On tonight’s Kelly File, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar fielded questions for the first time about their experience of oldest son Josh Duggar molesting five young girls as a teenager.
“Twelve years ago, we went through one of the most darkest times that our family has ever gone through,” Jim Bob said. “Our son Josh came to us on his own… And he said that he has actually improperly touched some of our daughters.”
They said they were not prepared to deal with the situation, but believed there was “one ray of hope” in that Josh “had a tender conscience” and was the one who confessed. Jim Bob explained the first steps they took were to protect the two girls affected in the first incident, who were apparently unaware of what Josh even did when they were sleeping.
“We asked them at first if anything happened. Then it was after some other things happened that we shared [the details with them],” Jim Bob said, explaining they may not have ever known anything happened if Josh hadn’t told them. “They didn’t know that anything happened because they were asleep.”
Jim Bob said they “put all kinds of punishments” on Josh and established safeguards so he never went into the girls’ room again. They said many of those safeguards, including not allowing boys to babysit and banning co-ed hide and seek, continue to this day.
However, a few months later, Jim Bob said Josh touched two other girls while they were on the couch in the living room. Jim Bob clarified, “This was not rape or anything like that. This was like touching somebody over the clothes. There were a couple instances where he touched somebody under their clothes, but it was like a few seconds.”
After Josh later admitted to touching one of his young sisters, Jim Bob said he and Michelle realized they had done as much as they could as parents and needed to seek outside help. With advice from friends, they sent Josh to a “training center” for counseling and physical labor. Jim Bob said they didn’t go to authorities because a friend warned him about the low success rate at treatment facilities run by the legal system.
“We felt like going from the perspective of really reaching his heart first would be important,” Jim Bob said. “As parents, you’re not mandatory reporters. The law allows for parents to do what they think is best for their child….We felt the last jurisdiction we needed to make things right with was the law.”
Jim Bob said Josh returned from treatment totally transformed because “God really came into his life.” Jim Bob said Josh then asked those “he offended” to forgive him, but Michelle added that was primarily because “he knew” what he did was wrong. They said the young girls didn’t fully understand what happened, so they used it as a learning experience to tell them about “wrong and right touch.” They also said the girls all got “professional counseling.”
After he returned home from treatment, Jim Bob said they took Josh to the police headquarters to confess “everything.” They all accepted the possibility that Josh could be arrested, but he was sent home after getting a “stern lecture.”
As for whether they felt they either had to protect either their daughters or their son, Jim Bob and Michelle said they didn’t think it had to be one or the other.
“You know, I think it was a situation where our son’s heart had gone astray,” Jim Bob said. “I think Jesus shared a story about he had 100 sheep and one went astray… He took care of the 99, but he also went after the one that went astray.”
Michelle added, “As parents, we were doing the best that we knew how to help this one and protect [the rest]…”
Even though they said they did their best, Jim Bob said he and Michelle still regretted their actions — especially after learning Josh continued to molest girls throughout the year. He said they were, however, heartened to learn many other families had worse stories.
Jim Bob said they thought everything was laid to rest when they agreed to do the full TLC reality show in 2008.
“We had nothing to hide, we had taken care of all of that years before,” Jim Bob said. “We had no fear because everything was taken care of and that was actually a sealed juvenile record.”
When the news came out last month, Jim Bob said they were upset because it wasn’t something they really wanted to address. He and Michelle speculated the person who released the information was bribed or had a personal agenda to bring them down. They are now talking with attorneys to see decide about bringing a lawsuit because it violated Josh’s rights and stripped the victims’ privacy.
“I feel like this is more about there’s an agenda and there’s people who are purposing to try bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander,” Michelle said, explaining they believe they were specifically targeted because of their beliefs. She and Jim Bob added Josh is not a pedophile because his offenses were limited to when he was also underage.
“It’s been an unprecedented attack on our family,” Jim Bob said. “This information was released illegally, so I wonder why this press is not going after the system for releasing the juvenile records… Hopefully justice will be served on the ones who released the juvenile records to protect their other juveniles.”
We trusted the police department. Our children poured out their hearts, they shared everything. Then to have their trust betrayed and put 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… As a mom, that breaks my heart for my girls. They’ve been victimized more by what’s happened in these last couple weeks… In our hearts before God, we haven’t been keeping secrets. We have been protecting those that, truthfully, should be protected.
Once the news was out, Jim Bob said they quickly decided it could be a learning experience for others, regardless of the motivation of the person who released the information:
“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 that other people realize God can forgive them.”
Jim Bob said he hopes the rest of his family isn’t punished for what happened 12 years ago, but they are going to continue with their lives no matter what happens with TLC.
Megyn’s segment with Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald, self-identified victims, airs on Friday’s episode of The Kelly File. In another preview, a tearful Jill echoed Michelle by saying they have been hurt more by the release of information than when the incidents first happened.