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Duggar sisters: Josh had to rebuild trust

TONTITOWN, Ark. (BP) — Josh Duggar begged forgiveness and worked to reestablish trust among his sisters after they learned 12 years ago he had improperly touched them as they slept, two of his victims said June 6 on FOX News’ “The Kelly File.”

Jill (Duggar) Dillard, 24, and Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, 22, identified themselves publicly as two of their brother’s victims and told their version of the story that appeared May 21 in InTouch Weekly. The incidents happened years before the Duggar family premiered its “19 Kids and Counting” reality TV show.

“When Josh asked us to forgive him, we had to make that choice that I think everyone has to make,” Dillard said. “And my dad explained to us, he said you know there’s a difference between forgiveness and trust. That’s not the same thing. You forgive someone and then you have boundaries, forgiveness with boundaries. And so trust comes later. You know Josh destroyed that trust at the beginning, and so he had to rebuild that. … When he asked us to forgive him, that was the point of rebuilding.”

Dillard and Seewald, two of the four sisters Josh Duggar has admitted to improperly touching when he was 14 and 15 years old, told host Megyn Kelly they wanted to set the record straight because tabloids had distorted the truth and violated their privacy.

“Most of the stuff out there is lies, it’s not true,” said Dillard, married and the mother of a two-month old. “For truth sake, we want to come out and set the record straight.” Dillard and her husband Derick are members of the Pinnacle Hills, Ark., campus of Cross Church, the pastorate of Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd.

Dillard and Seewald told host Megyn Kelly in an interview in their Tontitown, Ark., home, how they had learned of their brother’s behavior. Dillard was 12 at the time; Seewald was 9 or 10.

“I think in the case of what Josh did, it was very wrong. I’m not going to justify anything that he did or say it was OK. [It was] not permissible,” Seewald said. “But I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester, or a pedophile or a rapist. … That is so overboard and a lie, really.

“…I was one of the victims, so I can speak out, and I can say this and set the record straight here,” Seewald, expecting her first child with husband Benjamin, said. “In Josh’s case, he was a boy, young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls and that got him into some trouble. And he made some bad choices. But really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching, on fully clothed victims, most of it while girls were sleeping.”

Some of the touching occurred while the victims were awake, but Josh Duggar was very “sly” in his actions, Seewald told Kelly.

“In the situations that happened when the girls were awake, they weren’t aware of what was happening,” Seewald said. “It was very subtle.”

Just as their parents had said in an earlier portion of the interview that aired June 2, the sisters said distorted public revelations of the improper touching hurt more than the touching itself, which years before had been told to family, friends, law enforcement officials and professional counselors.

“I see it as a victimization that’s even a thousand times worse, because this was something that was already dealt with. We’ve already forgiven Josh. We’ve already moved on,” Dillard said, crying. “It’s not the truth first of all, everything was distorted. We feel like our story was not being told. And we feel like it shouldn’t have been told. The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves.”

Dillard and Seewald are the only two victims that have been identified by name since InTouch Weekly published a copy of an official Arkansas State Police report, with the names of the perpetrator and victims obscured, revealing that a teenager the magazine identified as Josh Duggar had confessed to authorities that he molested five underage girls when he was 14 and 15 years old. Four of the girls were identified as children of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The other victim is a former babysitter, who also has not been identified.

Seewald said all of the victims, including the babysitter, have forgiven her brother.

“I can speak for the others in as far as saying everybody’s angry that this has been publicized,” she said. “Everybody’s forgiven. We’ve all forgiven and we’ve all moved on.”

The sisters praised their parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar for the way the family crisis was handled. After Josh Duggar confessed to his parents a third time that he had improperly touched the victims, the parents removed their son from the house, sent him to a Christian training center in Little Rock, Ark., secured counseling for the entire family and years later, reported the incidents to police.

“As a mother now, I look back and think my parents did such an amazing job,” Dillard said. “Even when we went through the DHS [Arkansas Department of Human Services] investigation, they [DHS] complimented my parents on what an amazing job they did through that process … not only taking the legal actions that they did, and then going the extra mile. As a mom, I hope I can set up the same safeguards in my family they did, reaching the heart of their children, and not only trying to take care of Josh, but us girls.”

After the first time Josh Duggar reported his actions to his parents, they sought to solve the problem without outside intervention, disciplining their son, installing locks on the daughters’ bedroom door, and altering certain forms of play such as hide-and-seek, the parents have said.

“They set up safety guards in our house. They sent Josh away, had him get help,” Seewald said. “When he came back, he was a totally different person. … You could just tell.”

The adverse news reports have strengthened the family relationship, the sisters said. And while TLC has pulled all episodes of the family’s reality show, the sisters are focused on continuing their lives.

“This show is just a window of opportunity that God’s allowed our family to be on television and to share with other people our lives,” Dillard said.

Seewald noted, “We’re not a TV family, we’re just a family that happened to be on TV.”