In recent weeks another sexual abuse scandal surfaced. Josh Duggar, of the family on the reality show 19 Kids and Counting from TLC, admitted to sexually molesting several young girls when he was a teenager.
The outcry was swift, and stern. The call to action was for TLC to cancel the show.
Recently, also, many women have accused Bill Cosby of rape throughout the years. Again, the outcry was to stop watching his shows such as The Cosby Show and any networks airing repeats to stop.
Yes, any sexual abuse—molestation, rape or anything else—is a serious offense that should be brought to light, dealt with, and not supported in any way. But does cancelling a television show actually help with anything?
This response highlights the polarization and simple categorization that characterizes how our current culture deals with most socio-politcal situations.
People are seen and defined by one thing. It could be that they belong to the Tea Party, that they are gay or are against vaccinations. If you fall into the wrong category, the other side villainizes you, bashes you and hates you. YOU are the thing that is wrong with society.
In actuality, no one is just one thing. People make decisions, have ideas, and live their lives. All the time, people make good or bad decisions. Some decisions have more repercussions than others. Some decisions are systematic. Some hurt others.
This shunning, black and white attitude, in my opinion, does more harm than good. Often, what it does instead of changing attitudes or making someone learn a lesson, is let us ignore the issue entirely while driving the person we are shunning into a darker place.
Josh Duggar’s and Bill Cosby’s situations seem entirely different. Duggar confessed and dealt with his issues. (As far as we can all tell.) Cosby denies a systematic issue exists. I’ve only seen a few episodes of 19 kids but I don’t think Josh is on it much. It’s also a reality show where these real life issues would possibly come up on an episode. The Cosby Show is a sitcom from 30 years ago.
So why is our response is the same?
We also seem fine with many television shows and movies that portray (fictionally) all sorts of sexual abuse. Some of the most popular and longest running shows (like Law & Order SVU) use this topic as a main theme. There’s no call to cancel them.
And, have you read the Bible? It’s not exactly a PG book. The Bible shares several stories of horrible sexual crimes. But we don’t boycott reading it.
This boycotting tactic has long been used by conservative Christians to try to prove their way is best. Boycotting different major organizations (like Disney) because they support whatever that Christian organization is against has been the norm. Nowadays, the general public is also starting to use this tactic to try to throw their weight around. Boycotts have their place, but rarely have these types had any outcome at all.
Part of the reason for this call is that everyone wants to do something. I get that. Many want to know how to help, how to make a change. There is little I can do sitting here at my kitchen table about Bill Cosby or Josh Duggar. But I could stop watching their shows. Then that gives me the power.
But, it really won’t change anything.
What if instead we tried to find actual solutions, actual ways to help people going through these issues. Instead of shaming and punishing the abusers (and doing so in mainly monetary ways) we should work to create real knowledge and change.
I’m definitely no expert in how to do this for sexual abuse. But I do know in general what does not work and what will. And what will work is boundaries and love instead of punishment and shame.
Here are a few ideas:
What if the Duggars give part (or all) of their earnings from the show to an organization that works to prevent sex crimes? What if they do talk about it on the show in a real way, bringing knowledge and possibly healing to many?
What if the networks that air The Cosby Show show a hotline number for sexual abuse victims at the end of each episode?
What if you watch these shows and then take time to talk with your kids about the ramifications of sexual abuse?
Any other ideas? Leave them in the comments.
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