Like many Americans, I've had a love-hate relationship with the Duggar family over the years.
I've been oddly fascinated by matriarch Michelle and her uncanny ability to physically push that many children from her body, while I have struggled with every single day of my pregnancies. I've genuinely thought, "Aw!" watching her girls go on to marry handsome men and pop out their own babies. And overall, I've had an "eh, to each their own" mentality about their lifestyle.
Looking back after all of this news broke, of course, it's easy to see the signs of just how weird their whole cult really is, and nowhere is that more apparent to me than in looking at some of the behavior of the sisters and of the other untold victim in this whole saga — Anna.
I admit that when I've watched the show, I have always felt bad for her and how she kind of got pulled into the spotlight. I mean, did she really have a choice when it came to marrying this guy after she was "chosen" and the whole thing was televised for the whole world to see? Could she have really refused him, no matter how "open" he supposedly was about his past "painful, difficult mistakes"?
One young woman who was a former member of the same rigidly religious homeschooling culture that Anna and the Duggars are part of described the sort of mindset that probably went into both Anna's training as a wife-to-be and her understanding of what Josh was actually confessing to. (Read: It probably wasn't very clear.)
"Anna Duggar is an example of what many women coming out of the Duggar's fundamentalist Christian subculture go through," she writes. "They get married young after a brief courtship. (Because of family pressure and perhaps a desperate need to get out of their parents' home.) She now claims that she knew when the courtship began that Josh was a child molester. But I very much doubt that Josh used those words — it is far more likely that he said he had 'temptations' to which he 'succumbed' but 'God is good' and he has 'asked for forgiveness.' And, in that culture, she would have had no choice but to accept that for face value, because to do otherwise would be to call Josh a liar and to doubt God's ability to save. Now she's found out the truth, she has a few more years of experience, and she's more trapped than she's ever been."
Trapped is exactly how I think of the subsequent Mrs. Duggar and how desperate her situation must feel to her now, even if she can't fully see the murky path she was led down to marry Josh. At only 26, she's literally ruined with almost four kids. (She's currently pregnant with the couple's fourth child and second daughter.) She has never gone to college, nor does her culture support divorce, so men are the breadwinners in the family. But who in the world will ever hire Josh? How will she support those kids? What is she really thinking through all of this, or has she been so brainwashed that she is truly convinced it was just a "teenage sin"? How would you handle all of this as a mother to this man's children? I just can't imagine what the future holds for her and how the sad truth is, she is a victim, just as those poor girls were.
The day the news broke, I logged on to their official Anna & Josh website (it has since been pulled down) to read the couple's description as, "We're basically just a normal family living a normal life, we just have a camera following us around occasionally!" (Insert Anna's giggle here).
Um, no, Anna, no, you are not normal. Not normal at all, actually. Sadly, nothing about Anna's life will ever be "normal" again, and I sincerely hope her whole family gets the help — the real help — they all need and deserve.