Why The Duggars Are No Laughing Matter

Allegations surfaced mid last week that Josh Duggar, made famous along with his 18 other siblings on the TLC program “19 Kids and Counting,” had molested several young girls, including possibly several of his sisters when he was 15. According to the police report, filed in 2006, one of the girls accused Josh of “sneaking into” her room at night and “touching… the breasts and vaginal areas,” according to The Daily Beast.

When Josh told his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, about the molestations, they did not go immediately to the authorities, but waited, then consulted with church elders who sent him to work remodeling homes with a family friend. When Jim Bob and Josh did go to the police, Josh was given a “stern talking to” and then released, uncharged. Because the assaults occurred beyond the statute of limitations, he cannot be charged as of this time.

Jim Bob and Michelle, Josh, and his wife, Anna, have all released separate statements confirming the assaults happened and labeling it “an unfortunate incident.”

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh, told PEOPLE in a statement.

In Anna’s statement, she confirmed that she knew about the assaults before the couple was married or even engaged.

This is not the first time that the family has made negative headlines. John’s sister, Jessa Duggar, took to Instagram to share her views on abortion rights, comparing abortion to the Holocaust, and Michelle recorded a call that went out to voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, claiming that an anti-transgender discrimination ordinance would allow “men” to leer at young girls in bathrooms and public changing rooms.

Despite the backlash they have faced, and even petitions to take the show off of the air, the Duggars continue to have a cult following.

The family’s Facebook page has garnered more than 677,000 likes, with millions tuning in each week. Additionally, one look at the comments section on any Duggar family member’s social media proves that their influence goes beyond number of views. People praise their family values and compare their family to other famous “ungodly” TV families, like the Kardashians. Even in the Duggar’s statements regarding the assault, they reference their “sweet fans.” The fans and the family clearly see themselves as “other” from the moral decay of modern media.

The Duggars ascribe to the many of the same beliefs of the QuiverFull movement*, a brand of Christianity where followers put family planning in the Lord’s hands, and do not use contraception. The term comes from the Bible verse, “as arrows in the hand of the mighty man, so are the children of one’s youth, happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them”

The Duggars are seen as the face of QuiverFull on TV, but they are not the only family to practice this type of faith in such a public way. The Robertson family, most famous from their show “Duck Dynasty” also practices very conservative Christianity. When comments from Phil Robertson, the family’s patriarch, in which he made graphic comments about atheism and young brides, were made public, the show was cancelled. But, because of the immense following and outrage from the show’s fans, A&E renewed the show.

This goes to show while many people can blow these families off as strange people with long beards and backwards views, there are thousands who take them seriously, raise them up as holy and righteous and allow them to influence politics.

Josh served as executive director of the Christian Family Research Council, until news of the assaults broke and he resigned. The CFRC is a pro-life, anti-gay lobbying group, which has been classified as a hate group, and in his job, Josh met with dozens of high-profile Republican candidates, many of whom he shared selfies with on his Twitter. Mike Huckabee took to Facebook to defend the family. Jim Bob has been a speaker at many political events.

Their influence is no longer capped by the people sitting on their couches watching their lives play out. It has allowed the practice of QuiverFull to play out in a real-life way, in real time, with laws that affect everyone. And despite personal views, this is not a good thing for assault survivors, especially Josh’s and others assaulted by those in a religious community.

While their “courtships” may be innocent and laughable to some (we’ve all seen articles mocking the side hugs and chaperoned dates the Duggar children have had), but once they are married, QuiverFull creates a culture in which women owe men sex. Michelle even infamously said, “Duggar women don’t get headaches,” implying that when your husband wants sex, there is no excuse not to give it to him.

Under QuiverFull, assault is seen at best as “offending” the victim, per Anna’s statement, and at worst, as the victim’s fault, per the countless incidents at Christian colleges and universities. This kind of logic has allowed fans of the show to write of Josh’s assaults as a sin, no different than the sins that everyone commits, and simply being sexually curious.

Doug Phillips, a longtime mentor and family friend of the Duggars, was accused sexual assault by a woman who says she was his mistress. The woman best summed up the movement the Duggars subscribe to: “Phillips’s patriarchal movement teaches that men are, and should be, in the absolute control of women,” she said, according to The Daily Beast.

This has become increasingly clear by how often Josh has made the headlines for his “journey” and how little anyone has mentioned his victims. While the Duggars and those who practice QuiverFull focus on protecting women’s purity and honor, they don’t care enough to listen to those women about what their aspirations are, and even if they do, they are only encouraged to pursue things that the church, and more importantly, the men find acceptable.

They are careful to make women dress in long skirts and long-sleeved tops as to not tempt men, but even donning this attire does not relieve women of blame in sexual assault.

“I was told that if a man looked at my body and lusted that it was because I had worn clothing that was ‘defrauding.’ This may sound crazy but I took this very seriously. I didn’t want to cause my ‘brothers’ to stumble. The (false) guilt was ingrained and strong; I remember calling men and apologizing for what I wore around them,” wrote a former follower of QuiverFull on Recovering Grace.

While news of the assault caused an appearance on Oprah to be cancelled in 2006, there is no telling whether this will be the tipping point for “19 Kids and Counting” to be cancelled. (TLC has taken it off of its schedule for the time being.) Even if it was to be cancelled, it could very well go the way of the Robertson’s, surfacing again per fan outrage.

Regardless of the fate of the show, and the fate of the Duggars to stay in mainstream media, it is clear that their impact on politics, and the lasting impact that QuiverFull has on people’s’ lives, is not going away anytime soon.

*The Duggars have not publicly said they practice QuiverFull, but they are still widely accepted as the face of the movement as their beliefs align so closely to its tenets.

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