The Duggars, stars of the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, have long projected the image of a wholesome fundamentalist Christian family. Now, that image has been shattered by shocking reports of child sexual abuse.
On May 19th, In Touch Weekly reported that a police report named Josh Duggar as an "alleged offender" in a sexual abuse probe when Josh was still a teenager. Jim Bob Duggar, Josh's father, reportedly brought Josh into to the Arkansas State Police to report his son's abusive behavior. In Touch claims that the state trooper who took the report failed to follow up, and was later convicted on child sexual abuse image charges himself.
Today, In Touch offered even more details from a Springdale, Arkansas police report. According to the In Touch exposé, Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple acts of sexual abuse against five minors.
If the In Touch exposé is correct, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar handled their son's predatory behavior poorly. Jim Bob reportedly knew about Josh's predations as early as 2002 but failed to contact the authorities, In Touch reports. The magazine states that Josh's abusive behavior continued, and in 2003, Jim Bob met with his church's elders, who also failed to alert law enforcement. Jim Bob and the church elders reportedly agreed to send Josh to a counseling program, but Michelle later told police that Josh had merely stayed with a family friend.
According to In Touch, The Duggar family was scheduled to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006. When Harpo Studios received an e-mail about Josh's reported sexual abuse, staff faxed the letter to the Department of Human Services, leading to an investigation by police in Springdale, Arkansas. Police interviewed several of the victims in late 2006. Unfortunately, police could not pursue charges because the case's statute of limitations had expired.
The Duggar family has posted a message on Facebook regarding the scandal. Jim Bob and Michelle refer to Josh's alleged sexual abuse as "bad mistakes", but had little to say about the victims. (Hat tip to People Magazine.)
"Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything."Josh Duggar apologized for his "wrongdoing" in the statement, claiming that he sought forgiveness from his victims.
"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."Josh Duggar has since resigned from his position as executive director of Family Research Council Action. In a terse statement at the FRC website, FRC president Tony Perkins offered few details about the situation. (UPDATED)
"Yesterday, Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position at FRC Action as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years. Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his work here. I believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. I would ask you to join me in praying for everyone involved."The hypocrisy of the parties involved is breathtaking. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who have a history of anti-LGBTQ activism and of demonizing LGBTQ people as predators, harbored an alleged predator in their own family. The Family Research Council, which has also fought against LGBTQ equality and cast LGBTQ people as predators, unwittingly had an alleged predator on its payroll. This scandal serves as yet another reminder that LGBTQ people aren't a threat to children; predators are.
The Josh Duggar scandal exposes the rot underneath the Duggar family's smiling, wholesome facade. Jim Bob and Michelle -- applauded by the Religious Right as the embodiment of family values -- failed to live out those values in their response to Josh's behavior. Why didn't they go to the police sooner? Why didn't they get their son professional help? Where was their concern for the victims?
The Duggars' ties to the Christian Patriarchy movement are well-known. The Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements promise to exalt the family, teach children virtue, and protect children from a sinful outside world. If Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, and now Josh Duggar are any indication, these ideologies do not guarantee healthy families. Instead, by celebrating male dominance, promoting unhealthy ideas about sexuality, and demanding unquestioning obedience from children, they make children even more vulnerable to abuse. Separating families from "the world" won't make children any safer, but it will make it more difficult for young abuse victims to seek help.
I regret that it took this long for the Josh Duggar case to come to light. What the Duggar family does next, whether TLC continues to air their show, and whether the victims find healing remains to be seen.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Politicus USA: Demand That TLC Cancel 19 Kids And Counting After Josh Duggar Admits To Molesting Girls
Love, Joy, Feminism: What You Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report
Danthropology: Josh Duggar admits to molestation accusations and resigns from Family Research Council
Freak Out Nation: Josh Duggar: God Has Forgiven Me for Molesting Young Girls