I am reposting this review of a documentary I watched in 2018. I’m not why I didn’t repost it years ago, but I discovered it this morning and think it could be of interest to some readers. Bear in mind that this was originally written on March 14, 2018 and is posted AS/IS. That means I will NOT be significantly editing it, and it is appearing just as it was when I posted it years ago.
Yesterday, after watching the most recent episode of Counting On, I decided to watch a documentary called Kidnapped for Christ. This film, which was released in 2014, was produced and directed by Kate S. Logan. The film was mostly shot during a seven week period in 2006, when Logan was in the Dominican Republic visiting Escuela Caribe, a school run by New Horizons Youth Ministries out of Marion, Indiana.
At the time she began shooting the film and interviewing staff and students there, Kate Logan was unaware of the school’s controversial nature. Logan was herself a student at an evangelical Christian university and did not intend to create an expose of Escuela Caribe. But then she got to know a seventeen year old named David whose parents had used a teen transport company to have him escorted from their home in the middle of the night. Although David was a model student with excellent grades, a talent for drama, and a promising future, he was gay. That was unacceptable to David’s parents.
Logan also interviewed two girls who were at the facility. Beth was sent to the school because of a “debilitating anxiety disorder”. Tai was sent there because of behavioral problems that were brought on by childhood abuse.
After she’d spent some time at the school, which by 2006 had been operating in the Dominican Republic for several decades, Logan started to realize that some of the methods employed there were abusive. For instance, participants who misbehaved were required to do push ups, squat thrusts, or run “Casitas”. Sometimes, they would be forced to do intense physical labor or get “swats”, basically a spanking with a wooden paddle. Logan also noticed that the participants were subjected to emotional abuse.
David sent a letter back with Kate Logan. He asked her to give it to one of his best friends, who would then share it with her parents. When Logan shared the letter with the friend, who happened to be attending the same university where Logan was a student, things started happened. A small cadre of David’s friends and adult supporters banded together to try to get him out of Escuela Caribe. Although David was about to turn 18, he was concerned that school officials would try to hold him there beyond his 18th birthday.
I decided to watch this movie after it was mentioned in the Duggar group I joined. I had not heard of Kidnapped for Christ before yesterday, but I have a lot of time on my hands and I’m fascinated by documentaries, especially about cults. “Teen help” programs are also a pet interest of mine. About fifteen years ago, I went through an intense research phase of these kinds of programs desperate parents employ to “help” their teens. Many of them, now mercifully shut down, were abusive in nature.
Escuela Caribe, which closed in 2012, did not sound like the worst of some of the programs I’ve researched. Yes, there was a lot of physical punishment and humiliation involved with their “approach”, but some of the programs run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS) and fundamentalist Christian schools such as Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy seemed much worse. One reason why they seemed worse is that there’s no way someone like Kate Logan could have had access to those schools. Escuela Caribe apparently initially welcomed Logan to talk to students and film them. That would not have happened at the other schools.
However, even though Escuela Caribe was evidently not among the “worst” of the teen help schools, it still did significant damage to a number of former participants. Some people who had been at the school ended up with symptoms of PTSD. And, of course, there’s also the disturbing idea that a school can “cure” someone of being homosexual. On the other hand, there are some former participants who feel that school saved their lives. One of the people Logan interviewed for this film left the program with a positive impression.
Kidnapped for Christ is very well produced and informative. It’s well worth watching if you have interesting in the topic of “teen help” boarding schools or even evangelical Christianity. Although I can understand that many parents are frustrated by teenagers who act out or get into trouble, I think that for the most part, these kinds of programs cause more problems then they solve. They’re also very expensive and usually run by people with no actual qualifications. At one point, Logan pointed out that the tuition for Escuela Caribe was more than what one would pay for a year at Harvard University.
Anyway… if you can watch this film, I think you should. Here’s a link to it on Amazon.com. If you click through and purchase through my site, I will get a small commission from Amazon.com.
Today’s post is inspired by the most recent episode of Welcome to Plathville, which I watched yesterday afternoon. If you read yesterday’s post, you might know that I’ve been getting over a nasty cold. I got a late start yesterday because I had a touch of “medicine head” and was feeling kind of exhausted. Consequently, I did less writing yesterday than I might have ordinarily done. I only wrote one travel post, which is just as well, since not that many people read the travel blog anymore.
In the episode of Welcome to Plathville that inspired this post, the camera focused on Olivia Plath, wife to eldest Plath son, Ethan. I’ve found Olivia intriguing since I first started watching the show. Like Ethan, she was homeschooled as a child and raised in a very Christian household. Interestingly enough, many members of the Plath family seem to have evolved out of fundamentalist Christianity. They’re all kind of busting loose, drinking alcohol, getting tattoos, dressing more provocatively, and moving to new cities.
From the beginning of the show, Olivia has been influencing Ethan to try more worldly things, like drinking alcohol. When the show started, Olivia ran her own photography business. She’s obviously a very bright, intelligent, and attractive young woman. So I was very surprised yesterday when she was talking about how she’d like to go to college, but hesitates because she wonders if she’d be successful. She explains that she’s never learned in a group setting before. At one point, I even heard her say she thought maybe she was too “dumb” for college.
It’s clear to me that Olivia is certainly smart enough to succeed in college, if that’s what she’d like to do. I do understand that if a person has never been in a classroom setting, he or she might wonder how the experience will go. But I can speak from personal experience that plenty of people who probably don’t belong in college manage to go… and some of the manage to graduate. I have no doubt in my mind that Olivia could flourish in college. She probably has the money to go, too, since she’s been on Welcome to Plathville. I would hope she’s getting paid for what she does on the show. She doesn’t seem like the type of person that would blindly follow whatever the Plaths tell her to do. It’s not like being in the Duggar family.
