Just two days ago (pre-Josh Duggar confession) I saw a very well-meaning online commenter indicate that the explosive “rumor” of the molestations had been around a long time and that the source of the rumor was believed to be “a liar and a scammer.”
Let that sink in.
As it turns out this “source of the online rumor” was not a victim, but was in fact a very concerned person with inside (and actually highly accurate) information about multiple instances of child abuse and molestation at the hands of a teenage Josh Duggar and the gross mishandling of it after the fact.
Unfortunately, even those claiming to be victims of child abuse or other kinds of abuse are also typically dismissed and falsely labelled as liars, scammers, crazy, bitter, out for money, etc. And all it takes is for one credible person to pass along that label to others and suddenly it’s treated as fact by even the most well-meaning of individuals.
“Oh you heard that? Because so-and-so says she’s not a victim, she’s just bitter.”
We spend a lot of time worrying that people will be falsely accused of abuse and wrongly labeled as abusers, but the reality is that’s actually quite rare—though not unheard of. What’s more, false allegations of child abuse—when they do come up—usually crop up midway through bitter custody battles. This limits the odds significantly if that custody factor is out of the equation. (Though please don’t dismiss an allegation just because custody is involved.)
What is way more prevalent and all too common is that messengers of truth with either a warning for others or a cry for justice are falsely labeled and wrongfully dismissed. Victims and whistle-blowers get put under a microscope of scrutiny while a wall of protection and “believe the best” and “innocent until proven guilty” is mounted around the alleged abuser.
So, we have a choice every time an accusation is made: We can worry that someone is being falsely accused or we can worry that someone isn’t being believed.
But why can’t we do both? you might say.
And I hear you, I hear you. It’s just extremely tough to do both, because in order to get to that golden, idealized moment of “both sides of the story being heard,” the alleged victim who isn’t being believed usually has to assemble an army of support just to get even a sliver of that almighty “both sides” microphone.
Those shielding the reputations of the accused can be a literal Hoover Dam-sized obstacle holding back the tide of justice and the flow of accurate information. What’s worse, they are usually unaware that they are protecting a guilty person, which makes their wall that much stronger and that much more impenetrable.
It’s a hell of a thing to try to take down that wall. Try doing it without losing your mind, losing your friends, losing your cool, losing your hope.
Maybe the next time you hear a shocking rumor and the source of the rumor (the accuser) is described to you unfavorably so as to dismiss the credibility of the so-called rumor, maybe you can stop and check yourself. Remember this: Really, really “nice people” have been known to do really, really horrible things. And really, really honest victims have been known to practically destroy themselves—and occasionally even others—under the weight of their wounds.
So if your gut reaction is placing the two sides into categories of nice person and sketchy person as your litmus test of honesty, force yourself to push the pause button on those often-misleading labels. And simply allow yourself instead to ask this one important question:
What if the horrible thing is actually true?