Why The Duggar Abuse Scandal Matters

by | May 25, 2015 | Abuse | 160 comments

On Friday my daughter wrote a blog post about the Duggar sexual abuse scandal. I posted it on Facebook. And both of us had a whole pile of criticism thrown at us.

So today I’d like to explain, in my own words, why I think the Duggar abuse scandal matters and what we should learn from it.

The Duggar Abuse Scandal: Why it's so sad, and why it matters

Is Josh forgiven?

Absolutely–assuming he truly repented.

[UPDATE: Given the revelations later about his involvement in Ashley Madison, his repentance is very much debatable.]

Did the Duggar parents try to do the right thing at the time?

Inasmuch as they knew how, I suppose, though it took them a year to actually contact the police after they knew what Josh was doing; they did not remove him immediately from the home (and thus continued to put the girls in danger); and they did not get Josh counseling (Michelle has admitted that; they only sent him to a family friend where he performed manual labor).

But here’s the point:

Some of these girls had been sexually abused, some as young as 5. They were taken through a healing process to “forgive” their abuser. And then they were put on a TV show which had as its main premise that this family knows how to instill healthy sexuality into their kids.

It’s quite simple: the Duggar parents should either have been authentic about the abuse or, if they didn’t want to dredge it up publicly (a choice I completely understand and empathize with), then they should have turned down the show. That was their mistake; it was the minimization of the effects of abuse.

The Christian community as a whole has rallied around the Duggars and reacted vehemently against any who would criticize them. I think that is a serious mistake for our witness.

Here are two reasons why:

Christians Need to Be Authentic

When people see authentic Christians they are attracted to Christ. When they see Christians covering up sins they run in the opposite direction. It is hypocrisy that kills our witness.

So is Josh forgiven? Yes. He honestly repented, from everything I have seen.

But it’s not that simple. I have had people say, “David was forgiven! So what’s the big deal? He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

David wrote Psalm 51, where he laid his sin bare and held nothing back, when he was still king, knowing it would damage his reputation. But he did it because he was authentic before God and before his people. And God called David “a man after my own heart”. It was not that God approved of David despite the sin (as some are saying now about the Duggars); it was that God approved of David because of his authenticity.

If the Duggars had owned up to this at the very beginning of the show, not only would it not have been the issue that it is now, but they would have had such a powerful testimony of how God heals. Instead they have  tarnished their reputation and have lost their platform to speak for God. That is what inauthenticity does.

Many are saying, “but why should they have had to speak about something that was healed and forgotten?” Because they portrayed themselves as a family who had it all together–when they obviously did not. That is why they are in trouble now. It’s not the abuse; it’s the fact that they never acknowledged it earlier. So either don’t do the show, or own up to it. It’s that simple.

Right now, Christians believe we are in a huge culture war. And so when some of our perceived warriors–like the Duggars–are under fire, we close ranks, thinking that by preventing people from criticizing them we will somehow win that culture war.

The truth is the exact opposite. We win people by showing the world that God cares.

And despite people’s cries of “Judge not lest ye be judged”, they seem to overlook that Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 5:12: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” He was quite adamant that we were to judge those claiming to be Christians so that we do not ruin our witness. Paul knew that hypocrisy was so dangerous to the cause of Christ. So we should never cover up sin.

David and Paul were both very open about their sinful pasts, because they knew that their weakness and sin showed the power of God. The Duggars took a different approach. They chose to portray a family that did not struggle sexually, despite this huge elephant in the room, presumably thinking that showing an exemplary life would point people to Christ. Authenticity is far more effective in evangelism than perfection; it is authenticity that the world yearns for.

The Catholic church was in a world of hurt about the sexual abuse scandal in the 1990s. But the problem was not the abuse itself. It was the failure of the church to come clean along with its attempt to hide it. If we keep portraying ourselves as having it all together, and don’t admit huge failings, we ruin our witness because we are inauthentic.

I know it’s not in the same league, but when I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex I decided that I couldn’t share my thoughts on sex without going public about the fact that I suffered from vaginismus when I was first married. I had never told anyone this–not even close friends. It was really embarrassing. But how could I write an authentic book without also sharing the healing that God had done in my life–and how messed up I had been? Shouldn’t I use my story to point people to Christ? I didn’t want to talk about it, but I did. I never really intended to tell my girls about it, either, but now I have to because it’s in the book. But I’m glad I did, because I have had so many people share their stories with me since.

Authenticity opens doors; self-preservation closes them.

The lesson to be learned: We Christians need to stop having “idols” and stop thinking that keeping up perfect appearances will win people to Christ. We need to start being authentic instead.

We Need to Be Real About the Lasting Effects of Sexual Abuse

Can you be healed from sexual abuse? Absolutely. It’s a large part of my “Girl Talk” where I talk about sex and marriage.

But everything we know about the healing from sexual abuse shows that it is usually not quick, nor is it usually a one-step process.

A person can be healed and go on with their lives, but then something will “trigger” it again, sometimes even years later. Hitting puberty. Starting to have feelings for boys. Starting to date. Getting married. Having a child of your own. Having that child hit the age that you were when the abuse happened.

And at each stage you need to go through a deeper level of healing.

This is NORMAL. This does not mean that you weren’t healed at first; it’s only that much of healing from abuse happens in stages, because we don’t experience the full effects until later.

Almost all abuse survivors will report this.

By saying that the girls were “healed” because they “forgave” when they were so young–remember, some were only 6–the Duggar parents showed that they did not understand the normal healing process for sexual abuse.

And when supporters say, “the girls were healed back then, why dredge it up now?”, we show an extreme insensitivity to others who were also sexually abused.

Author Mary DeMuth, herself a sexual abuse survivor, puts it this way:

Instant forgiveness and “putting it behind you” only delays the healing process, a journey that only begins by stating the awfulness of the violation. By shoving the story under the rug for the sake of your family or church community, you may save the perpetrator’s reputation and the reputation of those near him or her, but you lose important ground in becoming free.

An untold story never heals. It just festers until it comes out in unwanted behavior.

Easy “forgivism” may gloss over the terrible situation in the short term, but it reinforces to everyone that the egregious, soul-siphoning sin committed against the victim was trivial, easy to get over.

I have no idea how the girls feel now. But I do know that those girls were in a position where they had to act as if their family had it all together. They even wrote a book about their sexuality and never mentioned it. Every sexual abuse survivor I know–without exception–has told me that their sexual abuse had a huge impact on their sexuality. To not be able to mention it is to invalidate a huge part of their story.

Besides that, apparently at least one victim was not part of the family. How did that victim feel watching the show where all the sisters were praising Josh? Does she matter?

The world is watching whether we will show compassion to sexual abuse survivors.

I am not asking us to string Josh up; I think he is a victim as well, and he will likely bear even more long term consequences. The incest taboo is one of the most hard-wired things in us. The fact that he was able to overcome this taboo and fondle his sisters means that he must have been going through something awful himself. It’s really very tragic for everyone.

So, no, we should not ask for Josh to be punished. But we do need to say that to require the girls to act like all is okay; to require them to extend quick grace; to portray to the world that “we are all fine” is to denigrate sexual abuse survivors.

Even if the Duggar girls are 100% okay, 95% of sexual abuse survivors were NOT okay immediately. And those survivors are hearing Christians say, “what’s the problem? It’s all behind them!”

What do they think if it is not behind THEM? What do they think when they hear, “we should let it go and forget about it!”–when THEY cannot let it go or forget about it?

What do they think when they hear that a 6 or 7 or 8 year old girl forgave and forgot, and is never ever bothered by it again? In the Duggars’ statement, they insinuated that this was all taken care of  years ago–even when the girls were so young at the time of counseling. I don’t know any reputable counselor who would say that you can make that type of pronouncement at that young an age.

And if they really were healed completely, and it honestly never bothered them–then what a testimony! Imagine if they had been able to share on their show how they got past this! But they didn’t. And now they have burned those bridges.

The lesson to be learned: The world is watching us. This is our chance to honor the stories of sexual abuse survivors and to show true compassion for those who have endured sexual abuse.

I have heard so many Christians defend the Duggar parents, and I understand. They’re in a horrible situation and we feel sorry for them.

But let’s remember that they are not the real victims here. However sad it is, they are simply bearing the consequences of poor decisions they made a decade ago. The real victims are the Duggar girls and the girl, or girls, outside the family who were abused; sexual abuse survivors hearing terrible messages about how “it was a long time ago” and “what does it matter” and “it was just touching”; and even, to a certain extent, Josh, whose life would be far better today had his parents, his church, and the authorities handled this appropriately back then.

If our voices of compassion are louder for the Duggar parents than they are for the victims, we, whether we intend to or not, minimize the severity of the effects of abuse. And I hope none of us would honestly want to do that.

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Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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    • Jenny

      I agree! The thing that has bothered me the entire time is that they chose to put their family in the limelight despite the fact that this had happened.

    • Carole

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  1. Darby Dugger

    (Previous comment sent too soon…). I agree with what you wrote and the tone in which it was written. Thank you! I also think this is a good time for us to check the allegiance of our hearts. If you were devastated by the news to the point you ignore the facts and reality… Could it be your heart has somehow idolizes the Duggar family?! Likewise, if you have been giddy over their fall, could it be you’ve harbored unnecessary hatred towards them? If our hearts only focus on God… We would have his heart over the matter which wouldn’t consist of attacking or minimizing… Rather it would be hurting for the victims and the sexual brokenness of all involved. It would be for authenticity to speak about personal struggles and God’s healing. That’s my opinion anyway!

    • Sheila

      Thank you, Darby! I agree absolutely.

  2. Gaye @CalmHealthySexy

    Hi Sheila – Thanks for once again taking on a very difficult topic. I have been saddened by how little the discussion about this situation has focused on the victims. It seems like many Christians are either focused on closing ranks around the Duggars or on on minimizing the effects sexual abuse has on victims. I think that Jesus always stands with victims, and as Christians we need to do the same.

    • Sheila

      Thanks, Gaye!

  3. Roberta

    The reason I have supported the Duggar’s is because I can see the testimony of their lives and how their children have turned out. The girls are doing far better than most any sexual abuse survivor I have ever seen- and I work in the general field. The girls seem to have a a great joy for the Lord, a great respect for their parents, a love for their brother and do not seem to show the standard lasting effects as they have grown and gotten married that most sexual abuse survivor’s have.

    Please remember when I say this that I work in the field. Most counseling these days is very unhealthy. Rarely is it Christ centered and very infrequently does it bring healing. Most of it is based on psychology and if you have studied psychology you know that it’s roots are in evolution and humanism. As a counselor I would encourage most to steer far away from most counselor’s.

    If we are attacking them because they didn’t do what the professionals suggest, but then the Duggar’s end result was better than the professionals, I believe it’s time to question the professionals and not the Duggar’s. Jesus said that by the fruit you can tell. They have lived their life in front of the camera for many years now. The fruit is evident, both of healing in the girls and the well meaning of the parents. I’m proud to stand with the Duggars.

    PS. I read your daughter’s article but didn’t comment. She’s a great writer. I think most of the backlash was because of her title. If she would just of said how uneasy and troubling the situation was and what she would of liked to see happen differently she would have gotten a different reaction, but when you draw a line in the sand like that and say what she said with the title you are bound to get a lot of backlash when you are talking about a family who has shown they love the Lord.

    • Mary DeMuth (@MaryDeMuth)

      When I was the Duggar girl’s age (late teens early twenties) had a camera been put on me (and even if not) most people would have said I seemed like a normal well adjusted teenager. But beneath the surface, I was completely messed up. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I really understood why I was falling apart, or I was really mature enough to understand I needed counseling. All that to say, looks can be deceiving. Most sexual abuse survivors I’ve talked to are “fine” and functional until either they have a child of their own, or they enter their thirties.

      • Sheila

        Thank you, Mary. I so appreciated your article the other day, too.

    • Nettie

      How do you know the girls are doing far better than other sex abuse survivors? How do you know they are not suffering lasting effects? You’re judging this by having watched them on the show, read their books, etc? It’s utter naiveté to think that they would reveal their true inner struggles and pain in front of the world. I’m sorry and mean no disrespect, but I can’t fathom how you could honestly come to your conclusion, unless you were intimately close with the girls (and even that wouldn’t be a guarantee you’d know how they were privately affected still).

      • Sheila

        That’s so true, and that’s what makes me most upset about the whole thing (and what really bothered my daughter). They had to present this front on TV, or they would lose the show. How do we know what the girls were really feeling–especially since we know so much was false? I just hope that there is someone around the girls that can give them help outside of the Bill Gothard type materials they used before.

        • Christy

          Really, Sheila you know SO MUCH of it was false? No, you know nothing. You know only what you have assumed. What any and all of us know is what someone LEAKED of a juvenille. That’s all you know. You know no more than the rest of us, but I guess you’re the expert since you’ve sat down personally with the girls and asked them?
          Have you thought for one second that they themselves, the girls did not want this public? Oh wait, no, because obviously every person whether is female or male wants their sexual history put out there for the world to know.
          Maybe, gasp, just maybe the Duggars did not announce it to the general public, because they were protecting ALL of their children.
          Do the girls have lasting issues, possibly. They also could have laid it out to the Lord and have forgiven Josh for his horrendous sin against them.
          I’ve not read any articles defending the Duggars, only arguing against the liberal agenda that Josh should have been stoned, thrown into prison, and disowned by his family. But, obviously that’s the way you’re leaning too. You have lost a reader, supporter, and money in your pocket, since that’s also all you’re about.

          • Sheila

            I’m just curious–why, despite all the stories of sexual abuse survivors here, despite the fact that I talked about what we know the vast majority of sexual abuse survivors go through, despite the fact that I left room open for the fact that the girls may be all right–is it so important for you to believe that the girls are totally okay? You seem out of proportionally angry, and I’m just wondering why.

            Maybe that’s a good question to ask yourself. Why is it so important for you to believe that the Duggars are absolutely in the right, even if evidence points otherwise?

          • nettie

            To Christy: I’m sure the girls very much did not want this to go public. Which is why, knowing that Josh had molested five girls, including his sisters, the elder Duggars should’ve never stepped into the public eye via television specials & the later reality show. Maybe they didn’t think about the fact that becoming celebrities would inevitably lead to this information being leaked out, but they probably should have. Now that it has, the girls and the other victim(s) have to go through it all over again, and this time in the public eye.