When I listen to Olivia speak, I hear someone who is plainly bright and articulate. She might need to learn study skills and how to write papers. But I have no doubt that she could easily learn those skills and get through college. I think the experience would open up a whole new world for her on many levels… Of course, it might also doom her marriage, because I suspect that if she is exposed to other people and new ideas, she may decide that she doesn’t want to be married… or maybe she’d rather be with someone else. College might change her in profound ways. I still hope she’ll consider going, though.
Which brings me to the Duggars… I recently heard from Katie Joy that Derick and Jill Dillard were considering setting up college funds for their sons. Derick Dillard has a college degree and a law degree, and thanks to Derick’s job and Jill’s best selling book about the reality of being a Duggar on reality TV, they’ve been able to declare independence from Jim Bob Duggar. I hope Jill’s youngest siblings are paying attention.
Derick is a living example of why it’s a good thing to have the freedom to go to college, not just because of the actual courses, but because of connections to the real world. Jill and Derick clearly seem to value education beyond the dining room table, as they send their older children to public school. Likewise, Jeremy Vuolo, who married Jill’s younger sister, Jinger, also has a college degree and is working for an advanced degree. I won’t be surprised if Jinger and Jeremy send their daughters to an actual school, rather than trying to homeschool them. And I won’t be surprised if their daughters eventually go to college.
I hope that Jill and Jinger will consider going to college, too, if they’d like to do that. Jill has always struck me as someone who would be a really good midwife. I know she was getting some training in midwifery, but I think it would be great if she got trained as an actual midwife, as in attending a university and getting the appropriate training and licensure for that field. I don’t know what Jinger’s passions are, but she’s always shown herself to be more of a free spirit. She’s certainly bright enough to go to college. And, as smarmy as Jeremy seems to be, I also think he’d support her in that effort, if they had the financial resources for it.
College is oversold to a lot of people, and it can be an expensive “trap” for some. However, I think people who have been raised in oppressive environments can really benefit from the college experience. I hope they’ll at least consider taking a course or two, just to see if they like it and can succeed. My guess is that once they get a taste of learning in a freer environment, they won’t want to stop. It will change their lives, perhaps in a very profound way that may even make it more difficult for them in the beginning.
I’m all for women stepping into the light and taking control of their own destinies. Accessing a college education is a great way to do that. Olivia Plath quite clearly can flourish in college. Jill and Jinger probably could, too, if they set their minds to it. If they actually cared about my opinion, I would encourage each of them to consider stepping into higher education, as they step out of the “dark ages” of the fundie Christianity mindset chosen for them by their parents. It’s time more fundie Christian women became liberated from the life roles someone else has trained them since birth to accept.
I will also admit that as well as I think Olivia Plath could do in college, I would especially love to see some Duggar women go to an accredited university and kick some ass. I’d love it for them, and I’d also love to see Jim Bob Duggar’s reaction… which I’m pretty certain would be very bitter. I can’t lie. The idea of that is hilarious to me… this obviously narcissistic man already has a son in prison, but his daughters could end up taking the world by storm. Now that’s a reality show I’d love to tune into regularly!
Happy hump day, y’all. I wasn’t planning to write about the Duggars again today, but I saw Katie Joy’s recent video about fallout in the Duggar Family over Jill Duggar’s book. You can read my review of Counting the Cost by clicking here. I wanted to add a few of my own thoughts about what allegedly went down in the Duggar compound regarding Jill’s “bombshell” book. But first, here’s a link to Katie Joy’s video, from her channel, Without a Crystal Ball.
Jim Bob Duggar has gone through quite a tough few years. Less than a decade ago, he was seemingly on top of the world, with a successful reality TV show and huge brood of camera ready children who were ripe for marriage and starting their own families. Yes, people criticized him, and his way of life. But he was making a lot of money on the show and the many rental properties it enabled him to buy, rent out, or fix up and sell.
Of course, it turned out Jim Bob’s seemingly squeaky clean Christian kingdom was built on a swamp full of the worst kinds of sins and lies. Once the stench from the swamp leaked out from under his Tinkertoy Mansion in Tontitown, the kingdom started to crumble. With every passing year since that day in May 2015, when the world learned about what Josh did in 2002, things seem to have gotten worse for Jim Bob. And now, if we’re to believe Katie Joy’s reporting– which I know some people don’t– it looks like Jim Bob is starting to panic. He’s allegedly resorting to threats and harassment to keep his massive family in line.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think Jim Bob is much of a Christian. I say that, even as I admit that I’m also not much of a Christian. Everything I ever learned about Christ painted him as an endlessly kind, humane, loving, gentle, decent, and service oriented person. Jesus Christ was not the type of person who aspired to be rich, powerful, or in control of anyone. He preached goodness, service, and kindness. And everything I’ve seen and read about Jim Bob makes me think that when he does do anything for anyone, it comes with many strings attached. Most of the “Christian” behavior I see from him is very much about image. It’s all surface oriented stuff designed to deceive.
I don’t know how accurate Katie Joy’s comments are regarding Jim Bob’s reactions to Jill’s book. However, based on what Jill wrote in her book– and I do believe her— I have a feeling that Jim Bob has threatened his children. According to Katie Joy’s video, posted above, Jim Bob has told his children that if any of them comment about Jill’s book or support it, he will disinherit them. And since Jill’s book dropped, there have been a couple of videos put out by Jessa Seewald and Joy Anna Forsyth, seemingly to distract the public from their sister’s book. They address some of the things Jill claimed in the book, such as the ban on dancing, the focus on the IBLP, and Jim Bob’s hoarding of monetary resources.
