Josh Duggar, who once enjoyed celebrity status thanks to his role on the TLC reality television show 19 Kids and Counting, has been found guilty of possession of child pornography and sentenced to more than twelve years in prison.
In 2006, In Touch magazine first reported that Duggar, one of the eponymous “kids” in the extremely conservative and religious family the show was based around, had been investigated in the alleged sexual assaults of five young girls (four of his own sisters and a babysitter) when he was fifteen years old — and that his family, and then church officials, waited for months to notify anyone at all:
…Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined [redacted, Josh] after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.
Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.
Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”
He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.
Josh Duggar released a statement after news broke of the sexual assault investigation:
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. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also commented on the allegations:
When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.
But there was far more to the story, which unspooled out over years. In 2015, TLC canceled the show 19 Kids and Counting after an investigation into the 2006 allegations against Josh Duggar yielded admissions and apologies from his parents, who said that he indeed molested four of his sisters and a family babysitter as a teen:
Josh Duggar apologized for unspecified bad behavior [in 2015] when the story came to light and resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.
“I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” Duggar wrote online. “In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”
He has not spoken publicly about fondling his sisters or the baby sitter and was not featured in Fox’s interviews.
“He’s very sorry,” Michelle Duggar said in the interview, wiping away tears.
Duggar was then arrested in 2021 following a raid at his office and quickly convicted in December. On May 25 2022, he was sentenced to more than twelve years in prison, with investigators commenting about the extreme viciousness of the materials he sought out:
Authorities described Duggar, 34, as a “very savvy computer user” who tried to cover his tracks as he downloaded “sadistic and masochistic abuse” material in 2019.
Among the more than 600 images and videos that prosecutors said he downloaded was footage of prepubescent girls being raped, whipped, threatened with knives, and held naked in a dog cage.
Another video showed the rape and torture of a toddler — footage so terrible that a Homeland Security Investigations agent said it was among the most horrific things he had been forced to watch in his career.
Per the BuzzFeed story, the hearings also included a statement from the mother of one of the children who was abused in a video he viewed:
“My daughter is a real person. She was horribly victimized to provide this source of ‘entertainment,’” the woman said. “She is exploited anew each and every time an image of her suffering is copied, traded, or sold.”
The woman also passed on a message from her daughter to Duggar: “Don’t you know no one should do that to a little girl! Don’t you know it hurts!”
This page has been updated. You can view the original here. -bb