Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of alleged sexual abuse.
The saga of the Dolezal clan, a family at war with itself, is getting more complicated.
Even as Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane NAACP president whose parents outed her as white, resigned from the organization on Monday ahead of a “Today” show interview, another Dolezal was thrust into the spotlight.
It was revealed Monday that Dolezal’s older brother Joshua Dolezal is awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a black child — charges that the Dolezal family, in their own television appearance, implied Rachel Dolezal may have helped orchestrate. Joshua Dolezal is contesting the charges and is free on $15,000 bail while awaiting trial, according to the Denver Post.
Joshua Dolezal’s troubles could explain at least one piece of the complicated puzzle behind this saga, the question of why Rachel Dolezal’s parents would expose their daughter to such public humiliation and perhaps legal jeopardy.
Joshua Dolezal, 39, is the eldest child of the Dolezal clan. Rachel is his only biological sibling — Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal have four adopted children, some of whom are black. Joshua now faces four felony counts of sexual assault in Colorado, according to reports in the New York Daily News, the Denver Post and other local outlets that have been confirmed by The Washington Post.
The alleged incidents of sexual assault, according to a Clear Creek County affidavit in support of an arrest warrant obtained by the Daily News and reviewed by The Post, occurred at Lawrence and Ruthanne’s house in Colorado “in 2001 or 2002.” The victim, whose name was redacted in the affidavit, “was 6 or 7 years old,” and Joshua Dolezal was “19 years older.”
[Read the original story: ‘Are you an African American?’ Why an NAACP official isn’t saying.]
Among other accusations: On two occasions, according to the affidavit, Joshua Dolezal allegedly forced the victim to perform oral sex on him. On “7 or 8” other occasions, Dolezal performed oral sex on the victim.
“Don’t tell anyone or I’ll hurt you,” Joshua allegedly said.
The affidavit included claims that an older incident of alleged abuse of another victim in 1991 had a racial element.
“The family had a subscription to National Geographic magazine,” it read. “… Joshua Dolezal showed [redacted] his collection of photos of topless and naked African women.”
It continued: “Joshua Dolezal was turned on by the black body and was curious about black women sexually.”
The abuse was reported in 2013, and Joshua Dolezal was arrested last year. The victim, according to the affidavit, “wanted to report the incident now because Joshua Dolezal has a one year old daughter and [redacted] does not want the daughter to be victimized.”
Dolezal will be tried in August, as ABC 7 Denver reported.
The allegations against Joshua Dolezal are significant because, in interviews with The Post and other outlets, the Dolezals alleged Rachel orchestrated them to win custody of her brother Izaiah. Izaiah, who is black, lives with Rachel Dolezal in Spokane — and Rachel says he is her son, the family alleged.
Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, without specifically addressing the charges against their son, broadly denied such behavior as well as Rachel Dolezal’s allegations that she was physically abused as a child.
“If she’s alleging there was abuse in our family from years past, then it’s false and there’s no need to comment on anything of that nature,” Lawrence Dolezal told The Post last week. “That’s just utter falsehood.”
“The allegations are totally false and malicious,” Ruthanne Dolezal told Megyn Kelly of Fox News when she asked about them Monday. “They’re fabricated.”
Rachel Dolezal and Joshua Dolezal have not responded to requests for comment on the Colorado charges. However, Rachel Dolezal has spoken to the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
“Rachel Dolezal dismisses the controversy as little more than an ugly byproduct of contentious litigation between other family members over allegations of past abuse that has divided the family,” the paper said. “She’s particularly suspicious of the timing, noting that the allegations broke on her son’s birthday and come as the Colorado lawsuit … nears a key juncture.” While she referred to a lawsuit, the charges in Colorado are criminal.
Though it’s not clear when and how the Dolezals became so divided, insight into the warring family comes from an unlikely source: the published writing of Joshua Dolezal, the accused.
Joshua Dolezal is an English professor at Central College, a private liberal arts college in Pella, Iowa. His work, much of it nonfiction, has appeared in respected publications such as the Kenyon Review, and the University of Iowa Press published his memoir — which includes many references to his sister Rachel.
Here’s how the University of Iowa Press explained “Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging” in a 2014 news release:
A lyrical coming-of-age memoir, Down from the Mountaintop chronicles a quest for belonging. Raised in northwestern Montana by Pentecostal homesteaders whose twenty-year experiment in subsistence living was closely tied to their faith, Joshua Doležal experienced a childhood marked equally by his parents’ quest for spiritual transcendence and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape. Unable to fully embrace the fundamentalism of his parents, he began to search for religious experience elsewhere: in baseball, books, and weightlifting, then later in migrations to Tennessee, Nebraska, and Uruguay. Yet even as he sought to understand his place in the world, he continued to yearn for his mountain home.
One of the memoir’s first references to sister Rachel Dolezal comes as Joshua Dolezal watches his mother praying while listening to his father read an entire chapter of the Bible before dinner, “as is customary.” Lawrence Dolezal is reading about Joshua, who led the Israelites after Moses’s death.
“I know she is praying silently, trying to envision me as my namesake — the firstborn leader of his people — the way she thinks of my sister, Rachel, in relation to the Jewish matriarch who wept for her exiled descendants,” it reads.
The book is filled with such imagery of a pious childhood in rural Montana. This family seemed close.
Joshua wrote that he and Rachel were born at home. He wrote of the time “when my mother dressed my sister and me in homemade corduroy overalls and plaid shirts with elk-antler buttons and the four of us went to church, where the other Jesus People struck up folk tunes on their guitars.”
And he wrote of his sister’s appearance: “Pale light washes through the window over her neck. Wisps rise from her hair. They are the color of the light.”
The memoir also offers the most complete picture heretofore of Rachel Dolezal’s broken marriage. According to Lawrence Dolezal, she was married to a black man, Kevin Moore, and the couple divorced in 2004.
“My sister met her husband in Mississippi while she was finishing an Art degree and sorting boxes for UPS,” Dolezal wrote. “He was the sorter, she the loader.”
Joshua Dolezal saw signs of trouble. In many passages, Rachel Dolezal is portrayed as the victim of an unhappy marriage whose husband won’t let her and their young child leave the house — a woman who does what her spouse says when he says it.
“When my sister brought her husband home after they had eloped, she brought the project of their love,” he wrote. “Her job was to say, ‘Baby, could you wash while I dry?’ His job was to play along.” Rachel Dolezal gave a similar account of the marriage in an interview with the Easterner.
Joshua Dolezal was angry.
“I murdered him hundreds of times in my sleep,” he wrote of his former brother-in-law.
Eventually, the couple separated.
Of course, a memoir isn’t a fact-checked, reported news story and the ex-husband has been unavailable for comment and has not responded to numerous published accounts of her claims. But Joshua Dolezal said he did his best.
“To remember is to reconstruct and interpret,” he wrote in an author’s note, “and this is as truthful a story as my memory can tell.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report said Joshua slew Goliath in the Bible. David slew Goliath; Joshua led the Israelites.