            I’m not sure how you read all that ugliness (the hate that has come from those with a liberal agenda) into Sheila’s article. I thought it was honest and called out the issue that many of us are upset about, yet she didn’t call for persecuting Josh at all, but rather spoke with grace. We can be supportive of the Duggar family while still calling molestation what it is, and while voicing deep concern over how the family handled this, how the girls might not have gotten the help they needed, and the risk his own daughters might be under.

          • Travis Waits

            This for sure is a difficult topic that has triggered many thoughts and responses.

            I think one piece that is profoundly missing in all of this, is for the victims, the girls themselves, they did not choose to shine this unwelcome light into their pasts.

            Their stories are THEIRS to tell, in their timeframe, in their willingness, of their choosing.

            Not ours.

          • Patricia Zell

            Christy, we should be grateful that the information was released. Mr. and Mrs. Duggar knew that Josh had violated one of the daughters and did nothing for over a year. As a result, five little girls were violated. Think that through. They did not protect their daughters and other young girls. There is nothing “Christian” about that negligence. Don’t tell me that they live exemplary lives.

            I personally am astounded at how many Christians are going on and on about how Josh has repented. How do you know that? This young man had to have some horrific compulsions to do what he did. How do we know that he doesn’t still have them? He did incredible harm to little girls, and we’re not concerned about the children that are in his life now? Christians, get a grip on reality.

          • Laurel

            Christy, This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue and to make it so is to really do a tremendous disservice to all involved. I would hope, in manners of keeping children safe, that we could all agree that knowingly letting an older sibling remain in close physical proximity with young children that he has violated is a pretty bad idea and not a good example of sound parenting.

            Repentance and forgiveness do not absolve one of responsibility or consequences. And secrets will always come back to haunt you. Read the book of Luke to find out what God has to say about Secrets, and how they will manifest.

            It is my belief that God is acting through this situation to remind the Duggars and others of the dangers of not truly caring for the precious gifts he has given you. When money and fame and appearances feed into the decision to put your children’s life on TV you have made a decision for your children that they don’t deserve privacy. Do we have the right to do that to our children? I firmly believe that God is sending a message that reality TV, fame, etc is harmful to children. As are extremely rigid religiosity. Remember following legalistic religious rules is not the same thing as being strong in faith. A person could follow the Duggar’s rigid courtship rules perfectly, but it doesn’t mean their faith is sincere and their heart is turned to the lord.

            The Duggars, no doubt had good intentions and probably felt at the time they were right, but time shows that it was wrong on many levels. The parents are the ones that most of us take issue with. They have promoted their lifestyle as the only way to ensure the purity and safety of their children. They have not held back from expressing their opinions about lifestyles that differ from theirs, and have even made ignorant statements that gays are akin to child molesters. It takes a special kind of insensitivity and hypocrisy to point fingers at other people as child molesters when your own home has very dark secrets.

            Sheila has written a wonderful position here and it restores my own faith to see a Christian woman who is not afraid to say what needs to be said. To let the Duggars slip by with this does them no favors. When you are living in lies and are not sincere and right with the Lord it eats away at you. Just look at how aged Josh is. He looks a good 10 years older than his actual age, and I believe it is because his shame and guilt, coupled with the pressure to buy into thy family sponsored hypocrisy, has taken a serious toll on his wellbeing.

            Michelle and Jim Bob, need to come right with the lord. And they need to look outside of their current faith circle to do that, because obviously those closest to them have also not given wise counsel.

    • Charlotte

      I love your response Roberta. We don’t all fit the same cookie cutter in healing. I have been told for years that seeking professional council is the way and have tried earnestly with different ones. I have never left feeling restored. After truly seeking a church family I have found the healing I’ve been searching for. Thank the Lord!

    • Nena

      I agree, how can you possibly know that the girls are well adjusted and okay with what happened? It has already been revealed that this was all acting for TV and not the true live situations that they were dealing with. They didn’t even mention it in their book so they obviously didn’t deal with the reality of what happened or they would have dealt with it in the book and talked about the healing you seem to think they have obtained through this process. I totally agree with Sheila on this. They are just another example of a family claiming to be Christians who only deal with what looks good on the outside and not real authenticity. This is what gives our culture today the opinion that all Christians are “Holier than thought hypocrites” and it makes it very difficult for them to see why they should be Jesus followers. I also think it was hypocritical that while he was dating his wife they made such a big deal that they had never kissed or held hands, etc. when all along they knew he had molested multiple girls. i find it offensive that they seem to think it wasn’t as big of a deal because some of the girls he molested where his sisters. It shows me their ignorance of the true issues with molestation. Something is wrong, I don’t care how young he was, in the mere fact that he molested anyone. I think everyone that thinks he is getting a raw deal by the show being pulled and people being outraged should be forced to let him babysit their young daughters and I believe we would have an entirely different story. I do believe he can be forgiven but I agree with Sheila that pretending it didn’t happen for the sake of money and a show is where the problem lies.

    • Elaine Rees

      I do not agree that you can say the abused or abuser is doing just fine by watching them on a television program. You can not possibly make that assessment because television programs like these are not “real”. I only watched it a few times, when it was new. I sensed a lack of sincerity, to the point of being sickened and annoyed, and lost interest. It seemed more like a story book fairy tale that the family worked so hard at to make it believable. Now it is evident that is the case. I would never even consider putting my life or family on a television show. It isn’t possible for it to be true, accurate. Being transparent with a few friends is an important part of life as a follower of Christ, which is what I do.
      This family is no better, no worse than any of us. We are ALL sinners who desperately need the mercy, grace and forgiveness of God.
      This stuff happens in families (Christian or not) a lot more than folks want to admit. Because of shame it’s hidden, ignored. The damage will surface time and time again. Healing and forgiveness is NOT a one time deal. It is a process.

  4. Leanne

    “Many are saying, “but why should they have had to speak about something that was healed and forgotten?” Because they portrayed themselves as a family who had it all together–when they obviously did not. ” Not just that, but they made such a big deal about how Josh had saved his first kiss for his wedding day. Jim Bob even said in one of the show’s episodes “I wish that I had waited like Josh did.” I think the abuse was relevant to that discussion.

    • Sheila

      Oh, Leanne, I’m so glad I’ve never watched the show. I think if I had, I’d be even more upset because I’d have all these hypocritical scenes playing out in my mind. So sad.

      • A

        I agree with soo many of your points but I really wish you had watched the show before writing this article. Bc as you watch you do get to know them on some level, and while josh always did seem fake and kind of smarmy, the girls really do exude a genuine tranquility. That said, I don’t doubt for a second that the incidents don’t haunt them! I just don’t want you to be imagining something in the show that didnt happen, such as Fake statements about how happy they are. They mostly talk about events and how the family handles logistics, rules, etc. It’s not so fakey happy. Michelle though, she is almost impossibly happy. 🙂

  5. LorettaCAN

    I’ve been reading a lot on this, from both sides of the issue. I’m not sure where I stand. But I guess part of me wonders, does it really matter what I think? They’ll have to give an account before God one day, not me.

    What I’m going to say is tender, so please, be gracious to me as I’m desiring to be gracious to others in similar situations. When I was a young girl, my sister would take me baby-sitting with her. The family had a girl about the same age as me, but if I’m remembering correctly two years younger. So, I would have been about ten, she about 8. On at least two occasions, we went into her bedroom to play. She wanted to play house, but to her, that involved touching me. She told me how sex worked (I was a very innocent child) and touched my genitals more than once.

    But here is where I struggle. To me, it was wrong and uncomfortable yes, but I never, NEVER once felt like a victim. She didn’t distort my view of sex or my own body. I knew she was a confused and curious little girl (and in hind sight I kick myself that I didn’t tell an adult because I have no idea if she has repeated this since, she needed help or discipline, whichever, I don’t know, it would be up to the parents to decide, as God placed them in the role, not me. I don’t honestly remember her name, I can tell you exactly what house it was, but not her name, they didn’t live there long). I keep reading how the Duggar girls just had to be horribly traumatized by it, but I have to wonder if they did. Bad things happen in life. We are sinned against all the time. But we don’t have to play the victim. To be truthful, I haven’t thought about these incidents in years. And I rarely recalled them even prior to that.

    In fact, in hindsight, my mother’s hatred of men scared me much more than this little girl ever could possibly have. When I was older, about 13, my mom told me on multiple occasions that I had to watch out for my older brother, then an adult, because he may molest me. He never did. Never had any intentions to do so. But her hatred of men instilled a distrust of men in me much more than this little girl ever affected me. It wasn’t that something did happen to me, it was her putting the idea into my head that men had only one intention – to abuse women. I clearly know now as an adult that this is simply not true.

    I am NOT trying to make light of true victims, but is it possible that the Duggar girls (and the other unnamed girl) do not now, nor ever did, feel like victims? They took it to the cross of Jesus, as did I, and let His redeeming blood do the work and healing of hurt. Beyond that, I think sometimes we tell people they have to be hurt and devastated even when they’re not. I know Jesus is bigger than any sin, ever. Period. I saw someone else (I apologize, I can’t remember who) say that one drop of Jesus blood is more powerful than all the psychologists in the world. Why do we have to make everyone a victim if they don’t want to be? I never wanted to be a victim, all I want is to point people to Jesus. It is all Him, and never I. Me, of myself, am a wretched being, worthy of only punishment. Praise God, Jesus paid my penalty that I can be redeemed!

    • Christine C

      I don’t mean to trivialize your experience at all. I do want to point out that there’s a difference between what happened to you and having your older brother sneak into your room at night to touch you inappropriately, or pull down your underwear while you’re sitting on his lap. From the police report, those are the things that Josh Duggar did to those girls.

      And you can still take your hurt to Christ and find healing in His love, but recognize that you were hurt and victimized by someone else’s actions.

      • L

        When I was 12 my brother did exactly what you described in your comments. My parents never called the police on my brother and made him go to jail for his actions. He didn’t get counseling or sent off to work out his issues through manual labor. The Duggar’s did get involved, (sorry it wasn’t under your standards that they do it in). They did help their son and their daughter’s heal through this issue. But because they didn’t do it according to social media’s ways they are wrong!

        I did have some issues when I was in my mid 20’s dealing with the emotions and it affected my marriage early on, BUT what changed me wasn’t hearing my brother admit his wrongs to me.. It was the blood of Jesus Christ that saved me from bitterness and resentment. All these articles point that these girls need to have this in order to be victims. I had what was done to these girls done to me and thanks to the love of Jesus I’m healed of bitterness and have forgiven my brother without EVER sitting down with him to ask for his forgiveness. I have a loving relationship with my brother. He was 14 as well when it happened and I’m now 40, in a wonderful marriage of almost 18 yrs and a mother of three children.

        Have we once thought that just MAYBE he was living in an isolated life that he wanted to know about sex and didn’t have his parents to truly turn to and unfortunately he did so with his sisters? That he isn’t actually mean spirited or wanted to truly hurt them? That’s what happened with my brother. We lived a sexually isolated life not knowing much about this topic when we were younger and didn’t have parents/friends to share any questions with. Why oh why do we all have to jump to such large assumptions that everything must be so evil and mean spirited? That he had evil intentions when he decided to do what he did… Did anyone actually consider that he was 14, not 24, 34, 44 etc. He was a CHILD. He thought like a child, acted like a child and had the brain capacity of a child. STOP thinking like an adult for a second and realize he was a child, he should not ever be put on trial as an adult!

        My brother is married with three beautiful children and lives his life according to God. Why is it seriously hard for everyone to think that someone could actually change and that someone could actually forgive? This incident didn’t just happen just because you found out a week ago. This is over a decade ago? How could you not see that you could truly forgive someone of a wrongdoing in that time period? When you don’t have God in your life, I can see that bitterness could be your best friend but this family even more than others show nothing but God’s love, why is it so hard for us to truly believe that their lives follow God’s and that they could truly see forgiveness and healing?

        We live in such a bitter world that seeing someone forgive is almost foreign. So seriously sad for all of us, not them.! I support the Duggar’s and families like them that have had this happen to them and have found forgiveness in their hearts for the tragedy that has befallen them.. And remember it was THEIR tragedy, not yours and it’s not up to you or the media to determine their lives fate and how/when they should find forgiveness..

        • Josie

          I agree with what you said in response to this article 100%. Forgiveness is freedom and it’s so rare in our world today. Everything you said and the way you said it was beautiful. Thanks for showing your heart here.

        • Karen

          Loretta, I agree with you. I too was in a situation such as yours and can say I am 100 % healed by the grace of God. I went to a women’s group, at my church, because I had hurts from a previous church. A lady at the group shared about sexual abuse and I shared my situation and the leader of the group jumped right in and wanted me to work on this and remember all that had happened so that I could be healed. I felt that it was all manipulation as I was healed. So many, well intentioned, people want to place their experience on everyone else and not consider that we are all individuals with different experiences and reactions to events in our lives. I think it is wonderful that people know there is help for them but it is not found in the counsel of this world but IS found in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and knowing that we are all fallible human beings. As for telling anybody and everybody of the experience I always think of the scripture of not casting our pearl before swines….not all people have our best interest at heart.

        • Allison L

          I’m sorry, please forgive me while my cheeks turn red. I will try to be nice in this post.

          If Josh felt SO isolated, and so sheltered, and wanted to be curious and experiment with his raging hormones that all teen boys encounter, then he could have gone and experimented with another 14 year old girl…not his younger sisters, as young as the age of 5. That is not some “childish mistake” That is a choice that he made. He DELIBERATELY MADE the CHOICE to touch, fondle, and be COMPLETELY innapropriate with his own siblings. And he did it not with one sister but with 4, and not just one time (which by the way is the definition of a mistake, something that is done ONCE, and you learn from it and you dont let it happen again…like forgetting to lock your car and your phone gets stolen, or forgetting to air up your car tire and you get a blow it. You learn, and you dont let it happen again cuz it sucks.) He did it many many many times over the course of an entire year. That is not a simple mistake that a “childs mind” does. He knew EXACTLY what he was doing, and yet he continued to do it anyways.

          ” He thought like a child, acted like a child and had the brain capacity of a child. STOP thinking like an adult for a second and realize he was a child, he should not ever be put on trial as an adult!”

          If we have the legal driving age set at 16, and we expect 16 year old drivers to be responsible and mature enough to drive safely behind the wheel of a vehicle, then a 14 year old has enough capacity to know that molesting his sisters is wrong. Josh is a very very smart young man. At the age of 16 or 17, he was running his own used car lot. Doesnt seem the mind of a child could comprehend how to run their own business. But he did.

          Your thought process on Josh Duggars mindset is asinine. I’m sorry, but theres no way I believe for a minute he was acting like a child – especially if the ones he was acting like that with WERE IN FACT CHILDREN.