In the most recent videos by Joy Anna, her daughter, Evelyn, is shown dancing with joy with her brother, Gideon. She also said that she and her husband, and their children, are out of the IBLP. I don’t know if they are or not, although the IBLP is more of a belief system than a specific church. I also notice that they use music that has a drum beat. This was something Jill stated that was not allowed in their house when they were growing up. I see she has her kids in swimming lessons, and the older boy, Gideon, is swimming in normal trunks rather than “Wholesome Wear”. I like Joy Anna. She has a beautiful family, and she’s always seemed pretty normal to me, as Duggars go.
The day before Jill’s book came out, Jessa and Ben announced their fifth child is on the way. I like Jessa, too… She also has a beautiful family. At the end of their most recent video, they are shown on vacation in Florida, as they leave their kids with Michelle for a few days. I see Jessa and Jana are wearing pants, and Jessa is on the beach, not wearing a regular bathing suit, but not wearing Wholesome Wear, as they famously did when the reality show was on television.
So all of this seems to be making it seem like the Duggars are more “normal” now, and Jill’s book was exaggerating how things were when they were growing up. Except there’s a literal video history of how the Duggars did things. Yes, it was well edited, scripted, and whitewashed, but it’s still out there. And we’ve seen how Jim Bob acted when Josh was in court. He actually had the audacity to try to tell the judge what to do when he was testifying. According to the link:
According to People, when Jim Bob was asked to read the police report, he called it “tabloid information” and said to Judge Timothy L. Brooks, “I’m not going to allow it, are you going to allow for that?”
Apparently, the judge didn’t take too kindly to that, because he replied, “If there is [an] objection to be made, someone will make it but it won’t be you.”
That’s just one relatively recent example of Jim Bob trying to be in charge when it wasn’t appropriate for him to try to be in charge. And it’s pretty common knowledge that it comes to his children and grandchildren, Jim Bob believes that he is the Grand Poobah of all things. The idea of disinheriting one’s adult children when they behave in a displeasing way is certainly nothing new. I used to read a lot of “exMormon lit” and I’ve followed the Recovery from Mormonism message board for many years. I’ve read countless stories of people disinheriting and/or disowning their children over their decisions to leave the religion or do something that isn’t pleasing to their parents. So it certainly is within the realm of possibility that Jim Bob has told his children they’d better stay in line, or he’ll cut them off financially and disown them.
In fact, Jill even brings this up in her book:
Yes, we allotted, at different times, amounts to our children, for tax purposes, because each one of our children were benefiting from having all of their needs met (food, clothing, shelter, utilities, music lessons, education, travel, instruments, vehicles, phones, medical insurance, medical bills, etc.). Here are some low numbers of what was approximately spent on Jill in the last few years:
Apartment rate rent $750 x 24 months=$18,000
Utilities discounted $600 x 36=$21,600
Midwife education $5,000
Honda Pilot $9,000
Furniture $5,000 (If you don’t want the furniture, we will buy it back after 4 years of use for $3,000.)
Cell phone @ $50 x 120 months=$6,000
Car insurance $50 per month x 8 years=$4,800
Vehicle fuel (8 years) x $50/month= $4,800
Eating out $100/month with family debit card for 8 years=$9,600
Clothes & Goodwill on family debit cards $1,000 per year x 8 years=$8,000
Eating at home $3 per day x 12 years=$13,140
Gift to Dillard Family Ministries $10,000 (You paid yourself a salary from this, stated there was only $1,200 left when you closed it out, so you must have eventually received it. You can refund this ministry gift, and we will give it to you directly if you want us to.)
$129,940 is just the beginning of Jill’s expenses paid by Duggar family over the last several years. Most of this was made and spent on Jill before you two were married. Also, taking into account many other ways that we have spent money to help you all, for example, installing the AC in your home to El Salvador, the stove, the washing machine, etc. The total on Jill’s tax returns was $130,250. We would be willing to write a check for $20,000 to settle this once and for all.
Jill, when Mom and I pass on, you are set to receive 1/19th of everything we own that is set up in a trust for you kids.
If you attack us, probably your inheritance will be lowered significantly.
I love you, but I am grieved by the disrespect and the accusations that continue.
I have asked for forgiveness, and I hope that you will also, you have deeply offended your mother and I.
We love you and forgive you for the things you have said & done.
$20,000 is a one-time offer, take it or leave it, please let me know by Monday night, or the amount will be zero.
The above passage is regarding Jill’s and Derick’s questions about the $130,000 Jim Bob reported that they were paid for being the reality show. They never saw any of that money, but it was reported to the IRS. So Jim Bob justifies what he did by saying that he paid for things on Jill’s behalf… including things that he was responsible for paying, since she was a minor at the time. Then he threatens to disown her, claiming that she’s been disrespectful to him and has “deeply offended” him and Michelle. Never once is it mentioned that Jill presented Jim Bob with a bill for all of the chores she did, to include practically raising several of her siblings, helping to build Jim Bob and Michelle’s house, cooking and cleaning, and the actual labor of being on a reality TV show.
This was when Jill and Derick hired a lawyer to represent their interests. That’s when the shit hit the fan:
Pops went ballistic.
First, he hit the phone. There were texts and voicemails and calls every day, but in none of them did he give the answers we requested. Instead he was calling for us to get things resolved, to move on and work things out. We told him that we wanted to do that too, and that all he had to do was communicate through our attorney, with the information requested.
Then came the next wave, a consolidated effort from several of my siblings. They hit the phones, sending voicemails and texts all day long, each one pleading with us to get this resolved. When that didn’t work, some of my siblings started visiting. They’d want to spend hours talking it through, trying to figure out what our problem was and why we weren’t doing what Pops wanted. I felt obligated to at least hear them out and show them we cared by listening. I could just about cope with the daytime visits, but when they wanted to stay up until midnight talking with Derick and me, when Derick had law school exams the next day, we finally told them no.
“What? How come you won’t talk?” they’d say. “This is way more important than law school.”
