Bill Gothard, Failure to Report Crimes, Forgiveness, Homeschool Movement, Mandatory Reporting, Mental Health and the Church, Parenting, Patriarchal-Complementarian Movement, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches

How I Would Have Responded as a Parent to the Josh Duggar Sexual Abuse Scenario


This past week has been a whirlwind with the Josh Duggar sex abuse allegations from 12 years that recently surfaced. Josh Duggar is the eldest child of Patriarchical family and model ATI (Bill Gothard’s homeschool curricula) family. Josh Duggar and his family star in the popular reality show on TLC, 19 Kids and Counting. As this story has been brought to light, I have found myself caught up in intense debates, even with very close friends, on how this case should be handled, how we as Christians should be responding to this specific case, and how we as parents should respond if our child sexually abuses another child.

I recently posted the following (slightly revised) as part of a discussion with a Christian friend on Facebook. We came from very different sides, but because my response was so radically different from hers, I thought it might be good to post for discussion. I never mind push back, so if you disagree with me, please respond. I am open to the challenge and will consider your words just as I have been challenged to rethink many of my former ways/beliefs.

At the end of the post is a highly recommended article that helps to explain the culture and teachings which shaped the Duggar family. It will help to explain why these young female victims are true victims to more than just sex abuse.


Josh Duggar, sex abuse, 19 kids and counting, Bill Gothard, ATI

I appreciate the opportunity to share my heart which is invested in the ministry to abuse victims. I probably would not have given you this same answer 10 years ago, or even 6 years ago.

I do not believe that Josh’s parents responded appropriately. I believe they did the best they knew at the time and their intentions and heart were right. However, since working the last 5 years extensively studying spiritual abuse and abuse in the church, networking with Boz Tchividjian (founder of, and many other professionals who deal with abuse in church, I am concluding that the Duggars could have done better.

Jim-Bob found out in March of 2002 and waited over a year before reporting. When police tried to interview Josh, Jim-Bob intervened and did not allow that to happen. The statute of limitations then kicked in and Josh was free from any civil repercussions.

I believe this was not a good witness to Christ. What does this tell the world – that Christians get to walk free and don’t need to go by the law? Repenting of sins does not remove someone from the consequences of the laws of the land. Scripture says that God is the one who ordained civil authorities/law. Knowingly harboring a sex offender without reporting is illegal in some states. Not only that, I believe it is circumventing what God has established for cases like this:

Romans 13:1-5:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

Because of the statute of limitations, no civil court had the opportunity to intervene, convict, give recommendations on his criminal activity. Could this public outcry against Josh and his parents be sovereignly planned as God’s judgment as implied in the above Scripture? Could Josh’s defenders be interfering with God’s judgment or the natural consequences of his sin?

You asked would I report. Yes, I absolutely would report my sons to authorities if they were sexually abusing. I would allow the civil authorities to bring justice to the offender. This would send a very strong message that sin/sex abuse has consequences and will not be tolerated. And to the survivors, it would send a message that we believe them and the abuse they incurred was worthy of strict punishment. I’ve seen the tremendous burden lifted off of victims’ shoulders when they see perpetrators punished for their crimes.

I would also promptly seek qualified professional treatment specializing in sex abuse for the offender and their victims. I know about the lasting consequences survivors face. If not dealt with timely and by trained professionals, young ladies often have difficulty choosing good spouses, have difficulty with relationships, intimacy, etc. For the offender, it may be uncovered in treatment that he was previously molested. Trained professionals can be helpful in getting to the root issues.

I’m struck at how much time is spent defending Josh, and such little time focused on his victims. It’s disturbing to even discuss whether he touched them over/under their clothes (I read the police report and it’s not clear on all of the interviews). That has no bearing on the suffering the victims face/will face.

Throughout scripture God speaks of protecting the oppressed and defenseless. How is it protecting them when we are outwardly and vocally defending a perpetrator (even if he has repented)? Our first response must be to those who have no voice. You can be sure that sex abuse survivors all over are watching this case and observing how people respond. Any time a survivor hears of another abuse, it brings them back to their own story. We must think of all victims in our responses and model Christ’s love because many times they are questioning why God allowed this to happen. We must not be a stumbling block to the weak and oppressed, but a soothing balm, sharing with them the love of the Father.

