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So there was the news that after women had won a majority on the Austin city council, the city manager’s office created a special training for staff to cover the important differences between men and women legislators (women ask a lot of questions, they don’t read the agenda, avoid financial analysis in policy discussions and everyone expect more women elected because Hillary Clinton runs).

You try to excuse this for them being in Texas but, at heart, you know that it reveals a deeper bias against women in leadership.

And, then, there is #DuggarScandal. Josh Duggar, Executive Director of the Family Research Council (an anti-gay hate group) and member of the reality TV family 19 Kids and Counting, has confessed to molesting 5 girls – several of whom are his own sisters.

If you’ve heard much about the Quiverfull movement, you expected the family to protect their son. I’m wondering what about the girls? Did they get the respectful, responsive treatment they deserved?

Any counseling they received probably focused on their guilt, their need to forgive. The below graphic is from a group the Duggar’s family church is associated with and whose founder, whom they’ve promoted on their show, is himself a sexual predator:

counsel abuse flyer

Immodest dress? Indecent exposure? The girls were sleeping in their bedroom! The victim blaming is stomach turning. This is not the way to counsel victims of sexual abuse that’s approved by anyone who follows the guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

Having them live with their abuser and play a happy family on television can not be recommended by any reputable counselor, either. I fear they have internalized the lesson that their parents cared more about their image than the harm they endured.

There are lots of conversations about this floating around the web, including this tweet from John Fuglesang:

Despite my empathy for the girls, I confess to smirking when I found out that, after railing that gays and trans folks are sexual predators, they’ve raised a predator in their own home. Those recorded robo-calls from Michelle Duggar said, “Males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

Of course, that schadenfreude pales in comparison to the number of Christian apologists rising in defense of Josh, the family and their right to a TV show. And, trust me, they aren’t allegations when he’s confessed to them!

Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, immediately rose to defend him, too. Part of his statement said, “Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.”

Molesting his sisters and other young women wasn’t a ‘mistake;’ it was a crime!

Of course, he must have lots of sympathy for patriarch Jim Bob Duggar’s actions as Huckabee himself squelched the investigation into his own son’s torture and hanging of a dog in the late 1990’s.

So where am I going with all this? We are approaching the 2016 elections and I fear that this tone deafness to the rights of women and girls is just going to get worse.

Discrimination on the basis of gender is more than just a bad thing. It constitutes a violation of human rights.

Empowering women means women taking control over their lives: setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems and developing self-reliance.

One of the ways to empower women is to get involved in organizations that support women. There are plenty out there but I want to give a plug to NOW.

The National Organization for Women is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. Their six core issues are:

Reproductive Rights and JusticeEnding Violence Against WomenEconomic Justice, LGBT RightsRacial Justice and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Their 2015 annual conference will be held in New Orleans from June 19 to 21.

The conference will allow activists to address critical issues on NOW’s agenda and shape the future of women’s rights. Additionally, because this is also a strategy and bylaws convention, this year’s conference will include opportunities to weigh in on the organizational structure of NOW.

I hope to see some of you there.

*Author’s note: Thanks to Marie Castle for the editing. I’ve now fixed a few typos.

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