What I’d like to tell the Duggar children, though, is that no amount of money is worth your dignity and self-respect. Especially if you’re claiming to be a Christian and trying to influence other people to follow your example. Christ wasn’t about money at all.
Moreover, Jim Bob’s wealth is certainly not what it once was. The younger Duggars and their spouses are probably better off focusing on building their own wealth, rather than “counting on” (see what I did there?) inheriting a lot of money from “Daddy Duggar”. By the time he dies, there may not be much left. There are lots of legal bills to be paid, and not so many people are interested in hearing Ma and Pa Duggar speak anymore.
I think inheritances can be a real burden, anyway. I’m kind of glad I was born into a family where there isn’t a lot of money to go around. I’ve never felt like I had to live my life according to my parents’ wishes, at least not once I became an adult. Once I got married and established my own household, they mostly left me alone. Or, at least my mom did. I don’t have any expectation of inheriting anything, so I don’t feel burdened to try to kiss anyone’s ass. I’d much rather be free to do what I want to do with my life.
I guess the bigger deal, besides the money, is the prospect of being disowned. I realize that’s not an easy thing to ponder, either. My husband was temporarily disowned by one of his daughters, and has apparently been permanently disowned by his older daughter. As a result of their behaviors when Bill went to war in Iraq (in 2007), they are not currently named in our wills. When we eventually update the wills, younger daughter probably will inherit whatever we have. She has a relationship with us. Older daughter can inherit whatever Ex and #3 leave for her and her other siblings. But I don’t expect it to be a big deal anyway, because Bill and I don’t have a lot of money or property, and I don’t see that changing much.
Younger daughter has her own family and her own money. We don’t tell her how to live her life, and she doesn’t condemn us for her father’s divorce from her mother and his decision to leave Mormonism. She also understands that the divorce was absolutely necessary; I wasn’t the cause of it; and Bill never had any intention of being out of her life for so many years. The “disowning” was solely her mother’s idea. Jim Bob Duggar and Ex have a lot in common, actually… right down to controlling their children with threats, other family members, religion, and money. Trump is kind of the same way, too… I imagine the only reason Melania is still hanging around him is because she’s been threatened into compliance. This is a very common thing among narcissistic, hyper-controlling types. Once you’ve experienced it and escaped, it’s very easy to spot.
Bill and I can speak from vast personal experience that shitcanning toxic, controlling, narcissistic people is a pathway to peace and joy. We’ve been broke before, thanks to Ex. Eventually the broke time in our lives passed. She grows ever more pathetic, while we thrive and enjoy living lives on our own terms. It’s a beautiful thing!
What would happen if the Duggar adult kids en masse simply decided to REFUSE to comply? Would Jim Bob cut all of them off? Would he sue them all? What would that do to his image? I think Jim Bob needs his children much more than they need him. And while I certainly don’t cheer for family strife, I do applaud anyone who manages to break free from narcissistic abuse and control freakery and lives their lives on their own terms.
I’m sure Jim Bob is scared. He’s getting older and that kingdom he built is falling apart. A natural part of getting older is loss, and I sense that he fears losing… everything from money, influence, power, and even his own life or Michelle’s. So he’s trying hard to hang on to his power by threatening his children with disowning and disinheritance. It’s nasty, and not Christ-like behavior at all! So I am rooting for the children– at least the ones with a clue– to rebel and get out of that cult. Life is much better when you’re free to live it the way YOU want to live it. And that goes for anyone reading this.
*Trigger warning*Today’s post is on a sensitive subject that may be offensive to some readers. I’m tackling Josh Duggar and his abuse, as well as that topic in general, but I’m doing so in a way that I hope is objective and rational. Please proceed with caution or skip this post if you think this topic might be too triggering. If you choose to comment, please be civil.
Two days ago, I finished reading Jill Duggar’s book, Counting the Cost. I wrote a review of the book, which you can find by clicking here. I only shared my link on my own personal Facebook page, but I am a member of the Duggar Family News page and group on Facebook. Other people are now reading and/or listening to the book, and they are offering their opinions. This morning, I happened to read a comment by a woman who is now listening to the audio version of the book. She wrote:
So I’m listening to the book… And I’m at the part where the letter is found about Josh… First she talks about being on Oprah, which they weren’t because Oprah got word of what was going on with Josh. Second it seems like she was also angry about information getting out…. Here’s the deal I understand she was a victim… And I worked with a victims of molestation for over 34 years.. But it seems like she is blaming everyone but her parents for what happened with Josh… Maybe later in the book she changes her tune… But I’m finding it really irritating and wishy-washy.
To me, this comment, while kind of negative, was basically the poster’s genuine reaction to the book so far. Maybe it was her use of the phrase “here’s the deal”, that set off some people, but I noticed that some folks immediately jumped on the woman’s case for what she wrote. The first comment I noticed was this:
I haven’t read the book, but I think it’s not up to us to judge victims of sexual abuse for how they process it and whom they blame for it.
At this point, the above comment has 94 likes. When I first read it about an hour ago, it had 89 likes. People think it’s a good rebuttal. I guess I can understand why people like the comment. It seems very patient, victim edifying, and kind, while the original comment seems a little “judgey” and critical.
Personally, I am a little troubled by the rebuttal to the original comment, because there’s an element of shame to it. It’s basically a subtle suggestion to the original poster that she should just “shut up” and stop “victim blaming”. It’s as if the person who responded to the original poster thinks Jill Duggar will be reading her comment and feeling hurt by it. Maybe she will read it, though I doubt it. I’m sure Jill is feeling kind of overwhelmed right now, even though the response to her book by the public has been largely positive. Her family may be really angry with her right now, and their opinions will mean a lot more than some random person’s in a Facebook group.