          • RF

            Allison, not in Josh’s defense, but as an observation–they homeschooled and had church in their own home at that time. I’m not sure Josh had much opportunity to meet other 14 year olds. And if his parents disapproved of him with another 14 year old–well, I can see this as a recipe for disaster for a 14 year old child who had to know it was wrong, but had no one to turn to to talk to-not even the Internet to research on his own, no school counselor, no preacher–no one. He was a child, he knew right from wrong, but many 13/14 year old boys still choose wrong…which is one reason they are still considered children.
            I’m speaking from empathy for a 14 year old boy; I have 6 sons. But also sympathy for the girls involved as I have been in their position.

        • RF

          I totally, totally agree with what you have written. My thoughts exactly.
          In response to Loretta C (I think) I’m a survivor of sexual abuse. I didn’t feel like a “victim” or “dirty” until the counselor pounded it into my head. I started wondering why she kept insisting it wasn’t my fault–I knew it wasn’t my fault, but should I be feeling it was my fault? Individual therapy, group therapy, court ordered and I didn’t want to go–there are children who need it and some that don’t. I didn’t feel like a victim until I was forced to believe I was. To me, it was something that happened several times and i didn’t want it to happen again. Period. That learned victim mentality lead me into another abuse situation, because I then felt helpless–think I told then? No way! I knew what was to come for me if I did.
          I can honestly say I’m fine now because I learned forgiveness and power and I realize sometimes people do really stupid things, but that doesn’t have an impact on who I am. I’ve worked in foster care for several years, my degree is in psychology, I truly believe we need to EMPOWER victims, not make them feel further like victims that cannot control what happens to them.

  6. Sharon

    I remember one episode where they were fielding viewer questions. One question asked: What would happen if one of your kids kissed someone that they weren’t engaged to? Instead of responding with how they would discipline that child or counsel that child to do otherwise they basically indicated that something like that would not ever happen in their family. Knowing what I know now, that answer seems to be a symptom of denial.

    With so much focus on side hugs, courtship and modesty the Duggars made a big mistake in not revealing the history of abuse. I am very disappointed because as you indicate, it proves that they were not as authentic as they wanted us to believe. In fact, they could have done a lot of good in the name of victim advocacy if they had brought it to light- instead they’ve lost a lot of respect from the public.

    • Sheila

      Oh, Sharon, that’s really bad! Ironically I’ve never even seen one episode (we don’t have a TV). I think if I had, I’d be even more upset, because I’d have these specific things to mull over.

      • Sharon

        Ha Ha, then in honor of your birthday I will not send the clip of the above mentioned scene.

        Happy Birthday! Thanks for all that you do- it helps so many women and families.:)

    • Laurel

      It is important to note the the rigid modesty standards they put in place and the other rigid rules such as side hugs, etc, actually did not serve the purpose they were meant to serve. These girls were dressed modestly and this still happened to them.

      Controlling children is not the same as protecting children. Setting up elaborate modesty and courtship standards is a form of control. Teaching children about their bodies, good touch vs. bad touch, how to handle normal hormonal changes, how to manage lust and desire (rather than just feel shamed by it) is what protects your child. This can be done in ways that support your morals and values.

    • Allison L

      Agreed. Kind of makes me wonder if their whole entire life is a lie. Which is sad, because I really did love their moral values, which now, even I question those

  7. Jaison J. Raju

    I am a little surprised by a few of the responses here who after reading your very well-written piece have the temerity to back the Duggars fully because either the girls were not molested to a certain degree (however one judges that) or that the Duggars would have been better post-molestation counselors than the professional field of secular counselors (plenty of Biblical / Clinical counselors could have been contacted).

    I deeply appreciated this piece, I felt strongly that you honored God and discerned the situation accurately. Close friends of ours referred me to your article and I was so pleased to see Biblical analysis of the several strand that exist in this situation (molestation, sexual abuse aftermath, forgiveness, incest, recovery, healing, honesty about sin, authenticity, transparency, sin cover-up, parenting crisis, handling illegal activity done by your children, how to handle the public space, being a true witness for Christ, holding Christian celebrities as idols, diminishing victims of sexual abuse)

    Unless someone can handle all of the strands that you covered in a Biblical and honest manner, their point of view is no where near as valid as the work you did on this blog piece. I was simply amazed at your honesty and courage.

    Christian society in America has clearly degraded beyond recognition if we back a teenage sexual abuser to continue public life after facing limited and otherwise dubious consequences.

    • Nettie

      Well-said, Jaison.

    • Sheila

      Thank you, Jaison. I really appreciate that high praise.

  8. Anne Garboczi Evans

    I thought this was a really good post. You’re absolutely right about being honest in the body of Christ. I would just add that while I hope you are correct and Josh is healed, there really is no evidence of that. You said it appears that he’s fine now. But it also “appeared” until just last week that no one had ever been sexually abused in the Duggar family.
    I hope his wife has some wise counselors to help her determine if her husband really is “ok” now. And that Josh is honest about his current issues if he does have current issues.

    • Nettie

      Another great response that expresses one of the most bothersome aspects of this, to me. IS Josh really fine now? I also worry that his wife would never be able to call him out if she saw or suspected him doing something bad to their children. If she was brave enough to speak out, and was actually heard, I fear they’d try to solve things within the realm of the family and church again. Especially because at his age now, a conviction of abuse would send him to jail.

      • Laura

        Nettie- This is the thing that has bothered me the most about this whole scandal (besides worrying about the victims). I wholeheartedly agree with you.

      • Sheila

        Good point, Nettie.

    • Sheila

      That’s a very good point, Anne. I guess I was trying to give everyone the broadest benefit of the doubt, but we really don’t know, do we? That’s scary.

  9. DC

    @Mary DeMuth – your last line is me exactly! I’m just now in therapy for things that happened as long ago as 25 years ago and as recently as 9 years ago. I was able to ignore it until I had my daughter. Now it’s GAME F*CKING OVER. I’m in my early thirties, too.

    I’m not sure why it was easy to pretend it hasn’t affected me until now. It’s so weird, but sexual abuse is a motherf*cking ninja like that. Honestly, at times, I feel like I’m too far down the road for even therapy to help. Sexual abuse wraps its dirty tentacles around every single aspect of the survivor’s life – EVERYTHING is tarnished and splattered with its relentless ugliness.

    It’s a very long road I’m looking at (to recovery) and it reallllly sucks, but I have to try. (Sorry for the inappropriate language, Sheila. I promise I’m not trying to be disrespectful! It’s just the only way I can authentically describe what it’s like.)

    • Diana

      Don’t give up, DC. Healing can come with counseling and if you can have faith in God, with prayer. I am 61 and it took years, as well as stages to find a pretty good degree of healing. I have me=adfe some other comments…read them. I also had the experience of not getting the abuse until I was in my 30s. I knew it had happened but I could not manage to say, I am a sexual abuse victim and it seriously hurt me. But now my husband and I have a beautiful relationship. There are occasionally times I still have to pray through intimacy but it almost always is great. There were many years it wasn’t. BTW, I get the language. Sometimes only that kind of language can express the depth of the hurt and pain.

      God bless you and keep you.

      • Diana

        A correction to the above. I meant to say, I also had the experience of not getting that I had actually been abused until I was in my thirties. The abuse took place when I was a little child and again in my teens. One of the things that happened in my life was the early abuse set me up for later abuse. But again, I want to say healing can be found with counseling and prayer. (I would prefer a person to have Christian counseling, but I also read books that were written by non Christians that were helpful.)

  10. anonymous

    While I agree with most of what you’re saying (especially about them going ahead with the TV show!) I question how much to say about this specific situation publicly. As I was tempted to respond to some rather hostile comments on social media from my more secular friends, I realized that they don’t understand the biblical approach to a brother’s sin (Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 6:1-6.) Any response I give will only fuel their arguments. Don’t get me wrong. I am so sad about what has happened–especially for what those sweet girls have been through! I don’t think it’s right to deny that there is sin here, either. I am just having a hard time drawing the line between what is appropriate and helpful to discuss and what is going too far.
    (I am in no way implying your comments are inappropriate, by the way–just explaining my own thought process regarding my response)

    That said, as an abuse survivor myself, I have been surprised several times with what can trigger those old feelings. Once it was reading a random book for a child development class. Another was the sudden death of my mother. These were both completely unpredictable for me. The toll abuse takes is immeasurable, and the goal in these situations must always be healing–first for the victims, and after that the families.

    • Sheila

      Here’s what I would say about whether we should discuss it:

      The news came out
      Secular media started criticizing the Duggars
      Christians started defending the Duggars–in very inappropriate ways
      Christians are now making the problem worse by showing the world that we really ARE hypocrites and that we really DO dismiss sexual abuse.

      If Christians hadn’t made this into a bigger issue to the world than they did by defending the Duggars, then I think it would be fine and appropriate to let it go–other than to say an apology to sexual abuse survivors everywhere.

      But Christians made it worse, and I feel like we have to say something because now the church is acting in such a way as to give Christ a bad name.

      As for triggers, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with these! So sorry. And you’re right–it usually is totally unpredictable.

  11. Cheri Gregory

    Sheila —

    Thank you.

    Yes, God’s grace and forgiveness are available to all. But grace and forgiveness do no automatically erase consequences.

    There are sexual abuse victims who either never felt victimized or who have completely overcome their abuse and are living healthy, whole lives. I am glad for them. But I know two people who would love to be in their ranks — two people who read the books, went to counseling, prayed and went to church, did everything they knew to do and who still experienced serious consequences that continue to impact them and their children.

    Both my husband and I were sexually abused as children. We discussed it openly before the wedding but had NO CLUE how it would impact our entire marriage, our sex life in particular, and eventually our parenting.

    I didn’t recognize how over-protective and hyper-vigilant I was about protecting our children from ALL pain and disappointment (vs. inappropriate pain and disappointment) until late in their teens. My parenting was driven by fear, and as Jen Hatmaker puts it so aptly: “Scared parents raise scared kids.”

    My husband went through a year of being highly critical of our son — to the point of repeatedly telling him, “You are not my son!” In retrospect, we realize it was the year our son was the same age Daniel had been during his year of abuse (a common “trigger”).

    I still startle easily and quail at threatening voices (pretty much any raised voice.) Daniel still sits facing the door and monitors all his exits. Trust issues rise up in the most unexpected ways and at the worst possible times. We try to meet each new challenge with gratitude that God is leading us into a new phase of healing. But honestly, sometimes we feel overwhelmed that have to deal with this … AGAIN.

    Where we are today is a testimony to God’s restorative power. How far we have yet to go is a reminder that for many, the consequences of sexual abuse are ever-present, no matter how badly we want them to be — and no matter how many other people tell us they should be — things of the past.

    • Sheila

      Cheri, thank you for that inspiring story of your family! I really appreciate it–especially coming from you.

    • Diana

      I really relate to your comment, Cheri. I was abused sexually (and physically, ie violence) as a child and to this day I am very cautious and uncomfortable being hugged or kissed by a man (other, thank God, nowadays, my husband). Even with my adult sons I am stand-offish though I don’t want to be. It has taken years and much counseling and prayer to receive enough healing that now I can finally say my husband and I have a good sex life. Beautiful in God. But like your husband I like to sit with my back against a wall and have clear exits available.


  12. Nettie

    Just wanted to give you a word of support. I agree completely with what you’ve said, and am glad you (and your daughter) said it and shared it on FB. Christians’ excuses this week and their blind support of this family when there was clear mishandling of things (to put it lightly) is disheartening—and it’s repulsive to the non-believers who are seeing it.

    • Sheila

      Yes, I wouldn’t have written any of this if Christians had not so vocally defended the Duggars inappropriately. This is now a broader issue within the church because we obviously do not understand how to handle sexual abuse.

      • nettie

        I agree. The frustrating thing is, the people I’ve seen minimizing the sexual abuse, excusing it, and calling for grace above the safety of the victims and any potential future victims, are THE SAME people who, whenever they hear about a child molester on the news who is not a Christian celebrity/idol, call for the molester to be imprisoned for life at the very least. Many will often go further and call for the molester to be tortured and killed. THAT is hypocrisy.

        All this said, I regularly watched the show up until the past couple of years (I mainly just lost interest). I’ve always liked the family, with the exception of Josh—interestingly. He always rubbed me the wrong way and came off as self-centered and a know-it-all, and I didn’t like the vibe I got when I saw him interacting with his wife, especially. Maybe it was intuition. 😉 I’m very disappointed to find all this out, but I won’t let my overall like of the family (which admittedly, is pretty tarnished as far as Jim Bob & Michelle are concerned) keep me from speaking out against both sexual abuse and the way it was handled in this case.

  13. Osayi

    Why are we so quick to attack when people disagree with us? Thank you for voicing your opinion
    Yes he made a mistake, yes his parents made mistakes, and now what can we do to fix the situation, or to make things better?
    We can’t sweep it under the rug, because by doing the show they have forfeited privacy and anonymity.
    My heart bleeds for those who have suffered from sexual abuse, especially from relatives that should have protected them…

    • Sheila

      I know. It’s so sad.

  14. cordelia

    This issue is important to me because my daughter loves the duggar show and read the girls’ book on relationships. She is 14 and I need to know how to best explain the situation to her.
    I live in NW Arkansas and know ppl who know the Duggars …. We see them about town. The issue is in my backyard. I have muddled thru a few conversations and have found some common ground with your blog post which kind of affirms I may be on the right track. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sheila

      I’m glad you found it useful!

  15. Deb Elkink

    Excellent article–thorough, kind, and clear from a godly and biblical perspective. Thanks for posting this!

    • Sheila

      You’re welcome!

  16. Kimberly

    You used Psalm 51 as your proof for your post and I found it interesting, considering I know someone who uses this Psalm to say he repented and is forgiven and no other course of action is necessary. This person believes it only involves family and it should stay here. I know now it has only kept his Sins hidden. Interesting.

    • Sheila

      Wow! That’s too bad.

  17. Josie

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. The only thing I wish to add is that all families have their struggles. No family has it ALL TOGETHER. You mentioned that the Duggar family appeared to have it all together and now they have no credibility as a Christian witness. I will have to disagree with that idea. I’m a pastors wife and while I do have a wonderful family it’s not perfect. Many people are afraid to get help when faced with a crisis if they are in a position of authority or influence. My guess is that this family was very much respected before they even got on tv. Maybe we should cut them some slack and pray for the situation instead. Just my thoughts.

