Last year, after all of the sordid details about Josh Duggar’s molestation and his parents' poor handling of the situation, I thought for sure that TLC would remove them from their television lineup. There was precedent: Honey Boo Boo and her family left the airwaves after a scandal of a similar nature broke among their family. Then Josh was caught up in the Ashley Madison scandal and I figured that would tie it all up. But no. The Duggars are still on television. And while it seems enough people in America have moved on, I just can’t, and there are six reasons why.
In the premiere of Jill & Jessa: Counting On, Anna Duggar appears, readying herself for a visit to her cheating, lying husband. She puts on a brave face, but as she packs up her bag and leaves all four of her children with her in-laws, it’s clear that the poor girl doesn’t know what to think. Her entire relationship with Josh has played out on television, and she is stuck. No education, no life experience, no money of her own and four children to care for, all while her philandering husband is seeking treatment at a Christian facility, after which she seemingly has no choice but to forgive and forget. I want to rescue that woman and tell her it’s OK to walk away. But it seems she will keep smiling for the sake of the family.
In the three-part special that aired last year about the Josh Duggar scandal, Michelle was shown making an effort to learn all about sexual abuse and how to spot the warning signs. She appeared on camera, taking copious notes at seminars and telling the cameras how much she had really learned throughout the entire ordeal. And yet, just this past fall, as her son sat in rehab for soliciting affairs online, Michelle took to her website to advise young brides to always be sexually available to their husbands, lest they find it elsewhere. Why anyone would turn to her for marriage advice is beyond me, but I cannot imagine being her daughter-in-law the moment she implied that all of that affair business might have been avoided if only she had put out more.
In spite of the pretty strong case against the way Josh Duggar was raised to view women, the Duggar family persists in the courtship model, in which their children have extremely strict rules that include heavy parental monitoring. Again, although the show was supposed to be about Jill and Jessa, the younger children, including Joy Anna, address the possibility of her courting. Her brother Josiah explained that courting is pre-engagement, or dating with a purpose. Parents monitor texts, phone calls and any interaction, and no one is allowed physical contact until engagement, when a side-hug is permitted. And of course, this all plays out for cameras and media outlets.
They may be on a new version of their television program, and they may have told the world how they forgave Josh long ago, but the fact remains that Jill and Jessa Duggar were molested by their brother (who was then protected by their parents) and forced to not only continue to live with him, but to go on a national television program with him and carry on as if nothing had happened. Continuing to use their lives for ratings is shameful.
Sexual assault is an epidemic and approximately 68 percent of victims never report their assault to police, according to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. When Josh Duggar’s family is still on television, profiting from living out their lives after making it perfectly clear that they covered up his crimes and continue to embrace a belief system that facilitated the abuse in the first place, it sends a message to all victims of abuse that speaking out may not do them any good. When TLC continues to offer the Duggar family a platform, sexual assault victims hear the message loud and clear: You can victimize women and continue to profit from it.
I cannot support the Duggar television empire. The best move that family could make would be to get the hell off of television and enter intense therapy. I fear that wouldn’t be nearly as profitable, however.
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