TONTITOWN, Ark. (BP) — Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar installed safety nets to protect their young girls after their son Josh confessed to improperly touching them 12 years ago, and sent him away for treatment when it was clear they couldn’t solve the problem alone, the couple said June 3 on FOX News.
But their girls have been victimized more by media reports that began May 21 than they were by Josh’s actions, the stars of the reality show “19 Kids and Counting” said in an exclusive “Kelly File” interview with Megyn Kelly in their Tontitown, Ark. home. Most of the reported incidents, the couple said, occurred while the girls were asleep.
“Our daughters, they were shocked to hear this,” Jim Bob Duggar said. “It’s something that crushed them at first. They didn’t want this out. No victim wants their record, their minor story to be told. Every victim should have the right to tell their own story, not a tabloid.”
In Touch Weekly May 21 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.
Josh Duggar, now a 27-year-old married father of three children, has apologized publicly and resigned his position as executive director of Family Research Council Action.
“I think what’s so devastating as a mama for me is we took our children to the safety center. … We trusted the police department. Our children poured out their hearts; they shared everything,” Michelle Duggar said. “And then to have their trust betrayed, and for all of their information and everything they shared to be turned over to a tabloid, for those things to be twisted and shared in a slanderous way — story after story, tabloid after tabloid — as a mama that breaks my heart for my girls.”
The Duggars said they are discussing with attorneys the disclosure of the records, but have not decided whether they will take legal action.
“I think the big picture is protecting juveniles’ records. We want to be an advocate for protecting juvenile records because the mistakes that juveniles make when they’re young should be sealed,” Jim Bob Duggar said on The Kelly File. “Our son violated God’s principles of doing some improper touching. That’s terrible. But I think it’s been recently said that what Josh did was inexcusable, but it was not unforgiveable.”
In the interview, the Duggars discussed details of the turmoil the family endured as Josh’s actions became clear, years before the couple was tapped for reality television.
“Our son Josh came to us on his own, he was crying, and he had just turned 14, and he said that he had actually improperly touched some of our daughters,” Jim Bob Duggar said. “He said he was just curious about girls and he had gone in and just basically touched them over their clothes and when they were sleeping. They didn’t even know he had done it.”
The family established safeguards to protect the children and punished their son, but the incidents continued, including a “couple of times,” the Duggars said, when the girls were awake.
“This was not rape or anything like that, this was like touching someone over their clothes. There were a couple of incidents where he touched them under their clothes, but it was like a few seconds. And then he came to us and was crying and told us what happened,” Jim Bob Duggar said. “And it was after that third time he came to us is where we really felt like … we have done everything we can as parents to handle this in-house. We need to get help.
“That’s actually when we went to outside folks and we asked some very close friends if they could come over,” he said. “We talked about it, and so at that point we pulled Josh out of the home.”
The Duggars sent Josh to a training center in Little Rock, Ark., run by an unnamed man who mentored young men, filling their days with construction work and counseling.
“God really worked in his life. As a matter of fact he broke and he went and asked God to forgive him, he went back and asked those that he had offended to forgive him,” Jim Bob Duggar said of Josh. “But we felt that the last jurisdiction of who he needed to make things right with was the law.”
The family reported the incident to police, but no charges were ever filed. The officer who took their statements is now in prison, accused of child pornography in an unrelated case that the Duggars said they learned about years later.
“We felt like it was an important step for Josh to confess to the police what he had done, ’cause he had broken the law,” Jim Bob Duggar said. “And we felt like if we didn’t do this, that this would be something hanging over his head the rest of his life.”
As years passed, the family thought the incident was behind them. Josh and his siblings received professional counseling, with Josh paying for his own treatment, and Josh apologized to those he had harmed, including an underage babysitter who was his fifth victim. His sisters Jill and Jessa, who’ve identified themselves as two of the victims, are scheduled to discuss their stories on FOX News June 5 at 9 p.m. Eastern.
“They’ve been victimized more by what has happened in these last couple of weeks than they were 12 years ago because they honestly, they didn’t even understand or know anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it,” Michelle Duggar said. “In our hearts before God, we haven’t been keeping secrets. We have been protecting those that honestly should be protected. And now what’s happened is they’ve been victimized by people with an agenda and for whatever profit they think they’re going to get. But in this, one thing I know, is that God is going to use all of this for good.”
The incidents may help other families who’ve dealt with similar situations, Jim Bob Duggar said he now believes.
“I said God, ‘I know that there’s a lot of families out there that are hurting, and you know what, this isn’t something we wanted to come out,” he said in the interview. “But if people can see that Josh, who did these very bad things when he was a young person, that God could forgive him for these terrible things, then I hope other people realize that God can forgive them and also make them a new creature.”
TLC pulled all scheduled episodes of 19 Kids and Counting, but has not announced whether the series will be cancelled. The family, which has promoted Christian values on its show, is committed to continuing in ministry.
“I don’t know if the rest of our family should be punished for the act of one of our children … but we are fine whether they film us or not,” Jim Bob Duggar said. “We’re gonna go on and live life. We’re gonna go on and serve God and make a difference in the world.”
“Either way we’re at peace,” Michelle Duggar added.