    • Sheila

      Josie, I never meant to say that they have no witness because their family isn’t perfect! Absolutely not. You’re right–nobody is perfect. They lost their witness because they made such a big deal about the fact that they have raised kids with healthy sexuality.

      We just need more authenticity from those in leadership, and more people being honest about what Christ is doing in the dark parts of their lives. These are the stories that touch people, and I’m sorry if people don’t feel comfortable sharing them.

  18. Anonymous

    Sheila, thank you so much for this post! As someone who has dealt very closely with sexual abuse victims, I can attest that what you and your daughter have written are spot-on. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts on authenticity and the healing process. It is beyond sad when Christians want to minimize and cover-up sin, and as you say, that’s not at all what being a Christian is truly about.

    • Sheila

      Thank you!

  19. Ashley Easter

    This is by far the best article I have seen on this issue. I say this from the perspective of one having experienced abuse and as one who plans to devote much of my life to rescuing abuse victims.

    • Sheila

      Thank you, Ashley! And I wish you all the best in your noble calling. I’m sure this has dredged up a lot of negativity this week in your field.

  20. Shay

    I still stand by your daughter perspective. I also stand by yours. We can not minimize any sexual abuse.

    • Sheila

      Thanks, Shay! And I know Rebecca appreciates that, too.

  21. Stephanie

    Thank you for this post. I think it should be said that the temptation to hide sin is common for all Christians. Your words are definitely challenging me to be more authentic in my relationships.

    • Sheila

      Thanks, Stephanie!

  22. Strawberry19

    But dont you think if they would have brought it up from the beginning, it WOULD have done
    the SAME thing its doing now? If you are a Christian, Everyone in the world who isnt,
    thinks you think you are perfect and they just wait for you to mess up. I think it
    would have been the same thing if they had brought this out the first thing.

    • Sheila

      Quite possibly–but at least they could say, “we messed up, and we admit it, and now we’re asking God how to fix it.” Instead they pretended all was perfect, and that’s where the real hypocrisy label comes in.

      Personally, I think they just should have turned down the show. Lots of politicians decide not to seek higher office to spare their family the scrutiny. Happens all the time.

      • Sara

        I’m sorry Sheila,I completely disagree. They never pretended to be perfect or have it all together. On several episodes of the show,i remember hearing the parents say quite the opposite. They never claimed or pretended to be perfect,people just assume they pretended to be perfect because they are on a reality show. Condemning Josh and the parents for something he did as a young teenager does not help the situation. What right do we,as Christians,have to judge them.
        If the family has moved on from this sad time,the girls,parents and Jesus have all forgiven Josh,then so should the public. I fully respect any family that takes on the challenge of trying to be authentic and transparent by having a reality show on television. We should pray for them,keeping it all in love and honor. After all,they are still are brothers and sisters in Christ.
        We all have a right to our own opinions,however,we should also be biblical and scriptural.

        • nettie

          Sara: I agree that we should be biblical and scriptural. I believe Sheila does, too, and I believe she has been here. I see no condemning of Josh for his past behavior. But to answer your question, “What right do we, as Christians,have to judge them?”, I offer you this answer, taken from the very article above that we’re commenting on:

          “And despite people’s cries of “Judge not lest ye be judged”, they seem to overlook that Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 5:12: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” He was quite adamant that we were to judge those claiming to be Christians so that we do not ruin our witness. Paul knew that hypocrisy was so dangerous to the cause of Christ. So we should never cover up sin.”

  23. Tina

    Hey everyone! Hoping for some clarification. I have read the police report and it didn’t state any details about the victims. Did the Duggar family say that Josh’s sisters were the abuse victims? I’m just wondering if his brothers could have been the abuse victims. Thanks!

  24. Alex

    I like this post, and I liked the one your daughter had written.
    I agree so much about our witness needing to be authentic. A lot of my friends on Facebook are liberal, gay, not Christian, etc. It is absolutely heartbreaking how this is being used to prove what hypocrites Christians are. And can you blame them? As I’ve read comments and links from gays I see over and over the question of how dare Josh work for an organization that promotes family values and makes gays feel attacked. They ask how dare Christians say gays can be a danger to children, yet come out to protect one who actually did molest children. The sad thing is, a lot of my gay friends do have a hunger for spirituality, and I’m afraid Christianity does not seem like a good solution to that hunger to them due to things like this.
    On a separate note, its also interesting how people claim that the girls are fine because that is what they saw on the show. Like anything on TV is real. Just because its called reality TV doesn’t actually make it real. Its still staged, scenes are pre-arranged, and there is a lot of money involved.
    Speaking of money, you are a lot kinder then I am. At the end of the day what bugs me as a parent, is knowing that parents knowingly submitted their kids to this, just for some fame and fortune. Oh well, maybe I’m being too harsh, and they really did think that victim blaming and sweeping it under the carpet was the Christian thing to do. But that actually just makes it worse for me. It saddens me so when people do horrible things and claim to do in Christ’s name.
    This whole train wreck is so heartbreaking. Because people are paying more attention to this then actual atrocities being committed against Christians in other parts of the world. And yes, I am too. But it bugs me so much, because I am deeply embarrassed and saddened by the Christian reactions that tend to victim bash, and try to not make a big deal out of all this. Josh’s repentance is between him, God and the girls. And while I am not calling for his head on a platter, why should he be exempt from consequences. He’s an adult. He could have chosen to live the show. He didn’t have to take on a job at a family values organization. As my husband pointed out, there is an unknown Osborne sister who didn’t want to be in her family’s show, surely Josh could have made a similar decision.

  25. Diana

    Sheila, a very good post about a very difficult issue. I am 61. I was abused by a close family member when I was very young, and then again when in my teens. I have forgiven the abuser but it has been ongoing. As you say, it happens, along with the healing, in stages. It is really hard to at first face what actually happened and then face the extent and depth it hurt and harmed. And then trust God that He can heal…and continue healing. And help me forgive. It has been in looking at the issue that has led to both, and God had to lead me up to places where I was willing to go through remembering as well as admitting how much it hurt and how much it continued to hurt and affect my other relationships even into my 40s and 50s. I too suffered from vaginismus off and on for years and I think it was due to the abuse. It took a lot of faith and patience for both me and my husband to find healing. My abuser has never repented or admitted to what he did. When I attempted to even draw near the subject he was irate that I thought he had anything to forgive. I did not pursue the issue because he knew how to make other family members suffer when he felt “unjustly” “attacked.” Thnak you, Sheila for taking on this subject. I totally agree we need to be authentic about our sins, our hurts, and forgiveness. And I will mention forgiveness does not take away consequences. If someone cuts off your hand you can forgive them but you are still without that hand and you have whatever health and life consequences that go with that.

    A long comment. Just wanted to say it.

  26. Susan

    I think they did not necessarily say we are perfect. But they put the values out there that they were trying to live by. And in doing that people assumed they had it together spiritually and sexually. I think what happened with Josh is what encouraged them to have such high standards for courting and relationship accountability. They never said that they were perfect.

  27. Josie

    I read a really good article just yesterday that stated the abuse is reawakened for the girls all over again because of all that is happening now. Unless you have been abused yourself you will never know how devastating it is for a victim of abuse to relive this horror 12 years later. Again we should just pray about it and leave the outcome in Gods hands. We do not know the damage these girls are reliving just by people constantly talking about it.

  28. Chris

    Thank you so much for writing this, Sheila.

    Like many others, I have been watching the Duggar news with a heavy heart. Childhood sexual assault wounds so very deeply, and some of these young women were such young children.

    I imagine this has been incredibly difficult for the entire family–but as I’ve read the police report, my heart especially hurts for these young women who have had to navigate the process of healing from someone else’s sin against them.

  29. Amanda

    While I agree with most of what you’ve said, there is one thing that bothers me. You said the in the header “How we react to the Duggar abuse scandal shows who we are.” You seem to be saying that if we don’t agree fully with what you say, we’re somehow okay with sexual abuse. That is not okay, to make the assumption that someone is a bad person based on a few comments of theirs. I’d be willing to bet there are people you greatly respect who might differ from you in their opinions. It doesn’t make them wrong, or right. I can disagree with and interpret a few things differently than you, but still not be okay with the abuse that happened. Your words just seem like a huge leap. With all due respect, I have read reactions to some of your posts saying you’re anti-woman, or you’re too old fashioned, or hypocritical, and all that. Those people aren’t right, but you’re not right, either, to say we’re on the wrong side if we disagree a little with what you said. And, no I don’t disagree with you. That comment just rubbed me the wrong way, because there were a few of your points that I didn’t 100% follow. It sure doesn’t make me someone who is okay with what Josh or his parents did, however!

  30. brenda

    Keep in mind, David hid his sin thru at least a 9 month pregnancy. He didn’t confess till Samuel confronted him. Josh Duggar confessed his sin years ago, but like many sins including David’s there are long term family consequences. I believe we need to extend the Duggar family grace because they have tried to glorify Jesus Christ throughout their time on TV. We cannot assume they were prideful, hiding this sin. Only God knows the heart. Parents make mistakes when they are confronted with problems they aren’t experts at dealing with. I am sure their hearts were broken when the sin happened. They would have done better at each decision point if they had had better information. God allowed it to happen, and He promises it will work together for good. We need to pray that whatever lessons need to be learned thru this test will be used to glorify Jesus Christ.

  31. Rachel

    A lot of what you said jives well with some points in another article I read about the situation (before I knew the specifics of what had happened). I’m not sure whether the specifics of what had happened were available at the time this was written.

    “This might be the bigger tragedy of the Josh Duggar story: unbelievers consider it a bombshell when it is discovered that a Christian has a shameful past. This ought not to be. If we Christians were doing our job proclaiming that the Gospel is for sinners, of whom we are the foremost, the world would yawn when it discovered that Josh was a hound dog….”
    I don’t blame the world; I blame us. Is it possible we have become so obsessed with imposing our values on unbelievers that the world sees us as self-righteous Pharisees and not as blood-washed sinners? Have we been so consumed by the culture wars that we have failed to engage in the spiritual battle for souls?…”
    “I would have shouted from the rooftops, ‘If you think Josh is wicked, you should meet the rest of us! That is why we are Christians! We need forgiveness for being wretched, vile, wicked rebels. If you are a rebel too, Jesus died for you! Run to Jesus! Join the wretched club.’ Let’s not squander this opportunity to share the great good news that Jesus died for perverts, liars, thieves, drunkards…and every sinner who will come to Him in repentance and faith.”

    I suspect the lack of authenticity you discussed is fueled largely by the obsession Christians seem to have with portraying ourselves as perfect. Honestly, I don’t know of many churches where this would be handled in a biblical way in terms of dealing with a repentant sinner. That is not in any way meant to suggest “easy-forgivism” or sweeping something under the rug! But I suspect that truly repentant people with this kind of past would find less forgiveness in churches than they would anywhere else because Christians have somehow lost sight of the fact that none of us are anything more than dirty, rotten sinners saved, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to [God’s] mercy”. Some sins absolutely have more lasting consequences than others, and I would never minimize the severity of what happened or that it needed and needs to be dealt with. But that does not equate to the idea that some sins are less forgivable by God than others. I think if Christians did a better job in that regard, there would be a great deal more transparency that is desperately needed in so many areas.

  32. Pamela

    Yes, yes, yes!

    Also, I wanted to add (because I don’t believe anyone has commented on this aspect yet) that this type of hyper-patriarchy lends itself well to abuse — physical, spiritual, and sexual. It’s their misconstrued idea of submission that makes the environment ripe for tragedies such as this.

  33. jill couch

    Oh My! In reading most of the comments here I certainly hesitated to participate. Sadly things are being said that are certainly hurting someone…at some level. I was sexually abused at some age before 10 years of age. To this day I do not remember for certain. I had no recollection until I was approximately 30yrs old. My TRIGGER was when my child hit the approximate age that I was at the time of the abuse. The shock of the memories, (which seemed to come out of no where at the time) were so severe I almost ended up in hospital. After a decade of therapy and many thousands of dollars later…I was healed. I’d faced it, grieved it and forgiven. (Please do not mistake this short sentence as a quick and simplistic experience. It was HORRIBLE!) All this without ever seeing the perpetrator. There was the odd trigger, several nightmares etc but over all I was much better. Then, at a social event, the parent of the perpetrator was present and came to have a chat with me. I FROZE! I wanted to die! Not the parents fault AT ALL in my case but I was 10yrs old again. Had it not been for my siblings being there at the exact moment I would not have made it through that moment. I froze. I shook, I had an anxiety attack, I was terrified…all over again. 10 years have passed since then and life is good. I mean really good. God had blessed me far beyond anything I endured as a child and woman. HOWEVER I still have triggers. They pop out of no where sometimes. I hide it/ manage it well. No one would ever know; except for those I trust with whom I still share this. Everyone’s experience is different and unique to their personal situation. It is unfair to put any of it in a tiny box, especially when these young women’s live are still moving forward. My heart aches for the young girls/ women; It aches for the parents. I know that when my emotions run high in any situation I certainly am reactive yet with the maturity and wisdom that Christ keeps teaching me I try to be thoughtful in my responses…yet still failing more often than I wish. Young Rebecca Gregoire, I feel, took on a mammoth subject. It’s a subject fueled with emotions. I love the heart she has for young women globally and I remember thinking the same way at that age. Her heart of protection is what touched me the most. I remember when I was that young and my mother would often say,” You wait until you are older! You will see things so differently!” Guess what…my mother was soooo right! I have cried fresh tears over this issue and sadly I am certain I will shed more before I die in regards to this same horrible subject of sexual abuse. It is not over, it will sadly never be over on this earth until our Lord say’s, “Enough!” Loving prayers and hugs to all feeling the effects of this sad topic.

  34. Laura

    I respectfully disagree with several parts of your article. Mainly your attitude. For someone who has never watched the show you are making a lot of assumptions about the family. I think about michelle and Jim Bob being parents about my age (young to mid 30’s) when this occurred. There’s no manual for how to handle one of your children sexually abusing their siblings. I don’t believe they were trying to sweep it under the rug and hide it and pretend to be perfect as you say. (When I first watched their show I thought “how can anyone be so nice?” And then I remembered a friend of mine who speaks in a very high sing song voice too and smiles all the time. I remember meeting her the first few times and thinking “is she for real?” It turned out she IS for real! That’s who she is and how she speaks and carries herself. The Duggars come across the same way to me for 10 years so I do believe that they are authentic) If this happened 2 years before their show came on tv why would they bring it into the show if they’ve already hashed it all out as a family and with God? Why would they not try and protect all their children? I believe they put their strict sexual morals into place more so because of the abuse. I believe they did what they felt was best at the time. Do they have some hindsight 20/20 vision now of other steps that may have helped further? Probably so! Who doesn’t look back at ways they handled mistakes and wish they could do better with more knowledge? Put yourself in their shoes for more than a second passed your judgments. I feel as though your article is more in defense of your daughter’s article and honestly they both rubbed me the wrong way. I am not angry nor speaking quickly but this article did give me pause wondering if I wished to continue following you because you came off as a know it all, and frankly, you don’t know all of the details just like the rest of us.

