Uphill Battles for Families of Molested Children

The news of a central family figure molesting children can wreak havoc on families. Just ask the Duggars of the 19 Kids and Counting fame. News about Josh Duggar, who is now married and 27 years of age, broke recently that shed light on his inappropriate touching and fondling of younger females (apparently siblings in the immediate family as well as their friends outside of the family) when he was 14 and 15 years old. Network TLC is looking at pulling the plug on their show, and Josh has stepped down as a key player at the Family Research Council, a non-profit in Washington, D.C.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo co-star Mama June Shannon also had that show yanked last year when it was discovered that her boyfriend was a convicted child molester. At first, Mama June didn’t even believe her daughter, Anna “Chickadee” Cardwell, that it actually happened to her. Of course, outcries of children are often ignored even by their own parents.

Dealing professionally with such issues over the years, I see the parents’ shock and disbelief. This goes for the parents of the molested child as well as the parents of the molester. Nonetheless, there are consequences down the road for everyone in the family when allegations are proven, or admitted to, by the perpetrator.

There is almost always a full investigation by the police, Child Protective Services, or other state agencies. Most states take the guesswork out of whether or not something inappropriate has occurred by requiring most licensed professionals, including doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, etc. to report such behavior if it is merely suspected. That’s right, suspected, not reasonably believed to have occurred. Most state agencies want to make that determination and not allow public members (even specialists in the field) to make that call.

After the agency’s determination is when the pillow stuffing hits the fan. Sometimes it gets out right away, and sometimes it takes a while to leak out. In the Duggar instance, the public didn’t find out until nine years later. But when it surfaced, it caused the cancellation of their show. So now what are they going to do? This kind of news definitely has a financial impact on everyone, not just the perpetrator. Although it appears the Duggars are strong in their beliefs and will come out with a stronger family unit, that is not always the case.

I remember representing a wonderful lady several years back who had the misfortune of falling in love with a man who she ultimately married, and then he went to jail for allegations of molesting her own grandchildren. The blame game went around and around, pitting mothers against grown daughters, grandchildren against grandparents, and in-laws against in-laws. This wasn’t a celebrity family. No one asked for this explosive shockwave to tear at the solid fabric of a traditional family. But it did, and no one could stop it from playing out. Lives are forever ruined, and families have forever torn apart.

Just as I’m sure the Duggars are doing now, I know there are direct and indirect victims of child molestation who try to pick up the pieces and move on as best they can. Unfortunately, the tarnish caused by someone else’s bad behavior spills into and throughout the lives of others. As a lawyer, I have cherished those moments helping innocent victims and good families through their painful ordeal and trying to protect what’s left. The truth is that the family will likely never be the same. It is a difficult road, and good guidance is key.

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