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Commentary: Josh Duggar’s Porn Conviction And All That Goes Before It

Commentary: Josh Duggar’s Porn Conviction And All That Goes Before It

Josh Duggar has been convicted of procuring and possessing child porn, including photos of children as young as toddlers, and even a video of a three-month-old infant being abused. We can talk about justice served here, but honestly, the victims haven’t been healed. The sentence doesn’t take back what was done to them.

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits “Extra” at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)

Don’t misunderstand — the conviction is important, and while the family is appealing the decision, the best possible thing that can happen in a case of child sexual abuse is for the abuser to be prevented from carrying out any further acts of abuse on the same or new victims. I’m happy for someone who was convicted of possession of child porn to face a prison sentence, and ideally to be kept far away from any hypothetical future victims.

There’s so much more to this story, though, because Duggar is really only facing charges for a fraction of the harm that I would argue has been done. Of course, most people who have followed the family at all know that a scandal broke years ago when InTouch used a Freedom of Information Act request to acquire and publish a police report that described Duggar molesting five young girls, four of whom were his sisters.

The time in between that documented abuse and this conviction for abuse wasn’t a silent void, though. Here’s some information you may have missed along the way.

A Mercury News report from 2015 details some of the information in the 2006 police report (Duggar was born in 1988 and would have been turning 18 the year of this report) in which he confessed to molesting a five-year-old child while she sat on his lap to have books read to her. His parents explained in an interview, detailed in OK Magazine, that they combated this by making rules that girls and boys couldn’t play hide-and-seek together and that girls couldn’t sit on anyone’s laps but their fathers.

A Washington Post report on the response of Josh’s victims and parents details two of his sisters describing the news reporting as the real violation, and insisting that Josh isn’t a pedophile or child molestor. His parents describe it as a case of ‘curiosity’ and emphasize touching being ‘over the clothes’ — despite contradictory statements in the police report, and from a witness close to the family in his recent trial.

We’re still barely scraping the surface of the horrors here — In Touch, analyzing the police report, describes Josh as confessing his abuse at least 3 times, and that legal experts note Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the parents of the 19 Duggar kids, could have also faced charges for allowing it to continue, but the statute of limitations passed without action.

Meanwhile, Josh was enrolled in a treatment program — well, at least, that’s the story. In fact, he was forced to shave his head as punishment, and sent to help a family friend build houses for a while.

So, why were there no charges or action taken against Josh or his parents at the time? Well, it’s impossible to really know anyone’s motives. What we do know, though, is that the police officer who took the initial report, one Joe Hutchins, who Jim Bob Duggar reportedly approached because he was known to the family, described his response as giving the teenager a “stern talking-to” — and by the way, according to the Huffington Post, that former officer is currently serving a prison sentence after being convicted for possession of — yes, you guessed it, child porn.

Yeah.

Oh, you think that’s the end of the story. No way. Let’s get into what the victims suffered after the reported molestations. Gawker obtained some documents from their homeschool curriculum. You can see pages of them here, but I’ll give you a quick run-down of some of the worst elements:

Victims are asked to compare the damage the offender did, with the damage the victim does by being ‘bitter’ about it, and directed to assess their own guilt — did they bring this on by disobedience, spending time with ‘evil’ friends, or dressing immodestly? They’re told to weigh the physical abuse against the strength in spirit they’ve gained from the experience (I promise that turns my stomach as much to type as it does yours to read it) and to dedicate their bodies to God, and that forgiveness is essential to their own spiritual health.

Further recommendations include never letting boys change diapers, and prohibiting touching, wrestling, and other physical play between siblings.

But the truth is, the dangerous teachings around sex, bodily autonomy, and abuse, go far beyond the nasty victim-blaming after the fact. Here’s Michelle Duggar’s advice to newlywed women, from her own personal blog, partially quoting what another person advised her.

“You’ve got to remember this. Anyone can iron Jim Bob’s shirt, anybody can make lunch for him. He can get his lunch somewhere else. But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy…And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.”

“I’ll share this advice with Jill so she knows that she’s got to be a wife first and then later, Lord willing, she’ll be a mother. Her responsibility before God and Derick needs to come first. It’s not just me and the Lord; it’s me and the Lord and my husband.”

Sex when you don’t want it, sex that is coerced, sex that is demanded, sex that is a duty that you don’t have the freedom to refuse — well, we have a word for that. Marital rape may not have always been acknowledged as a crime, but these days, we recognize it as one.

Of course, we could go further still — into how their religious beliefs demand forgiveness and the story the girls tell in their 2014 book, Growing Up Duggar, where they describe being trained to obey all commands without ever displaying any hesitance, reluctance, or in fact, anything but pure joy. We could address Jill Dillard’s escape from the family’s strict religious beliefs, and the hints her husband dropped on social media about wanting to sue because, he said, the kids didn’t get paid for their work on the show, 19 Kids & Counting. We could talk about their cousin Amy King, who was portrayed on the show as a shocking rebel who wore pants, and who now has shared that she and her mother were lied to about Josh’s initial round of alleged crimes.

See Also

We could talk about Josh’s wife, who has continued to birth children and stand by him through all of this, and who reportedly may not have known before marrying him how serious the ‘sins’ he was confessing were, or how the then-leader of their cult, Bill Gothard, was accused of sexual abuse by a number of girls in 2014 — Chicago Mag has a great deep-dive into this, if you’re looking for more.

Ultimately, though, the current situation is that Duggar has been convicted, and while the family plans to appeal, it seems likely that he’ll be facing prison time, where he won’t have any access whatsoever to pre-teens and toddlers.

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