  35. Sharon

    One more consideration for anyone looking to be a role model, leader or politician of conservatives and/or Christians in America- the Left is engaged in an all-out war against the Right and they will dig up whatever they can in order to stop you. Yes, the Duggars really screwed this up for their daughters, that very sad fact aside, if they really wanted to be Christian celebrities they would have been smart to know that skeletons in the closet are up for grabs. Doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes, just means you have to be honest about them.

  36. Tashina

    I really appreciate your article because it voices a lot of my thoughts on this issue. The only thing I might disagree with is the issue of forgiveness. I am a Christian and a survivor of heavy sexual abuse. I am currently trying to get justice for the abuse I have suffered. I have been through counselling and I have tried to deal with it on a faith basis. But I will be honest, I am not sure if God really can forgive my abuser. I think that, not because I haven’t forgiven him (which I have), but because of the impact the abuse had and still has on me. I am honestly wondering if God can forgive the man that caused so much pain to me and others. Like the Duggars, my former church tried to keep the whole thing secret and did not protect me.What is worse is that my abuser isn’t owning up to what he has done. Like me he is a Christian. I once believed that he could be forgiven by God, but now I am unsure. I know what the scripture is saying about this but I have doubts and I have doubts about all the other abusers out there as well. Now I am not attacking you for what you are saying, but I am just asking myself if this kind of crime can truly be forgiven? I for once am very unsure about that.

  37. Robin Wright

    Thank you for one of the most reasonable, well thought out responses to this mess. And I say that at someone who is not a practicing Christian and not a big fan of the Duggars. Like everyone else, I was horrified at what those girls must have lived through after this happened, including having to pretend to be the perfect family all those years. But I also felt for Josh and his parents. I think people need to seriously think about what htey would do in such a situation. It’s too easy to play Monday morning quarterback and say “of course I would have gone to the police immediately.” Really? That could have easily meant jail time, a lifetime on the sex offender list and public alienation so complete he probably wouldn’t be able to get a job doing anything or be anywhere near children for the rest of his life. If you thought you had a better way, wouldn’t you give it a shot? And I’ve heard too many mandated reporters tell stories of reporting gone bad. The authorities were ineffective at dealing with it and often made the situations worse. Families in these kinds of crises need effective intervention, including the perpetrator. Do we as a society have that to offer? If not, how do we create it? If we expect parents to take the proper steps, we need to be prepared to actually help them or we can expect many more situations like this.

  38. alchemist

    I’ve never seen this show and I didn’t even know who the Duggers where until very recently. I never would have heard of this if you hadn’t written about it. But can we stop reality TV already?

    Actually, can we stop having Christian celebrities? Please? Celebrity culture is sick. It’s voyeuristic and deeply problematic. What kind of a person even writes this stuff about other people. Why is it somehow ok that some sicko dug up some intensely painful incident in someone’s past somewhere and put it all over the internet? And we eat it up. It’s disgusting.

    In addition celebrity culture promotes pride in the celebrity and idolatry in the audience/ fans/ whatever. It isn’t healthy. And before people go on about witness: Yes perhaps they have an increased witness. Which may be why there are so many scandals. They are square in Satan’s crosshairs. How is it fair to put anyone in such a position?

    So yeah. Poor girls. Poor dude. Poor parents. Poor dude’s wife (can you imagine if she didn’t know?). Disgusting excuse for a human being who sold this story. Just stop. Seriously.

  39. jd

    While I am not forgetting how horribly wrong this was, we have to remember he was a child himself. He was not fully developed in his brain at all. Obviously he knew it was wrong, maybe even sick. We are victimizing everyone all over again by continuing to bring this in the lime light, did anyone ever think that maybe the girls and their parents discussed it before the show, or maybe, just maybe, it happened long enough before the show that they did not believe it was any of the publics business, or that it would affect the show in anyway. I dont watch the show anyway so the cancellation does not matter one bit to me, but I have experienced what those girls went through as a child and as a reality tv star or just a normal person I would never want that put out there for EVERYONE to see, to know some of your deepest darkest secrets, especially if they had truly put it behind them. While we all have a right to our own opinion none of us know the whole truth and have no business condemning anyone.

  40. Lindy Abbott

    Sheila, I was surprised to read in a comment “Oh, Sharon, that’s really bad! Ironically I’ve never even seen one episode (we don’t have a TV). I think if I had, I’d be even more upset, because I’d have these specific things to mull over.”

    I don’t want to offend you however in many ways I think this disqualifies you from commenting on this family. You are qualified to express your opinion on sexual abuse, molestation, healing, etc. but you don’t really know anything about the family, even from what is shown on the show. You only know about what you hear, and that is a big difference. Of course, anyone who follows the show only knows what they are allowed to see but at least they have seen the family in action. I see genuine love and respect between the parents and the children and between the siblings. However, I have also seen the siblings complain and disagree about things.

    I so agree with much of what you wrote about the effects of sexual abuse and healing. It is very important for us to be highly concerned about the victims of the abuse. BUT it seems no one is concerned about the evil person who leaked out this information about this family which included the victims, his sisters and other girl(s). That so blows me away. This was done by Satan moving in a person to kill, steal and destroy a Christian family, but God will win in the end and He will have all of the glory. God will use all the was intended for evil for good in His precious children’s lives because His Word says he will. It will make each of them more like Christ, including Josh, His parents and the girls.

    I have been abused sexually and all other ways. I have been through healing and know the hard work. But I know the amazing power of God to heal and have compassion for all people regardless of their sins. So I speak as one with experiential knowledge that is deep and wide. (I wrote my response which is much different than yours. (http://lindylou-abbott.blogspot.com/2015/05/how-can-it-be-that-josh-duggar-could-be.html)

    Also, I love the work that both you and Mary do. I love your writings and highly respect both of you. I honor your pain and and am sorry that you have had to go through so much, but I am so thankful that you have a beautiful ministry with people. While it is so important that we never minimize sin or abuse, we also don’t need to maximize it. Everyone is different. God heals in millions of different ways. We need to leave the process up to God.

    I have watched some episodes of the show, not all by a long shot, I have never seen the family portray themselves as perfect or the authority on sexuality or unauthentic or dishonest. I don’t particularly favor such a strong patriarch bend to a Christian family but still respect those who choose this type of lifestyle. Yes, the girls have openly chosen to be non-active sexually, not even kissing until after marriage, but it is clear in the show that after guidance by the parents the girls have made decisions of what is allowable before marriage and they set their own boundaries. The boundaries are different between the girls.

    I honestly feel if one of them spoke up, as is bound to happen because we all know every child is not the same, that the parents would talk it over with them, and give them the opportunity to make their own decision. It would not be easy, but it would be prayed over, discussed and explained that she was walking in a way that did not have their parents full blessing. This is more controlling than I parent but I try to not force my ways on others, and to honor decisions made by parents who are living under their understanding of God’s teachings, trusting that God is big enough to help them.

    I think we who have been abused need to make sure we don’t make abuse so big that it is harder for people to overcome it. This is what I mean by maximizing it. We need to focus more on pointing people to God and helping them to know how amazing He is and helping them to take their personal healing journey with Him that will be uniquely theirs.

  41. Mary

    Oh Sheila, thank you again! I’m sure you are a long lost kindred spirit of mine! Haha! And your daughter was totally on the money with her blog post too. One thing I’d like to add, which has been really troubling me, is this: The Duggars have always put a huge overemphasis on modesty, indicating that anything less than their very restrictive definition of modesty ‘defrauds’ others – ie. causes them to sin by giving rise to lustful thoughts. To my mind, it would logically follow then that the parents would be more likely to blame the girls, or put greater restrictions on their dress and activities as they must have somehow provoked such behavior from Josh.
    This promotes a culture of legalism, shame and cover-up. So damaging to victims and such a bad, bad testimony! As you said, transparency coupled with repentance and forgiveness should be the hallmarks of Christianity.

    • Amanda

      But they also make the boys cover up. They do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops or go around shirtless. So they don’t put it all on the girls. I don’t fully agree with their views on modesty, but I do know it’s not just the girls to whom they preach modesty.

      • Mary

        My point is that an abuser is responsible for their own actions. They will never be able to stand before God and say; “He/she made me do it!” This brand of modesty enforcement puts the responsibility on ME to stop YOU from lusting. That is not Biblical at all.
        In this instance, it is the girls who have been abused, so the inference of this teaching is that they bear some responsibility and that, to a victim (especially a child victim) is enormously damaging.

    • Sheila

      So true, Mary! And in Bill Gothard’s teaching materials on abuse, which the Duggars followed, it was implied that a victim could be at fault, too. So scary.

      • Amanda

        I’m not disagreeing with you, you just seemed to be saying they put modesty only on the girls and the boys can do whatever they want. I mean, I’m a pretty modest person myself, though nowhere near the Duggar standards…I don’t think modesty in and of itself is legalistic; it’s your heart, and your reason for the modestly that matters. I admit I don’t know the family, but it’s never seemed that way to me. Yes, I said *SEEMED* because I don’t personally know the family. I am never, ever comfortable making assumptions about someone or some family. (I have a son with severe autism, so I KNOW people are probably making some crazy assumptions about my family when we are out and he’s having a meltdown. I got slapped HARD on the face today at the drs office. The couple behind me gasped. Pretty sure they had some not so nice thoughts running through their head. I mean, it very well looked like my 11 year old son just hit me for no reason, it was right in there in the open…but they don’t know that he was having a rough day and had had enough by the time we got to the dr and he wasn’t slapping me to purposely hurt me, my face just happened to be right there.) And can someone tell me how we are so sure they follow this Gothard’s teachings and materials? I’ve never heard his name mentioned in any of the episodes of the show I’ve watched. Maybe I’m just clueless on that. I’m struggling with a lot of thoughts lately. I’ve researched more into this Gothard and stuff and have done a lot of reading on freejinger.org. While they are (rightly)slamming some of his teachings that are just bat crap crazy, a few of them don’t seem(yes, there’s that “seem” word again) so far off as to what people like you, Shelia, and J from Hot, Holy, Humorous, and Paul and Lori from the Marriage Bed, etc teach? And these people also slam basically all Christians as fundies and hypocritical. Candace Cameron Bure, for example. Also, I read where the Gothard org frowns on adoption and girls working outside the home. The Duggars have talked about adoption, Jessa has said she and her husband WILL adopt, a few of the girls do have jobs. If they follow this Gothard, they are doing a poor job of it, from what I’m reading? My head is just spinning from all my thoughts lately, let’s just say that. I’m confused at the entire situation and everyone wanting to say their piece about it, for whatever reason. I’m still mostly with J from Hot Holy Humorous….we don’t know all the facts. The media’s job is not to report all the facts. I read today that Arkansas DFS is going to investigate the Duggar family. I think that’s a good step.

  42. Anonymous

    Thank you for this healing article because it helped me understand why I felt so irrationally angry at the Duggar family. I too was sexually abused by my brother and to prevent scandal my grandfather and great-aunt jointly decided that it would be in the best interests of our extended family if the abuse was swept under the carpet. My brother made many attempts after the initial abuse to abuse me again and went on to abuse multiple family members. Like many other sexual abuse victims I struggled with my sexuality and continue to experience unexpected triggers. The Duggar scandal was itself a trigger because I strongly felt that the Duggar girls had been failed just like I was failed and that their molester experienced no true consequences just like my molester had experienced no real consequences. My family was more concerned with saving their reputation than with saving my cousins and myself from abuse. I was angry because I saw Christians minimizing the long-term effects of the molestation experienced by the Duggar sisters. Sexual abuse is bad enough but when a family member is involved it causes different damage to the psyche. My skin still crawls when I think of my brother touching me because I’ve never wanted to touch or be touched by a family member in that way. I shudder when thinking of what the Duggar girls could have been feeling inside while having to present a happy, content countenance in the presence of their brother. I remember the blinding anger I felt in the presence of my brother after the molestation and have a hard time believing that all the girls’ thoughts were sweetness, lightness and forgiveness. I completely agree with you about the necessity of being authentic. I will always believe in God but no longer follow any religion because of the lack of authenticity I have witnessed in my own, very Catholic family and in the Catholic church.

  43. Carol Morrisey

    Interesting how we all have such strong opinions when most likely none of us knows the full story. Just a couple of observations: there is no comparison between Josh and King David, whose sin was adultery and murder and which was very very public. Also, I do not minimize the abuse which occurred, but it was minor by comparison with similar crimes and Josh was very young. Our culture is depraved, and we watch worse things on TV every day. Other celebrities live obscene lives, yet continue their careers. I recall an actor who was caught with a prostitute–he’s still making movies. I recall another actor who beat up his wife–he, too, still has a career. There was no similar public outrage over those and many other atrocities as has happened to Josh, perhaps because those perpetrators are not Christians. I have never watched the show, but I am feeling sad for this family. They will probably never live it down. I just hope all this publicity will encourage some who might have been tempted to do the same, to avoid that sin.

  44. momof3

    Speaking from the position of a person abused as a child, yes there is forgiveness for the abuser but NO he (and their whole family) should not have done the show.
    healing is not quick – regardless of the quick forgiveness these girls were forced into, these parents should have dealt with him immediately not after he interfered with almost every child in the house.

  45. Melissa

    Wow. As a survivor of sexual abuse from a family member, I feel these girls pain from that. When the abuse was reported, it was reported to my church’s pastor who in turn told the authorities. I thank them every day for doing that. It has now happened to my 5 year old daughter. Sadly though, my families reaction was taking the abuser to the church and having him talk to the pastor. No therapy or anything. When it kept happening is when I notified authorities. It is up to us as mothers, parents and families to protect our children, not sweep it under the rug like it never happened. I hurt for these girls. I truly do. The fact that it took the dad a year to report anything is crazy. I do not and will not understand his though process on this.

