could conceivably find out!)

The study was published in 2013 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and was performed by Ohio State University. It dealt with admitting sexual attraction in standard vs. veiled polls (veiled meaning anonymous).

Participants were asked about their attitudes towards LGBT people and same-sex attraction. With the “normal” poll (i.e. people’s identities were conjoined with their answers), 11% of respondents didn’t see themselves as heterosexual, and 17% admitted to having a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.

But shit got real during the veiled poll. Now 19% of respondents didn’t see themselves as straight, and 27% admitted a same-sex sexual experience. You don’t have to be good at math to see that that’s a large jump for both aspects of the study.

According to the study’s abstract:

“The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65% (p<0.05) and same-sex sexual experiences by 59% (p<0.01).”

The study also found how religion, in this case Christianity, influenced some of the participants’ answers. The veiled approach inflated the discrepancy so that self-reports of non-heterosexuality and same-sex sexual experiences skyrocketed by 100%+ from the usual poll. Talk about underreporting!

How Many People Experience Same-Sex Attraction (SSA)?

TLC's 'My Husband's Not Gay' (Salon)

TLC’s ‘My Husband’s Not Gay’ (Salon)

With TLC’s special “My Husband’s Not Gay” premiering recently, same-sex attraction (SSA) has come to the forefront of discussion in sexuality. SSA is just what it sounds like: a person is attracted to someone of the same gender, or sex. However, someone with SSA may or may not act on the attraction, and may or may not identify as homosexual, gay or lesbian.

“My Husband’s Not Gay” follows three (hetero) married couples and one single man. All the men featured admit to struggling with SSA. The couples and man reside in Salt Lake City, Utah, and cite their strong Mormon faiths as to why they have a traditional male-female marriage (or, in the case of the single man, why he wants one). Since conservative Christianity, and Mormonism in particular, has traditionally frowned upon homosexuality, these men have made a decision to honor their faith and not their attractions.

I wanted to find some stats on SSA, but couldn’t find any information that weren’t connected to any religious sites (of the “pray the gay away” stripe). Apparently, no university has done a study with people who experience SSA but who do not identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. (Kinsey Institute, get on this.)



Purity Balls: How Popular Are They?

Purity ball

Purity ball

Sometimes, we get curious about the other side of sex education: the side where it pretty much doesn’t exist. Recently, I became curious about the popularity, or possible lack thereof, of purity balls.

For those who don’t know, Christian purity balls have popped up in the last decade as a way for young women (generally preteens and teens) to pledge to remain sexually pure until they marry. They usually take place within an evening event and dance, where fathers attend with their daughters. The fathers pledge to model an example of purity for their daughters, and to protect them from evil teenage boys and their desires.

The daughters, in turn, pledge their virginity to their father. Oh yeah, and the Lord.

Randy and Lisa Wilson created the first purity ball in 1998, and their website notes that balls have been held in 48 states since then. (According to their website, there have also been inquiries from 17 countries.)

In a “New York Times” article written in 2012, feminist writer Jessica Valenti reported 1K+ purity balls were held in 2006, for her 2010 book “The Purity Myth.” In a related stat, Leslee J. Uhruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, claims she fielded 4K+ calls concerning holding purity balls “within a 12-month period,” though how this period is calculated isn’t defined.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any data on how fast the movement is growing, where it’s growing the most, how many attendees, and other points of interest.