If we assume Jill Duggar won’t be reading the critical, but honest, comment about how the reader thinks she was “wishy-washy”, maybe we can be more objective about the original poster’s opinion. While it didn’t occur to me that Jill was “wishy-washy” in her explanation about how she was victimized by her brother, Josh, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that someone else had a different take and dared to express it. I support allowing people to express their opinions without automatically being attacked or shamed for sharing their views. Maybe if people shamed and knee-jerk reacted less, more people would be willing to ask for help when they really need it.
Someone else wrote this– it came across as kind of angry, shaming, and judgmental to me, compounding the issue. Shouldn’t we encourage people to share their opinions, insights, and impressions?
As someone who ” worked with victims ” for 34yrs I’d like to think you would have more understanding and empathy.
No 1 victim processes nor deals with what has happened to them in the same way. Every single person eho has ever experienced this kind of trauma has every right to FEEL and PROCESS hiw they like.
Your statement is extremely ignorant considering the yrs of expertise you should have.
The discussion continued…
The Duggar children were raised in a home where they weren’t allowed to dance because dancing might arouse sinful thoughts in other people. Jill wrote extensively about how the girls were all expected to dress modestly, so the boys wouldn’t be tempted by them. Jill’s mother, Michelle Duggar, told her daughters that she used to dress inappropriately “before she became a Christian” and that led men to think sinful thoughts. When she changed her “sinful” ways and started dressing more modestly, she became a “better” person by not causing men to “fall” into sin.
Jim Bob and Michelle made their daughters responsible for half the population’s thoughts and actions by telling them that they had to think of the men when they got dressed in the morning and in literally every move they made. They attached shame to their daughters simply for being who they are (beautiful, young females), giving them a duty to always have to think about the lustful thoughts of males. What a burden to put on their daughters and every other woman!
Jill further explained that her mother used certain kinds of music– mostly classical or religious– to train her children. When they didn’t do the right things, she would turn off the music, and the joy would stop. They learned to curb the natural desire to dance– move rhythmically to music– which is a source of great joy to many people and an art form. And yet, in spite of the fact that dancing was banned in their home, four of the Duggar sisters (that we know of) were still victimized by their brother, Josh. Josh went on to view illegal material on the Internet, cheated on his wife, and was accused of having very rough sexual relations with a sex worker.
Meanwhile, Josh was “punished” by having his head shaved in front of people in his community and being sent away to do manual labor for a family friend. Later, he got a stern “talking to” by former Arkansas State Trooper, Joseph Hutchens, a (presumably) former friend of the family’s. Hutchens is now himself in prison for sex crimes, having been sentenced to 56 years for child pornography charges.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did NOTHING to help Josh with his obvious problem. They did NOTHING to help Jill or her sisters deal with the trauma of what happened to them. I think the commenter has a point– Jill does hold Jim Bob responsible for the financial abuse he perpetrated toward Jill and her siblings, but she doesn’t seem to realize that her parents failed her and her siblings in their responsibilities to protect their children from their oldest brother.
Indeed, although reportedly Josh told his parents about his problem in 2002, when he was still about 14 years old and legally a child, his parents responded by having MORE children. Several of their youngest children are girls. Instead of dealing with Josh– trying to find him appropriate treatment and minimizing the risks toward their other children (and not making more victims)– the Duggar parents simply made more rules for everyone else to follow. The whole thing was swept under the rug, and the abuse continued– seemingly under the radar. Then, Jim Bob put his whole family on display for the world to see. Frankly, I’m shocked that the news about Josh’s abuse wasn’t made public long before 2015.
When I was earning my MSW, I had a professor who had done a lot of work with domestic abusers and sex offenders. He was very matter-of-fact as he talked to us about the clinical work he did before he became a professor. I remember him telling us that in a clinical situation, we must never react with shock or revulsion when someone talks about distasteful subjects. As therapists, it would be our job to listen objectively to those who came to us for help.
The professor explained that sexual preferences are hard wired. Those drives are very powerful and difficult to fight against– like eating, drinking, or sleeping. So, we must realize and understand that while it’s illegal and extremely damaging for people like Josh to act on their impulses, they truly can’t help themselves for having those urges. If we were to work with sex offenders or domestic abusers, it would be up to us to try to help them find ways not to be abusive. The first step in helping people with that problem is to not automatically be repulsed by them. That is how trust and rapport builds, and people can then feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems. That is how problems can possibly be solved.
To be very honest, at this point in time, I don’t think we have very many effective avenues of real help to offer people like Josh. Part of the reason why we don’t have more ways to help sex offenders is because people don’t want to talk about the problem. Instead of trying to understand where the deviance comes from and address it, we attack, revile, and shame the people who have these feelings. So they continue to suffer in silence until they finally decide to hurt someone.
Most people– if you ask them what should be done with a sex offender like Josh– won’t even think twice about it. They’ll say the person should be taken out and shot, or exiled to prison, or something extreme like that. It doesn’t occur to them that no one really wants to have these dark urges. It must be a terrible way to go through life, actually– having these highly taboo obsessions and not being able to act on them without great risk– maybe like having an intense itch that can’t be scratched. Complicating matters is that there are very few people who can be trusted to give them real help. If you are someone who has these obsessions, you can’t just go to just anyone and tell them that you have the obsessions without risking your freedom, your safety, or even your life. So there’s no real help available, and the person is left to try to deal with those thoughts and feelings in secret. Some of them are successful. Some commit suicide. A lot of others end up victimizing innocent people.
A lot of people also assume that they will never be personally affected by this issue. When they glibly suggest that someone ought to be taken out and shot for being a pedophile, it doesn’t occur to them that perhaps one of their loved ones or friends struggle with this problem. That’s because the vast majority of people would never talk about it with someone else. Another poster shared this thought, which I thought was very astute (bolded emphasis is mine– I’m sure someone whose child is a sex offender wouldn’t necessarily want to see them taken out and shot):
I am wondering if Jill just didn’t want to blame her parents. After all, they gave her such a “wonderful childhood” and she loved them with all of her heart. It’s easier to blame people that don’t really matter in your life, and aren’t immediate family.