  46. katie b

    I wish I had known you had never seen the show because I wouldn’t have read it. It seems like you write a whole article deciding how another Christian family should have handled something. So if they had started the show (that you wouldnt have seen) by saying what had happened in the past that would be a good idea? Some people heal by talking to large groups of ppl about what happened. you do great in that area. But some don’t heal like that – including myself. Things that happened to me throughout my life I would never feel comfortable telling a large group of people. I do tell small groups when it is fitting. God has completing healed me but this is what has worked best for me. The duggars may be on tv but they still have the right to pick and choose what they will keep private. Josh chose to tell all of Anna’s family before they started courting. Horrible sexual things happened in their family and they chose to set strict sexual guidelines in relationships. Good for them! That’s not fake that’s awesome! If you watch the show you would also see the parents set the guidelines but really leave it up to the couple to make the decisions for the individual relationship. I’ll let you decide “who I am” by what I had to say avout the duggars.

  47. aaron w

    to the writer of the article……apparently you think you’re the judge. I guess you decided if they were perfect, how bad they sinned, if they repented properly, and how bad they ruined your American Christianity. if they only would have known you and you could have directed them in the right path. where’s your bible that you wrote? where’s the salvation that you offer? where’s the grace and the forgiveness that you bestow at your desire?

    • Kelly

      Well aaron w, if you knew anything about Sheila, you’d know that she’s not American but Canadian 😉 I agree with what Sheila wrote. It’s not that the Duggars come off as perfect but they chose to be on a Reality show, which made them MILLIONS, all the while hiding a HUGE skeleton in their closet. They had to know that eventually what Josh did would come to light. I feel sorry for the Duggar girls…who were forced to live with their molester, all while putting on an ‘everything’s fine’ front. Sure they may be fine…but that’s only part of what we see on TV.

  48. Abby Jensen

    The only thing that I have to add to this conversation is that I feel strongly that we don’t know the whole story. We really don’t, and we can’t. We don’t know who he abused, how old they were, the amount of times, or the extent to which it happened. We don’t know how the family actually reacted to the situation. Sure, lots of rumors are out there, but the Duggars themselves haven’t said that much. Josh did something wrong, but I don’t know if they actually handled it that poorly.

    I do agree with your daughter’s main point that going on TV just a few years after that happened probably wasn’t the wisest choice.

    • Faithie

      We do know. If you read the police report you know exactly what happened. Jim Bob refused to make Josh available for questioning. Josh did not get counseling (per Michelle). The incidents transpired over the space of at least a year that the parents were aware of. We know a lot. We know that one of the victims was a small child.

      We know too much to pretend that this might have been handled beautifully.

      • Amanda

        Yes, but I read the report and I’m not getting that he didn’t go to counseling? He might not have gone to proper counseling, but they did send him away for 4 months(not saying it was long enough, just stating he was sent away). There was even a news story like, “Inside Josh Duggar’s Counseling Center.” It was the Basic Life Principles place in the story. I think when Michelle said he didn’t go to a counseling center, she meant one they( the investigators) wouldn’t consider a “real” one? She gave really vague answers – I think she might have been scared to say much without Jim Bob there? I’m not saying it was handled beautifully at all, but the “he was just sent to build a house” spiel? I’m not necessarily getting that from the report. I thought the manual labor was just part of the treatment center. See, this is what I mean about things like this. We have everyone so convinced about certain things, but then others are interpreting those same things differently. Maybe I’m wrong and you’re right, or vice versa, or maybe some sort of combo of both of our interpretations, or all of our interpretations. The part where Jim Bob didn’t bring Josh in for questioning and the 2 lawyers both saying they didn’t want to take the case didn’t sit well with me. Of course the lawyers might just have been concerned about not getting paid…or there could be more to their refusal. I just really, really don’t know. Police reports state basic facts, that’s it. No stories behind anything, or even a build-on of the facts…just the basics. They shouldn’t have done the show, especially so soon after the fact, though, that’s for sure.

  49. Sunny

    Thank you. This is very eloquent. It’s how I’m supposed to feel, as a Christian, about the whole situation. I’m not there yet, but I appreciate the fact that you wrote what you did. This was very triggering for me to hear this news, as there was incest in my family. I was not the victim, but I have some very sketchy memories that didn’t make sense for many, many years. I know I’m being vague, but I feel like since it didn’t happen to me directly, I don’t want to cause any more pain for the people in my life that were the direct victims.

    It’s been hard to hear about all of this. I’ve never been a fan of this family, mostly for the way they’ve handled sexuality. I’m struggling to find all of the words for my feelings, so I think I’ll just end my comments now.

    Thank you again for this thoughtful, compassionate piece.

  50. Gabi

    Thank you so much for writing this. As a sexual abuse survivor, every post I’ve seen defending Josh Duggar had felt like a stab in the back to me. The messages “it’s no big deal” and “it’s better off handled privately” have brought up some very strong feelings in me. I feel like those that are saying this are taking away something precious to me, and that is that I want to be the one to forgive my abuser without anyone minimizing the pain I have gone through. For anyone to say that even fondling is no big deal and does not have a lasting effect is wrong, and it cheapens the struggle I’ve had for the last 20 years to heal from it. I’m angry that Christians are closing ranks, and I feel betrayed all over again. Since the Christian community I grew up in did nothing to help me, but minimized and just plain ignored it.

  51. Katie

    I’m not going to lie Sheila- I was pretty disappointed to find that you wrote this. I love your book “good girls guide to great sex”… Enough that I want to buy copy after copy to give to any girl I know getting married… But I am second guessing that support of you. It’s so frustrating to find fellow Christians such as yourself and your daughter making judgmental statements about your brother and sister in Christ and their children. You have judged their intentions, their right to at least SOME privacy, the value of their witness… The list goes on. You really want to make public statements about how they presented themselves without authenticity because they kept their sons sin and their daughters suffering private!? And you have never even seen the show!? Wow. THIS is what is embarassing to the Christian faith. That you would stand In opposition to fellow Christ-believers, fellow parents, fellow sinners and list how THEY are the ones making Christians look bad, is anything but unifying. Your holier than thou attitude about how you wrote about vaginismus in order to be honest about something that was embarassing is absolutely not even in the same realm of embarrassment for revealing sexual sin/admitting to sexual abuse. Vaginismus is a condition you have no control over, no one will judge you for it. If you really wanted to give yourself a pat on the back for authenticity, you would have described the most lustful fantasy you have ever entertained, or listed passing thoughts of men around you that are not your husband, etc etc. I love that you are standing up for these girls but that doesn’t mean you have to simultaneously stand against the duggars—the girls ARE the duggars! (Except one I think). You need to humble yourself and ask yourself how authentic you are- you are somewhat famous- you have a blog and books and you speak publicly… That must mean you owe it to us, the American public to confess the sins of your children! Ready go! And when we all hear what your children did, we will judge the way you handled it, and we will accuse you of being unauthentic and hiding all these years such things. The inspiring mission and good thoughts in this article are tainted by your gossip and judgement of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe Try again?

    • Tashina

      Wow, these previous comments in defence of the Duggars are pretty harsh. I have to defend Sheila’s article here, even though I don’t agree with everything she says.
      To all those people who defend the Duggars here and are negative about Sheila :
      This is not any crime we are talking about. We are talking about sexual abuse. I am a victim myself and know many other vvictims of sexual abuse myself. None of them could just brush over it and be instantly healed, not a single person. Sexual abuse stays with the victim for a lifetime. And not just with the victim, but also with the victims family and with the perpetrator. And because it never goes away, all people involved need a lot of prayer, counselling and life long support. It doesn’t matter if Josh was a minor. It is still wrong what he did, it still had and still has an impact.
      By choosing silence over openness, the Duggars decided that this lifelong impact has no importance to them or to their sorounding. They choose to ignore the problem instead of dealing with it, which can cause more damage. It is not just about the public here, and it is not about shaming this family. It is about the fact that the focus is not on the victims, that the approach taken is highly questionable and I personally care. I care about the victims because I know what they are going through and I think Sheila is doing the same. She’s not pointing the Finger at the Duggars, shaming them. But she is fulfilling her duty to show a fellow brother in Christ, where they have wronged and how they can fix it

      • Sheila

        Thank you, Tashina.

      • Sharon

        Well said Tashina.

        People are attacking Sheila and it is sad. Yes the Duggars brought wholesome values back into the American mainstream, which is why they are so loved (and defended) but any good they have done has been materially damaged and by their own doing.

        Don’t get mad at Sheila for standing up for the victims, instead recognize that the Duggars are reaping what they sowed. People might say that they had every right to keep this quiet but this was a wrong move.When Oprah sent them home they had to have known that their secret was out-it is surprising they went this long before it happened. The minute they became public figures and branded themselves as modest Christians they had an obligation to tell the full truth. I’ve read all of their books- they get explicit and talk about things like sex and masturbation (or the lack of it). This tells me that they are willing to talk about sensitive issues. They could have done so much good if they brought it to light and encouraged other victims, instead they come across as hypocrites.

        • ThirstyJon


          You said “The minute they became public figures and branded themselves as modest Christians they had an obligation to tell the full truth.”

          It appears that you mean by this that they had an obligation to expose the previous sins of their at-that-time minor son.

          Wow. That is truly an awful thing to say.

          Remember that if you are ever in the eyes of the public, especially regarding your faith. By your standard you will now be obligated to expose to the world all of your and your families sins, even ones committed as minors.

          • Sheila

            But Sharon’s right. They did have an obligation–WHICH IS WHY THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THE SHOW IN THE FIRST PLACE, as I was saying all along. Because as soon as you make your family public, you have to be authentic. And they couldn’t be. So just don’t do it.

      • ThirstyJon


        “By choosing silence over openness, the Duggars decided that this lifelong impact has no importance to them or to their sorounding. ”

        What an awful thing to say.

        I hope you are publicly confessing the sins of your minor children. Especially any particularly awful sexual sins.

        Actually, please don’t do that. That would be WRONG.

        • Tashina

          @ThirstyJon I have no children. I am not planning to have children (I am very Unchristian in that matter). But if I would have them, yes I would make it public. Why? Because I suffered from sexual abuse. And keeping it a secret, only telling a few, it is not healthy for the victim. And also for the perpetrator. Now Josh might have done this only once. i don’t know him personally, so i won’t make any presumptions. BUT, in order for everyone to heal and to deal with this awful situation, it is vital to be open about it. It will also help the person who was the abuser. Keeping it secret gives power, power to the abuser, power to to those who are in control of the abuser. Keeping it secret creates a wall between the victim/ abuser and God. All abusers are different and abuse for different reasons. Some, like my abuser, are just evil people, some might have done it out of desperate notions. But if you keep it a secret you tell them and the world that what they did is okay. It is not. Now if my child would molest another child, I would make it public. Because it is not okay to do that and as a parent I have to show him/her that. I also have to face the whole thing one day. By making it public I can help the victim and my child, I can prevent the whole thing from blowing up in my face.

          That is why I am so open about myself now, because I learnt the painful way that secrets always cut deeper than the truth. i am open about my mental health issues, my failed marriage, my sexuality, basically all my sins. And you know what? Non believers actually think highly of me for being so honest. Because by professing my sins, I show them that i am no better than they are. And by doing so, I also show them that faith in Christ is not about righteousness or being perfect, but that it is about being truthful and respectful. So many people have told me: “Tashina I wish, every Christian would be like you. I would take a shot at Christianity then.” (a compliment I personally don’t like). Yes, being honest hurts and yes it might cause some trouble, but in the end it is always better then lying and keeping secrets, because those cause life long scars.

          • ThirstyJon


            There is a difference between “completely secret” and “private.”

            Completely Secret could equate with a cover up, ignoring, not repenting, not dealing, etc.

            “Private” just means that only those people who need to know in order to deal with the sin are let in on the info.

            You seem to be equating “private” with dishonesty.

            You are, of course, free to make anything about yourself public information. If you ever have kids, I hope you do not do that to them.

            I am certainly not going to be a part of judging the Duggars for keeping their son’s sins private. I applaud them for keeping it private.

            I can’t really speak to the specific details of how they handled the sin because I don’t know the specific details. But I applaud them for not publicly outing their son. Not unless their son wanted to do that as well.

          • Sheila

            Jon, it is dishonesty if they are going to speak on family values as if they know from experience. If their show was about gardening or cooking or vacation spots, then no, authenticity would not have been compromised. But their show was about parenting, family values, and sexuality. So they were dishonest.

          • A

            Sheila, now this is where I wish you had done your research by watching their show before deciding if they should have done it. I definitely would not come away from watching the duggars and say it was a show about sexuality. They touched on it sure, but it was mostly about how such a large family functions, travels, and then partly how they parent. It’s not like they regularly checked in with their teenagers and the teens gave an “all good” assessment of how pure their thoughts were. It went without saying that they wouldn’t talk about specific challenges or mistakes.
            For me, I think doing the show would be too close to the tragedy of Josh’s actions for comfort, but I don’t see why you are so staunch in knowing they shouldn’t have done it.

          • Sheila

            Simple–look at the outcry now. Whether or not the Christian community thinks that they were being hypocritical, the world certainly does. And that reaction was easily predictable. Personally, I do think they were being hypocritical; they opined a ton on family values (I read things in the news) while this was in their past. The gay community is right to be outraged. You cannot talk about moral values when you yourself are covering up such a huge thing.

            Billy Graham was very open about the struggles that his kids went through (though they obviously weren’t the same). But he would ask for prayer and he was open. And that stopped people from being able to criticize him when he did talk about parenting.

            It’s just very, very unfortunate that they made this bad judgment call.

    • ThirstyJon


      You said: “That must mean you owe it to us, the American public to confess the sins of your children! Ready go! And when we all hear what your children did, we will judge the way you handled it, and we will accuse you of being unauthentic and hiding all these years such things.”

      I believe you are on the right track here.

      Ironically, the author of this post should NOT do that because it would be WRONG.

      One of the most bizarre responses I am hearing from the Christian world is this sense that somehow the Duggars were obligated to make public their son’s sexual sins as a minor.

      I will not participate in throwing stones at the Duggars.

      I wonder how many of the children of various stone throwers have children who have been involved with some kind of sexual sin as minors.

      • Sheila

        ThirstyJon, what I said was that either they go public, or they realize they don’t want to share that of their minor children (and I put in brackets that I totally understood that decision, because that’s what I would have decided), and don’t do the show.

        They shouldn’t have done the show.

        It’s that simple.

        • ThirstyJon

          I don’t know, in general, whether they should have done the show.

          Personally, I can’t understand why anybody would want to put their lives on display on such a show.

          But I find the values you are speaking here in this post (and in the comments) to be very troubling.

          So… If anyone’s children commit sins when they are minors (at least awful ones) then the parents should never consider a public role without first publicizing their minor children’s sins?