As Bill and I were discussing this issue today, I was reminded of a professor I read about who had worked at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia. The professor, whose name is Allyn Walker, is non-binary and uses the pronouns “they” and “them”. Walker was teaching sociology and criminal justice at ODU, and researching minor-attracted people (MAPs). They wrote a book titled Long Dark Shadow, which is about so-called minor-attracted people. Walker faced huge backlash due to their research of this topic. People at ODU were offended by the work Walker was doing, accusing them of “normalizing” pedophilia. I suspect the vast majority of people who had issues with Walker’s work knew very little about it and hadn’t been able to bring themselves to think about the topic rationally. Ditto to the reviews on Amazon about this book. I’ll bet a lot of the people who left one star reviews never bothered to read the book.
Walker’s work is about pointing out that not everyone with inappropriate thoughts commits crimes. It’s not a crime to think “bad” thoughts. It’s a crime to act illegally on those thoughts. Moreover, putting it on everyone else to avoid dancing, dressing “immodestly”, or otherwise behaving in ways that might cause other people to sin is not effective. We can see that by simply looking at what happened in the Duggar home. Worse, the girls were blamed for Josh’s sins, and “rewarded” with even more rules and restrictions.
Walker is providing a potential place for people with this problem to seek effective help and increase understanding of it so that fewer people are abused. Ultimately, their goal is an extremely valuable one for all of humankind. But instead of realizing that this is a problem that needs to be solved, people were reacting emotionally, judgmentally, and extremely negatively to Walker’s work and the book they wrote. They weren’t taking a moment to consider that being able to treat pedophilia safely and effectively is a good and valuable thing. It would be a good thing to be able to keep people out of prison, stop them from feeling like they should commit suicide, prevent them from hurting innocent children, and help them be productive members of society. As a result, Walker left ODU and is now at Johns Hopkins University. Ultimately, they may be better off– Johns Hopkins is certainly a more prestigious university than ODU is. But what about the criminal justice and sociology students at ODU? Are they better off that Walker left their campus?
Imagine what might have happened if, instead of sending Josh Duggar to dig a pond, humiliating him in front of the community, and shaving his head, Jim Bob and Michelle could have sent him to skilled and highly qualified people who could have helped him try to master and effectively control those dark obsessions and impulses. Imagine if, instead of acting like the abuse had never happened, Jim Bob and Michelle confronted it, and got help for the children who were victimized by their brother. Wouldn’t it be better for the entire Duggar family if Josh and his sisters could have gotten real help for this problem? How about Josh’s wife, Anna, and their seven children? What will it be like for Josh’s children when they decide they want to get married? Especially his sons!
We, as a society, need to be able to talk about these tough subjects. But we need to be able to do so without shaming people who bring up views that aren’t necessarily mainstream. I, for one, commend Allyn Walker for doing the work they’re doing. We’ve got to do better than just sweeping this problem under the rug. Automatically condemning people for simply having inappropriate obsessions and speaking up about them doesn’t solve the problem. Those people need real help, before they turn into someone like Josh Duggar… who, I think, is exactly where he ought to be right now. In her book, Jill wrote that when Josh first came to Jim Bob and Michelle, he was very tearful and remorseful. She said that he’d apologized to her many times. By the time he was facing a federal judge for his crimes, Josh was acting like the whole thing was no big deal and his crimes were no more significant than a parking violation! He’s become callous and cruel, and he will never be safe to walk the streets as a free man.
Wouldn’t it have been so much better for everyone if Josh could have been helped by someone qualified when he was still a child? I think so. And I agree with the original poster who inspired this post that Jim Bob and Michelle certainly share in the responsibility for what happened to their children… and what is now happening to their reputation. Perhaps Jill isn’t yet ready to face that fact, and I agree that we shouldn’t judge her for that. I’m sure she has a lot of processing to continue to do, and it will be ongoing for the rest of her life. But the original poster also wasn’t wrong to express her opinions or her observations about Jill’s book.
I wish more people would stop being so intent on correcting other people’s opinions and impressions. We all have different takes on things, and being willing to hear other voices and rationally discuss other perspectives is one of the best ways to learn about and expand our understanding of all things… even if we ultimately don’t agree with the other person’s viewpoint.
Please note, however– this does NOT mean that I think we have to argue until the argument is somehow “won” by a particular side. In this world, there are a lot of things that don’t have a “right” or “wrong” answer. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is good, too.
I am considering reading Dr. Walker’s book. I may or may not review it, if I do decide to read it. I simply think Dr. Walker’s work is brave and important, and it needs further discussion by people who are willing to set aside their emotions and communicate rationally and objectively. I’m not sure if my blog is the right forum for that… but I do think Dr. Walker’s book should be given a fair chance.
I know I’ve written a lot of posts about the Duggar family. There was a time, years ago, that I watched their reality television program on TLC. I remember seeing them featured on the Discovery Health channel back in the early 2000s, when Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were just a fundamentalist Christian Arkansas couple with fourteen children and another on the way. I watched with amazement as they went from being a seemingly very humble family from the “sticks” of Arkansas to household names.
I’ve never been a very religious person myself. So why was I so interested in the Duggar family? Well, the truth is, I do find strict, fundamentalist religions very interesting, even though I have no desire to participate in them myself. I also got the sense that the family was too good to be true. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Sure enough, it turned out my suspicions that there was some underlying trouble in paradise was on target.