          I’m trying to get you to see how twisted this is.

          I would urge parents everywhere who are in public roles “do not publicize the sins your children committed as minors.”

          If I had a close relationship with someone who was considering a public role (entertainer, politician, popular blogger) I would want to help them understand possible ramifications on their private lives. (I suspect most – or all – people have something they would rather not share with the public).

          But I would not suggest that they publicly humiliate their children with things that are not the business of the public.

          It appears to me that an implication of your reasoning is that Christians should not have public roles because someone might dig up a skeleton in their closet.

          Should Christians consider the possibility and count the cost? Sure. Should Christians avoid all public roles?

          Well, that might be consistent with the worldview in your not-about-culture-war-but-about-“love” post.

          The real criminals here are the people who found a way to publicize this information. Write against them.

          • Sheila

            Jon, people decide not to go into politics all the time because their family can’t handle the scrutiny. If you go onto a reality show, you KNOW that everything will come out.

            By choosing to go on the show, THEY were the ones who guaranteed this would one day be news. They knew the Oprah show knew about it; they knew that it was in the public record.

            So they had two choices: Go on the reality show knowing that everything would come out, they could release it early and release it themelves (the only authentic thing to do), or not go on the reality show.

            As I stated, I would have chosen the latter.

            But you cannot go on a reality show about family values with a huge elephant in the room like this. It’s inauthentic.

  52. Katie

    Between you and the duggars, YOU are the one that has lost a fan this week. Remember the parable of the two men– the one thanking god he is not like the “other men”— the evil-doers and idolaters— and the other one saying have mercy on me sinner that I am? You sound like the first, josh sounds like he second.

  53. ThirstyJon

    I think you missed the boat entirely here.

    1) No, they definitely should not have publicly exposed what their minor son did as a minor.

    2) Whoever did the exposing is awful.

    3) Having this kind of skeleton in the closet does not disqualify this family from engaging in trying to be an example in a public fashion.

    The whole thing is entirely different from a case where an adult man is abusing a child (although the headlines make it seem like that is what happened).

    Where do you get the idea that by proclaiming what they believe about sexuality should be equated to pretending that their lives are perfect?

    This is the kind of argument the world makes against Christians –> “Because you have sin in your lives you are hypocrites.”

    Have the Duggars claimed to be sinless?

    Some sins of the past should not be publicly proclaimed. The sins of a minor are among those.

  54. LorettaCAN

    Hi Sheila, I hope you don’t mind me being late to the party here. I read this previously and refrained from commenting because i didn’t feel I had anything valuable to add. As I’ve chewed this over the last few days something has been bothering me and I’d love your clarification. Your tone of no kissing and side hugs only seemed very condescending to me. Is not the reason they make these choices to protect themselves from unnecessary temptation? (I believe it is individual, I thought I’ve read in People magazine that the parents allow each child to make their own decisions regarding what is appropriate, while the parents may share their wisdom with their children, they leave the choice to them (obviously fornication would not be accepted by the parents), and they do not demand nor expect of those outside the family). I believe that is why they do it, not to be holier than though (I don’t know how anyone who has watched even one episode or seen anything of them could accuse them of that), or to claim to be sinless.

    Here lies my conflict that I’d love clarification and for you to show me where my perspective differs from what you are communicating. I’ve seen several ads on your blog for Covenant Eyes. I’ve seen you multiple, multiple times recommend, almost even command women to install it on their husband’s computers and devices. In my heart, this feels like an inconsistent message you are sharing. I mean, isn’t the reason we use such programs, and the reason we want accountability for our husband’s regarding porn is for their purity? To keep them from sexual sin? How is this okay, even beneficial and yet the choices/boundaries of these “ultra-conservative” families is unBiblical? True that there are no set rules for x,y,z in courtship in the Bible, we are commanded to purity. And while there are no x,y,z there is also certainly not a command to NOT do x,y,z if that is guarding your heart? (Which we are told in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”) It feels to me like you’re setting a double standard against men and saying something must be done and yet almost mocking those who you deem ultra-conservative (whom I truly do not believe would have been considered ultra-conservative prior to the sexual revolution in the mid 1900s – prior to that time, this would have been much more normal and is now being judged against sinful freedom rather than Biblical purity).

    If you could enlighten me on your position, I’d greatly appreciate it. I’ve been wrestling with this for days now, and I just can’t come to peace. I know you’re an influential writer, and I want to be able to be influenced, but I’m having a hard time accepting your POV on this one because I feel like this message is contradicting your own other messages.

  55. Lisa

    The earlier comment that mentioned extreme patriarchy being a factor is exactly right. The Duggars are not an exemplary Christian family. They follow the teachings of Gothard and ATI which really set young people up to have a very warped view of sexuality and of God.

    Even prior to all of this coming out I was disgusted by the Duggars being portrayed as a model family.

    They never, ever should’ve trotted their daughters on tv to talk about purity ir bragged about their son saving his first kids for his wedding day. They put themselves in the spotlight, repeatedly, for profit.

    Shelia, I hope your post encourages all the other survivors out there who have been taught that they just need to be quiet and smile that they can seek help and speak out against sexual abuse.

  56. ThirstyJon

    I have a question of fact.

    Where did you get this information: “Some of these girls had been sexually abused, some as young as 5.”

    How do you know that a child as young as 5 was sexually abused?

    I’m not saying otherwise, I am just wondering where you got that info so that I can look to verify if it is true (or not).

    • Sheila

      The news reports said the victims ranged in age from 5-12.

      • Sarah

        Since when does a news/media report make something fact? The media is known for reporting information that will get attention. Court reports or witness testimony could be considered closer to fact, media reports, not so much.

  57. Vanessa

    I don’t care what religion you are. Whether your religious or not. Sexual abuse of any kind at any age is not okay. Abuse has life long psychological effects on anyone who is abused. Even after treatment and councelling people can spend their whole lives healing. Is Josh an evil person I doubt it. What he did was wrong and my biggest concern was that he didn’t receive proper counselling. I am sure been Christian and turning to God for help and guidance might have helped them heal more fully though I don’t feel that replaces professional counselling. A professional counsellor dealing with this would get to the root cause of what was going on with poor Josh. All in all I think people want abuse especially sexual abuse to not be taken lightly and not be “okay” just because you ask God for forgiveness. As well people want his sisters to truly be okay and continuing their journey of healing.

  58. Terri Arnold-Krikie

    This is the third (and I hope last) draft I am making of this response. I want to make sure I convey my thoughts clearly, so there are no misunderstandings.

    Let me start by saying that I do not identify myself as a Christian. The reason I am making this point so early in my response is that I want to make sure that it is understood that I am coming at this from a point of view that is different to many, if not most, of your usual readers. I also feel that it is important in that I tend to look at each person as an individual, rather than as part of a group. Although, I do admit that there are times that I look at a group’s behavior collectively when it is warranted. This is one of those times when I look at both individual and group behavior.

    This entire issue has been mishandled from the very beginning and the mishandling is still going on. When his parents became aware of the situation, as the parents of the child who was also violated, they had a responsibility to report it immediately. Not to a family friend, not to their church elders, but to the proper authorities. Not once should anyone have given thought or credence to the idea that somehow the children he had improperly touched had caused his actions. He was the one at fault for doing what he did – no one else deserves that blame. The church elders and the family friend who were informed of the situation were morally and legally responsible to also report the situation to the proper agencies. Those agencies were required by law to investigate those allegations promptly and thoroughly.

    When the television producers contacted the parents for the first special, they should have done their research to insure that they were dealing with people who were as wholesome and pure as they were projecting themselves to be. The parents should have, as has been pointed out, either informed the production company of the situation, or turned down the offer. (My thoughts lean more toward turning down the offer, as the parents of a family where something this traumatic has happened. Being more concerned with their children’s welfare than the money, power and fame that could come from the show would have been preferred.) This story has been around and, at least semi-public, since before their first special was even taped. There is no way that the executives did not have at least some knowledge of the allegations.

    Since the story broke very publicly last week, many have voiced their opinions and thoughts about the situation. Some are calling Josh a pedophile and a rapist. Others are staunchly defending him and the whole family. Neither camp is right, in my opinion. What he did was wrong, but he was also a child at the time it occurred, that does not make him a pedophile or a rapist. Yes, he molested several girls – the law says that makes him a molester. Him being a child molester while being a child himself is a gray area for me. I really wish he had received genuine counseling to make sure he was aware of what he did and why it was wrong. Others are saying that because he asked for God’s forgiveness, everything is okay. No, it’s not. Yes, he may have received forgiveness for his discretions from God, but what he did was still illegal and until recently, he had received no real world consequences for his actions.

    All of that being said, there is also the fact that this entire family is famous not only because of the number of children there are, but also due to their rigid Christian values that are touted throughout their show and in the public eye. They have made very public statements, been involved in politics, and been activists for the family values they support. All the while keeping a secret that shows a very large breach of family values. This is the area that has most angered many people. This is also the area that does the most damage to Christianity. By becoming so publicly politically active regarding family values, especially standing in such vocal opposition to the LGBT community, they have set themselves up to having to face the backlash of their past. There was a very public outcry about Michelle doing the voice for a robo call that outright accused transgendered people of being child molesters. Josh has done much of the same through his work with the Family Research Council. These behaviors are what many of those who are so angry are decrying. How do you suggest that a group of people, that there is no evidence against, have committed the very crimes you have been accused of and admitted to (or covered up)?

    I am so glad to have stumbled upon this story. I am heartened to see that there are still Christians out there who realize that just calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you one – you actually have to walk the walk. This has been one of the reasons that I have been unable to identify myself as Christian – the all to inherent hypocrisy, not a disbelief in Jesus. Thank you for your thoughtful words on this tough subject.

  59. Nicole

    You took the words right out of my mouth. It grieves my heart that the Duggars are reliving this nightmare, but honestly, it was to be expected being in the spotlight and all. What Jim Bob and Michelle did was turn a blind eye for an entire year while this was going on…how is that protecting anyone? They gave their son many opportunities to take advantage of his sisters by choosing not to confront his behavior. They made their daughters stay in the same house as their abuser, who was taking away bits of their innocence while they slept for a YEAR! How could a parent who loves their daughters and sons look the other way for an entire year and hope their son’s behavior stops?
    Speaking from experience, as a toddler through my pre-teen years, I was repeatedly raped by my own adoptive dad. My adoptive mom even walked in on us one or two times, and I was positive that she knew. As a child, I would pack and unpack my suitcase when I went to visit my other family members before going home. I was extremely shy of men, and I begged not to be left alone with my adoptive dad repeatedly, but my mom ignored me, and I knew she wouldn’t believe me if I told her. To this day, I am still struggling with forgiving her, because I know she knew, yet she made me out to be a liar and a seductress (as a child!)
    It has been easier forgiving my abuser, even though I don’t think he was truly sorry or repentant, at least he knew the truth and took it to his grave with him. Triggers happen unexpectedly, usually through nightmares (few and far between now!), or looking at my child and seeing that he was the age I was when my abuse began. Sexual abuse has affected me throughout my entire life so far (I’m 24 now) and I know it will haunt me to my grave, although I choose not to dwell on my past and embrace the beautiful life I have now with my husband and kids! It has taken counseling and many tears and much prayer to get to where I am today, and I’m thankful for the support I’ve had. I can only hope and pray that the victims find the help, healing, and support they need to recover from this. It literally made me want to vomit when I saw the feeble excuses people were making for Josh, or how the incident was handled. There is NO EXCUSE for anyone to take advantage of another person, EVER. There is NO EXCUSE for choosing to ignore the behavior while their daughters (and another victim) were having a precious part of themselves stolen away under their own roof! There is NO EXCUSE for not involving a professional or a licensed Christian counselor to speak with everyone involved. There is NO EXCUSE for hiding it from the media, all the while speaking out against the LGBT community and calling them “perverts who prey on young children”. Also the bunch of baloney they follow with the ATI/Gothard curriculum that states that the VICTIM of abuse can be at fault in certain circumstances. If we blame the victim for abuse we are as bad as the abuse; we are retraumatizing them by telling them had they done this or that, the abuse wouldn’t have taken place. I am praying for the Duggars and the other people involved, and am especially hoping that they will own up to their mistakes and admit the way they handled it was wrong. It’s a long shot, but maybe it’ll happen at some point.
    Thanks again, Sheila, for talking about such a controversial topic. Your honesty is refreshing! Blessings!

    • Sheila

      Nicole, thank you for your encouragement, and THANK YOU for sharing your story. So, so sorry you endured that as a child. So sorry.

      And you are totally right about the ATI curriculum.

  60. Brittney

    The primary reason the Duggar Abuse situation matters is it is once again an opportunity for Christians to be reminded of their sin and stop trying to project a plastic Christian facade to the world. The sad thing is our corporate shock. The world looks to Christians and expects perfection… We should instead of pointing to Christ as the only perfect one. It also causes Christians to test their hearts to see if they have celebrity idols- like the Duggars. If we put people on a pedestal we are sure to be disappointed. The fallout from abuse is horrific. I know this first-hand. I also have now learned I should no longer be shocked in this sinful world when Christians don’t meet my expectations. http://www.faithreboot.com/shocking-truth-christians/

  61. Anon

    As someone who was abused as a small child, and has been so….overwhelmingly angry and discouraged by the overall Christian community’s response to the Duggar mess, Thank you. Thank you so much. So many times in evangelical churches sexual abuse is covered like this. To the point that I never even told my parents because I knew i would be branded a liar for trying to hurt someone’s reputation (At 5 – 8 years old!!). We as a Christians in America have missed such an opportunity here, and I weep for women and girls who are being and have been abused, and have to listen to fellow believers defend such vileness.

    • Sheila

      That’s how I feel, too. I’m so, so sorry about your experiences as a child. I’m writing more about that on Monday, and I hope maybe it can help.

  62. Dawn

    I don’t like what was said about them confessing to us before or at the beginning of the show. Number 1 they confessed to God that is the only one we have to confess our sins too. They did the right thing by all those kids. Who are we that they would have to confess about something that was to be sealed over 12 yeaes ago be cause he was a minor. It should have never seen the light of day again. So why would would they have to confess anything to us. It should have nwver come up again just like when we sin and we repent and ask forgiveness and its thrown into the sea of forgetfulness. We can not be hipocrits in this

  63. Jenny Vogan

    Thank you for such an excellent and compassionate interpretation of this scenario. Having experienced very similar situations of abuse in my family, and experienced my family’s ongoing secrecy and downplaying of my experience, this is so true. I appreciate your balance of sympathizing with Josh but also honoring the struggle of the abuse victims. Truly, a greater level of honesty would help healing in these situations, and I hope my family can become more open about our sexual abuse issues and seek greater healing through transparency.