Although I used to watch the Duggars’ show– 17, 18, or 19 Kids and Counting, (depending on how many kids they had at the time) and later Counting On, on an intermittent basis, I have never been one to read their books. Like I said, I’m not a very religious person myself, so I don’t really have any desire to read books about promoting Christianity. The Duggars aren’t people I look up to, either. But, when I heard that Jill Duggar Dillard was going to be writing a book called Counting the Cost, with help from ghost writer, Craig Borlase, I decided I would read that one. I finished the book yesterday, and now I’m ready to offer my thoughts.
Jill Michelle Duggar Dillard was born May 17, 1991. She is Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s fourth born child, and the second oldest daughter of their brood of 19 living children. In her book, Jill writes that she always felt compelled to be a people pleaser. She always tried to be the most mature and best behaved of her siblings. She was so sweet that she earned the nickname Sweet Jilly Muffin.
Early in her lifetime, Jill and her siblings lived in a house next to a church that was much too small for their growing family. She writes of how her mother, Michelle, trained her children, using music and other rewards to influence their behavior. Jill writes that the kids were not allowed to dance, because her parents worried that moving inappropriately, wearing “immodest” clothes, or being exposed to worldly media would encourage sin in themselves and other people. From a very early age, Jill was trained to obey without question, and taught that if someone fell into sin, it was her fault. That early training set the conditions that made it especially difficult for her to break free of her father’s hold on her.
Thanks to Jim Bob’s wheeling and dealing with the TLC network, they were able to build their own “big house” in Tontitown, Arkansas. Jill and the other oldest siblings were involved in helping to build the Big House, to which she refers frequently in her book. The “Big House” is the specially built home the Duggars built to accommodate their huge family; it is about 7000 square feet, but it only has about four bedrooms in it. There’s a master bedroom, a girls’ room, a boys’ room, and a guest room. TLC filmed the family building the house, doing all they could as a family before professionals had to be called in to do the more challenging work. Jill writes that she was happy to have had a part in building a house for her family.
As she grew older, Jill realized that finding a husband would complicate her life, especially since she was a “star” on the Duggars’ reality show, and her father was famously very strict. Jill writes that she was raised in Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a lifestyle system ultra fundamentalist Christians adhere to as a means of preserving their version of raising godly families. Gothard founded the IBLP in 1961. It should be noted that Bill Gothard was eventually ousted from the IBLP because he was accused of preying on young women. Jill mentions that her sister, Jana, the lone blonde older Duggar girl, used to work for Bill Gothard. He specifically requested that she come to Chicago to work for him, running a training program for girls in the IBLP. Gothard reportedly favored blondes.
Within the IBLP, there is the idea of the “umbrella of authority”, which is a hierarchical structure of the family within a church. Jill explains that she was raised to always honor her parents, especially her father, who would then honor the church. She believed that if she simply did everything she was told to by her father, she would never be in any kind of danger. Meanwhile, Jim Bob had a hunger for money and power. He wanted to keep the reality series going, because it brought in a lot of money and prestige, although he claimed he saw the show as a “ministry”, bringing the masses to the Duggar brand of Christianity. He bought rental properties and airplanes, new RVs, and other trappings of success. The Duggars had always said that every child is a gift from God, and that they were open to taking as many of God’s gifts as God wanted to send them. But then they used God’s gifts to fund their own prosperity gospel… to show everyone else how much God favored them and their way of life. To me, it just looks like plain old greed disguised as something “godly”.
Even though finding a mate as a Duggar wasn’t an easy prospect, as the potential spouse had to meet with her parents’ approval, Jim Bob wanted to marry off his children. Why? Because every time a Duggar got married or had a child– especially the Duggar daughters– it brought in a lot of cash for Jim Bob. And I do mean for Jim Bob— because as Jill and her husband, Derick, discovered, Jim Bob was getting paid by TLC, but he wasn’t sharing the wealth with his adult children. Instead, he’d do things like give them places to live or cars to drive. Jim Bob Duggar, it seemed, wanted his children to work for him for free, and forever. He wanted them to be under his control, and make themselves available to his every whim and command. And he even went to tricking or coercing them into signing extreme “scientology like” lifetime contracts, to force them to stay under his control.
Jill and Derick have always seemed to me like a very close and loving couple. And, in fact, that is exactly how Jill makes it seem in her book, as Derick has encouraged Jill not to let Jim Bob run her life. However, it turns out that Jim Bob actually picked out Derick for Jill, and encouraged her to get to know him, as he was serving as a missionary in Nepal. She writes that she wasn’t interested at first, but he managed to capture her heart. TLC arranged for Jill and Jim Bob to travel to Nepal to meet him in person, and that’s when they entered their “courtship”– so called “dating with a purpose” of getting married. Jim Bob was right in that Jill and Derick were very suited to each other. But he didn’t know that Derick was not going to stand for Jim Bob dictating everything in their lives together. If he’d had a clue that Derick is as assertive as he is, there is no way Jill and Derick would have ever been allowed to wed.
As the Duggar children became adults, Jim Bob realized that he needed to make everything legal. So he tricked Jill into signing a contract she didn’t read– asking for her signature on the day before her June 2014 wedding, and not giving her the whole contract, or the time to read it. Jim Bob later told Jill and Derick that he had paid Josh and Anna for awhile, but found that arrangement wasn’t to his liking. So instead of giving his children a salary, he basically paid them in gifts in kind. But he had his accountant tell the IRS that they were being paid, for tax purposes. Later, Derick, who was a trained accountant before he became a lawyer, figured out what was going on. The couple later sued Jim Bob and prevailed in getting a small pittance of money for all of the time and labor Jill put into the show.
As if the the demands of the reality show wasn’t enough stress in their relationship, back in 2015, the tabloid, In Touch, got ahold of police records from 2006, detailing interviews Jill and her sisters had with law enforcement. The 2006 police interviews stemmed from a tip that Oprah Winfrey got regarding Josh Duggar’s deviant behavior.