  64. Roxie

    I am a victim of child sexual abuse too. I want to say that from the start. I have been on the receiving end of this.

    One of the things I think others who have quoted the Bible have over looked is the fact that when David and Paul laid out their sins and got forgiveness they were adults. They were grown men.

    I am NOT a Josh Duggar fan. Of all the Duggars he makes me want to throw up. Always has, but that is not because of sexual abuse mess it is something that I see in him that I don’t like. He seems to be entitled to me…

    But when Josh Duggar did awful things he was a child, a young man just going through puberty. His ‘crimes’ would not even have been open in a court in TX because he was a minor.

    Yes, the parents should have maybe done more to protect the girls when they learned of this matter. But as a victim of this kind of thing I can tell you I never told a soul about it till I was an adult in my 50’s. I think the parents did something when they learned of it. Was it perfect? No, but it did meet with their ‘church’ values.

    It is easy for us to sit here years later and judge their parent skills. No one is perfect, who can say for sure if their values or parent skills are perfect? No one. I do look at the other children and believe that they have done a good job. Of their other children we see that they are all hard working, giving, and skilled adults. Maybe as Josh was their oldest child, they made mistakes when he did the awful thing. No, doubt they did, but I do not think they were trying to HIDE what he did, they wanted to help him and the victims too.

    I want to say, I am by far not a perfect mother. I have tried very hard to raise good sons. I have 2 sons. Both grown men now. One son, is a skilled professional with a master’s degree. The other son is an ex convict who still has not got his act together at the age of 37. These boys were raised in same house by the same parents with the same values. I am trying to say that YOU just don’t know what the child is going to do. You are not responsible for what they do.

  65. Sbp

    I don’t think what anyone does in their past and or present or future for that matter should be anybody else’s business. I also don’t think that having a TV show which promotes Christianity and following Christ requires that you make your children come clean about everything they have ever done. The Duggar parents do encourage their children to follow Christ in all behaviors but that does not mean they are in control of their children’s choices. I think we are scrutinizing them too much and they do more good than harm by being on television. Sin is sin and one is no greater than another.
    We keep a President in office who has an affair and see no issue with it but we criticize a good Christian family for a mistake which they rectified as a family decades ago. Why don’t we all focus more on our own walks with Christ rather than criticizing everyone elses.

  66. Emily

    The only problem with this opinion is that lack of authenticity isn’t the primary reason I can think of that the Duggars wouldn’t have shared this tragedy. If it only involved Josh, yes. He absolutely should’ve shared. If it only involved Josh and his parents, yes. They absolutely should’ve shared…in both these cases it would’ve been hypocritical not to. However, the tragedy involved a very sensitive hurt inflicted upon five very young people. It would have been inappropriate for Josh or his parents to choose “authenticity” over the privacy of these five girls who were not yet old enough to choose whether or not they wanted their unspeakable pain shared with the world.

  67. S

    Shelia – I just read most of the comments. I didn’t read anything about what the show did for the viewers. You said that the family should have told their secret upfront or not do the show. I don’t think they should have told their secret because it was the girls’ secret not the parents. The girls have the right to share their story when they’re old enough and when they’re ready to share how God healed them. They were just too young to share that at the beginning because of their age or maybe they were still being healed. Either way I would have not wanted my parents to share a secret like that to the world. Now the other side of it is you said that they should have not done the show. This is the part where I haven’t read anybody mention the viewers. I’m not saying that the viewers are more important than the situation. I’m saying that the show has inspired so many people. If they were never on tv then these people would have never been inspired. My daughter and I couldn’t wait for the show to come on. We loved to watch it together. We really don’t have any other choices because TV doesn’t give us anything good to watch. That is why we hated when we heard the show was going off air. Don’t get me wrong we hate what happened more. It’s just that the show changed my daughter’s views in a lot of ways. I won’t go into detail. As a mom you can tell your kids something, but they won’t listen until they hear or see it from someone else. That is what happened to my daughter and I thank the Duggar family for that! I pray God protects the Duggar family and showers them with love during this horrible time. In Jesus Name, Amen!

  68. Caleb's Report

    Thank you for a well written article on the Josh Duggar molestation situation. As a Christian, I have struggled with what my thoughts were on this. How should I feel about it all? What was my “take” on all of this? What might I come away with from all of this? Did I have something personally to learn from this? Furthermore, I found myself wanting to remember that forgiveness is something we Christians are called to. At the same time, I was dismayed I felt all the things so many others who did not seem to be so “forgiving” were feeling and saying. It was a horrible-feeling situation, but the horrible part of if, I believe, was not even knowing how to feel. The thoughts you shared in your article here have been very helpful to me. In fact, I believe your words actually do describe my feelings best of all I have seen or read from any other place on the internet. There is a forgiveness of sorts, a desire to give a personal “OK” for the boy (now a man) and the family to have the right to make something good of themselves now – just as they are – really are. To wish darkness forever on a person does not seem quite right. At the same time, it is not quite right to overlook the fact that darkness WAS there and is standing to the side just waiting to create havoc again when possible. It is OK to allow a re-birth in a truly humbled person (or persons). It is not so good to accept a situation which allows lies and deception… and darkness… to continue. If there is no change from darkness, there IS STILL darkness! I believe I have come to a more-balanced thought of how to forgive and why to not completely forget. Most of all, your article helped me to grasp what I think I was feeling but not consciously grasping. Your article helped me to understand none of this, if left alone or somehow “fixed” by the family, is a good testimony to God’s work in the lives of Christians. I sincerely hope the Duggars do not continue in their path of self preservation and personal control so that they (and others) can see what the Lord can do with truly broken people. They ARE truly broken people, you know. I just pray they understand that as well because THAT will be the beginning of their rebuilding… in whatever way our Mighty God will let them rebuilt. Thank you again for your wonderful article. It has helped me tremendously, and quite frankly, I think your view has been the most insightful one I have come across thus far. Blessings to you and your daughter who must have much of your same wisdom and courage. 🙂

  69. Amy

    Just wondering if you watched Jim Bob and Michelle interview and if it has changed any of your feelings on the matter? So many articles and posts were written on this subject without knowing facts. I daresay no one but those involved will ever know all the facts, but there is new light shed to me after their interview. Bottom line, they were parents doing what they thought was best when they were devastated. I’ve been there. I’m sure many experts could tell me what we did wrong, but it was the best we knew at the time. I’ve also been on the abuse side, and it will haunt me forever. But, I can deal with it. Just as anyone deals when they’ve been wronged. Just as his victims can deal. I’m happily married with four kids and have used my experiences to hopefully be a better parent than I had. My parents weren’t horrible or abusive, but I couldn’t go to them. We didn’t talk. I’m jealous that Josh confessed to his parents and they were there to deal with him. I didn’t have that and my poor husband had to help me pick up pieces I didn’t know were broken. Did everything get handled perfect by the duggars? No. No one is perfect. Have they been a decent example in TV of people trying to live as Christians? I believe so. I enjoyed their show most of the time. But I never in my heart thought they were perfect, so maybe I do not feel as betrayed as some.

  70. Kimberley O.

    I am so thankful that the Duggar family had the opportunity to come out and tell their story so that we do not have to base our judgments on the sensationalized tabloid article that first broke the story..
    now we know that they went above and beyond to protect their family and that there was much more counseling involved than just manual labor for Josh, as the tabloid article had reported.
    keeping them and all other families who are struggling and hurting out there in my prayers…

  71. PHC

    I admit it. I have loved following the Duggars. My family has watched the family since their first specials on TV. With the recent news of Josh Duggar, I have begun to feel convicted about this following.

    You see, I knew fairly early on in our little obsession with the Duggars that the family was associated with Bill Gothard. I knew that Gothardism is a cult complete with brainwashing, segregation, and secrecy. I was aware that this so-called Christian group was subtly infiltrating our mainstream churches and especially our homeschool communities with extra-Biblical teachings that were anything but Biblical. I knew all of these things, yet my family and I continued to watch and thereby support the Duggars.

    Were we wrong? I believe so. Anytime Christians overlook ideas that are clearly not Biblical, we are wrong. Extra-Biblical ideas, no matter how good they sound or how well we assume they will work or they have worked for others, are not Biblical ideas. They should never be taught as truths.

    How have Gothard’s ideas merged with our churches and homeschools? It’s subtle, but it is there- no friendships with the opposite sex, no dating, and arranged courtships (with marriage as the goal) all have roots in Gothard’s teachings. As these ideas spread, they became accepted as Biblical, and many homeschooling parents and Christians began to use Gothard’s rules as God’s law. This is such a dangerous place to be. No word from man is greater than God’s word, and any time ideas that we cannot clearly define in Scripture are being taught as Biblical, we should be alarmed.

    I cannot say whether or not the Duggar family handled Josh as best they could. Regardless of what has been seen and heard in the media, we simply do not know the entire story. What I do know is that God is a God of grace. And, while I certainly hope that the appropriate actions were taken and help was obtained for all parties involved, I do know that Josh is forgiven. Forgiveness, however, does not eliminate consequences of sin. It also does not eliminate the need for real healing for the girls involved.

    My conviction is this: As a Christian who knew untruths were subtly being taught by the Duggars through their shows, I should have never been a part of supporting them by watching.

    • Sheila

      I completely know where you’re coming from. In our homeschooling group several families were doing Bible studies on Gothard-type materials–and I said nothing. I’m still sorry for that.

      I don’t have a problem with people waiting to kiss until the wedding, or not wanting to date–as long as they realize that THEY are making these decisions. And I do believe that God may be calling some people to do this.

      But we have to realize that it is an individual decision, not a biblical rule to follow. We’ve seemed to have made extra rules for those who want to be “holier”, and it can actually really backfire (I’ve written before on how extreme modesty or the purity culture can warp women’s views of their bodies and themselves). It’s so sad, and it has really infiltrated. And it’s scary.

  72. Jennifer

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this piece. I had to get off of Facebook for a while due to the Duggar scandal because I felt so indirectly attacked by all my Christian friends defending him and acting like sexual abuse isn’t a big deal. What I finally posted before I deactivated my account was that the excuse making and marginalization of what he did is not teaching non-Christians about grace, it’s teaching them that Christians have no compassion for those who have suffered sexual abuse. I started going to counseling in my early 20s to deal with the abuse I endured, and five years later I am still struggling. And it’s not because I haven’t “given it over to the Lord” and all the other over-spiritualized solutions people give. I have a very close personal relationship with my Lord, but there are, as I’m sure you know, neuropathways that were created by the abuse that I haven’t been able to completely reroute yet. I have come a long way in my healing, but I don’t know that I will ever be “over it”. All that said, it was so encouraging for me to read your article. It’s everything I have tried to put together in words, but haven’t been able to articulate. You are a blessing to me.

  73. Sarah

    I have to disagree with some of what you said. The first thing that stands out to me in this whole situation is that the information was given to producers for Oprah. If people were genuinely concerned about the welfare of the girls, it should have been brought to the attention of the authorities and discussed with the parents. The only reason to bring it publicly first is to attack them. Secondly, the Bible says that God forgets our sins and that we, too, should forget once we’ve been forgiven. Yes they chose to put their life in the public eye with a TV show, many people are on tv but do we dig for the history of every single person that appears on TV? Do we dig and exploit every possible mistake, sin, or bad decision of each person? Making this information public only victimizes the girls again. It is their choice who they want to reveal information to. I haven’t ever watched the show so I don’t fall into the category of defending them because I’ve fallen in love with them and refuse to see them in any other light. I can speak from experience from having been abused myself. I’ve been asked if I would have still come forward having known what I know now and I can honestly say that I would think twice about it. Everyone is quick to judge, quick to point the finger (even at the victim) quick to want to know details but never considers that the “victim” may not want any of that information known to anyone else.

    In regards to saying the girls seem perfectly normal and how they really can’t be is wrong. No one knows how the girls truly feel, what they’ve done to receive healing, etc. It IS possible to forgive and heal before entering marriage or having their own children. Saying it’s not is limiting God. If we allow Him, God can heal all wounds and help us forget.

    Pushing this situation under the rug is not sending the message the abuse is not important. I don’t sense the Duggar family intentionally left out the information to be deceitful. If it was dealt with, was a thing of the past, they believe Josh & the girls were taken care of appropriately, there is no need to announce it years down the road. To me, this sends the message that something so very personal could have happened many years ago but if someone else feels it needs to be brought to attention of the public, I get to get drug through the mud against my will at any given time. If God forgets our sins, why can’t we? Or in this case, the sins of others.

    Lastly, as a parent, if I found out my children were involved in a situation like this, I think I would have a hard time bringing them to the authorities. I know it is the right thing to do but it is also important to respect all parties involved. If my daughters truly did not want to go to the authorities, I would have to consider that (I’m not saying I wouldn’t go, but would have to consider their wishes). Had I not had experience myself, I’m not sure I would know what to do with something like this, either. It’s always so easy to point the finger or be quick to judge and say how we would handle it if we were in the parent’s shoes but unless you’ve walked in them, you really have no idea what it is like.

  74. Autumn W

    This is the article that I have been looking for since this was made public. I was SO upset with how “christians” responded . Thank you for this!

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I’m glad you found it helpful!

  75. Anonymous

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post, I feel like Christianity in general doesn’t know how to handle abuse. My abuse has reared its ugly head after each of my sons was born. I will have to find a better counselor this time. It has seemed the vast majority of reactions from people with in the church was if I was fulfilling my husbands sexual needs. (This was not my husbands concern) It wasn’t about helping me to heal but how this was effecting my husband, I even had a Christian friend tell me I better get over it because if I didn’t he was sure to start looking other places. My husband has been insanely patient with me, but the reaction from other Christians and Christian counselors has been so hurtful. I can’t imagine not being a Christian and receiving those responses from Christians. We’re told but god that sin has far reaching consequences why are those who have fallen victim to it expected to “get over it” so quickly. God does help us to heal, but to pretend it happens so quickly is inauthentic for most.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, wow, I’m so sorry! That’s just awful. And I’m so glad that you have such an amazing husband. I really pray that you get a great counsellor and that God brings some real healing into your life, because God truly WANTS you to have a great relationship with your husband, ESPECIALLY since you are parents now. Someone may have stolen your childhood, but God doesn’t want them to steal your marriage, too. So I pray that you find real freedom.


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