In 2006, the Duggars were supposed to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, but the producers got a letter about Josh Duggar’s abusive misdeeds in 2002, when he was about 14 years old. The producers called the police, and that led to an investigation of Josh’s perversions. The police records were supposed to remain sealed, since Jill and her sisters Jessa, Jinger, and Joy Anna, were all minors at the time of the investigation. But In Touch got the records, and they were later released to the world, which led to the reality show being temporarily axed. The loss of the show was, of course, bad for Jim Bob’s finances, but the records’ release also revictimized Jill, her sisters, and the other person who was molested by Josh. It was devastating and humiliating to have that incident revealed to the public years after they thought it was in the past.
Jim Bob later finagled an idea to make a new show called Jill and Jessa: Counting On, later retitled simply Counting On. It would focus on the oldest children’s lives, minus Josh and his wife, Anna, and their children. However, once again, Jim Bob fixed it so that he was the only one being paid by the TLC network. Jill and Derick were “volunteers”… except they were bound by a contract that required them to work, while Jim Bob pocketed all the money. It prevented them from living their lives on their own terms… everything from forcing them to be available for filming, even when they were out of the country, to allowing cameras in while Jill was giving birth. It was unacceptable to the couple. So they decided to fight back, and that caused great strife in the family. Jim Bob used a variety of different tactics to get Jill and Derick back under his control. They resisted him, but it came at great cost… hence the title of the book.
Overall, I think Jill and her ghost writer, Craig Borlase did an excellent job on this book. Borlase did a good job making the book sound as if it came straight from Jill, yet it was very easy to read and understand. I spotted a few awkward sentences and at least one typo, but even the awkward sentences lent an air of authenticity to Jill’s story. I would not expect her to sound like an extremely educated person, because she was homeschooled using a fundamentalist Christian curriculum. She hasn’t been to college, nor is she super worldly, although I think she’s probably the most worldly of her siblings.
I did notice a couple of things that I haven’t seen other people mention about this book. I think I detected some subtle shade thrown at Ben Seewald. I know Ben and Derick had a falling out a couple of years ago. Jill never mentions Ben by name. She refers to him as “the guy Jessa was courting”. But later, she mentions Jinger’s husband, Jeremy, and refers to him as a “great guy”. Very interesting indeed. I don’t know if that was intentional, but I did pick up on it.
After all she’s been through, one might expect Jill to be super bitter and angry. I don’t know how Jill really feels off the record, but to me, this book is a very even-handed, yet honest, treatment of her situation with her family. She makes it clear that she loves her parents, even though her father has, quite frankly, been a totally narcissistic creep.
There are a few bombshells in the book. For instance, Jill shares how her father justified telling the IRS that he paid her about $130,000 when they never received that money. Jim Bob sent an itemized list of things he’d spent money on for Jill, to include her care and feeding when she was still a minor! And he never accounted for all the work she did for him– to include doing the heavy lifting of raising several of her siblings from the time she was a child herself.
It blew my mind that Jim Bob had made so much money off his children’s weddings and grandchildren’s births, but he was unwilling to so much as help Jill and Derick pay their $10,000 insurance deductible when their second son, Samuel, was born and Jill almost bled out and died. Jim Bob offered Jill and Derick $20,000 to “settle” the situation– a total insult, really. He gave them two days to decide, then rescinded the offer. Jim Bob also used the threat of lawsuits to keep his adult kids in line (definitely not a very Christian or Christlike thing to do) .
Fortunately, Jill and Derick were smart enough not to take Jim Bob’s monetary offerings or sign any other contracts with him. They have maintained their freedom and independence. They can make decisions for their own family, including sending their sons to public schools, drinking alcoholic beverages, wearing what they want to wear, and deciding if they want piercings, tattoos, or whatever else on their own bodies. I think they know that the freedom to make their own choices in life is worth so much more than money is. I also think they will make a lot more money on this book than any lump sum monetary gift Jim Bob could ever give them. It’s too bad most of Jill’s siblings weren’t as clever as the Dillards were.
Personally, I think Jim Bob Duggar is a narcissistic dirtbag. I’m sure he comes by it honestly, as a lot of narcissists do. I know he had a difficult upbringing. There was a lot of uncertainty and periods of poverty during his childhood, and that makes him very anxious about his own station in life as an adult. He corrects that anxiety by being hyper-controlling and dictatorial, and being a fundie Christian is one way to keep everyone in line. I get that. However, I still think Jim Bob is a creep for treating his kids the way he does… especially his daughters. He acts like his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren are his property. Jill even pointed out to Jim Bob that he treats her worse than he treats his child molester son, Josh. And all because she doesn’t want to live under her father’s thumb for the rest of his life or hers.
I also don’t think Jim Bob Duggar is a very good Christian. There’s a lot more to being a Christian than simply following rules and reading the Bible. Jesus Christ was not someone who craved riches, power, and control over other people. Jesus hung out with the people who were misunderstood and cast out from society. He served other people with no strings attached. He loved other people and ministered to them. Jesus didn’t seek to own other people, nor use them to prop up his image so he could be “example” for others to follow. Christ also didn’t threaten people with lawsuits or use shady contracts to keep people under his control. Jim Bob seeks admiration from people, control over them, power, and MONEY. That is not Christlike behavior.
Somehow, Jill has managed to show grace toward her parents. The book even ends on a positive, hopeful note. She shares a sweet picture of her parents holding her youngest son, Freddy. I know Jill loves her dad, in spite of everything. I admire her for that. She’s probably a better person than I would be in her shoes.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading Jill Duggar’s book. I applaud her incredible bravery and insistence on living her life on her own terms. I hope some of her siblings will follow suit. Living under the thumb of a control freak narcissist is no way to go through life. I think the Dillards are living proof of that. So bravo to Derick and Jill! I wish the best to them and their family, and I recommend her book.
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