The Duggars were the key family chosen by ATI/Bill Gothard to represent Bill Gothard and his homeschool curriculum. I read that they spoke even this year at an ATI conference (they are slated to speak by video tomorrow in Nashville, and later in Twin Cities, and Sacramento ATI conferences). You can be sure they hold to his teachings and it is important to understand these teachings in order to fully comprehend what the victims have faced. I encourage you to read the following and try to grasp what the victims have faced, the ones whom God dearly loves and wants to defend and protect. Here’s how the Duggars’ patriarchal homeschool world teaches kids to shame sex abuse victims

Thank you for reading. Grace and peace! ~ja

photo credit: Hands of Daria via photopin (license)

141 thoughts on “How I Would Have Responded as a Parent to the Josh Duggar Sexual Abuse Scenario”

  1. @kh

    I’m so sorry your daughters were hurt like this. I’d be angry, too. I AM angry. People need to stop minimizing this and the pain that it causes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When these stories come out, they remind me of everything. My daughters are now 31 and 22. When I told my husband what had happened with the Duggars, he just shook his head in total sadness. One of my older sons said..”They shouldn’t have put their entire family out there know that their son did this”. My heart goes out to the girls although most of them are probably grown now. I really think it’s time for them to just focus on their family now and get the help needed. Thanks BTDT for your comments. I never feel angry about it until this stuff comes out about Christian people. It was a “Christian Preschool” and Christian people we dealt with. They were in total denial that someone could have done this. I’m still a Christian but not because of them.


  3. I watched the video. I’m just going to be very real here. I’ve never seen an entire one of their shows. I met them once. Yep, we were in ATI. I thought they were all adorable. It was a long time ago. Secondly, I have four sons. One of them has been engaged. It was broken off. We didn’t do the chaperone thing. Good grief..they were in their 20’s. I’m just going to say that I honestly cannot ever imagine one of my four sons EVER making a comment like that. I’m glad they pulled the show. I pray they all get the help they all need! I hope the show Never comes back on and I consider myself a pretty conservative Christian and I’m homeschooling my last child who’s 17. They don’t represent Christians. I’m done!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. kh, what I find very sad is when I look thru my Facebook feed and see posts from Christians friends from current/previous churches who are still defending Josh and his parents because they did the “right thing.” I am just not seeing it. They don’t understand that their understanding of the “right thing” really is the wrong thing. They’ve been sold this band-aid solution of quick apologies/pseudo-forgiveness and repentance. There is no way that minors at this age can fully comprehend the harm done to them and fully forgive. They were just following the Gothard abuse/forgiveness checklist which can lead to further abuse. It’s sick, sick, sick.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ” There is no way that minors at this age can fully comprehend the harm done to them and fully forgive.”

    Just as they’re not considered mature enough to “consent.” Why don’t people see that?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There was nothing done right in this case whatsoever. I just watched the despicable video of JD and his incest joke. I am sickened by this person and all that allowed this to go on for as long as it has. There are victims that need to be helped here. There is no way this was handled correctly. There is an obviously unstable man that should have been in juvenile detention years ago and psychological help years ago. I personally would not trust this man to not allow this to happen with his own children, as I am sure that his wife would also allow him to be the one handling it. This is so sick and twisted. This is beyond upsetting, I am down right angry.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I know Julie Anne. I know. We never felt comfortable letting our older kids go help for months at a time, with anything while in ATI. I thank God for that now!! Also, one of the things that made us get out – we were in a church where we had several families in ATI. My husband tried to get everyone together to encourage one another. He had several families tell him that they just didn’t do that. What the heck!?!? Lots of fear. It became just awful. Our older kids have no bad things to report of anything they went to while we were at the conferences. I know of a young woman who worked directly with Mr. Gothard. The man played footsies with her under the table. OMG..She has Never reported it. I wonder how many more? We know of other families who stuck to all the garbage so strictly that there kids have just gone off the deep end. Anyway, I just pray that they get the help they need!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not trying to make you sick but if you go to Lori Alexander blog you will see the latest on what she has written and advice to people who have been abused. I have never liked how she writes. I’ll warn you that if you even try to disagree in a respectful way that they won’t put it up.


  9. We have been . . . ummm . . .graced by Ken Alexander’s presence here in previous posts. If I remember correctly, he didn’t do a very good job of answering people’s questions. IMO, as the Josh Duggar story unfolds, the people defending him are going to be rather embarrassed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What the . . . ? That’s Lori’s justification? Because, there can’t possibly be any other alternatives, can there? Either you fondle your baby sister or impregnate “multiples of lovers.” Folks THIS is black/white thinking. This is trash talk, and is rather insulting to young people everywhere who have more integrity than to fall into either extreme.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Here’s another gem : “This story plays itself out in family after family, day in and day out, one issue or another, and parents need their God-given rights to raise their children as they deem is necessary with the least amount of interference by outside authorities.” In other words, they don’t think the authorities have any business in this even though what Josh did is against the law. Does anybody else wonder if this “[played] itself out’ in the Alexander family? The Alexanders are telling people not to involve the authorities. This is dangerous advice that places children at risk.


  12. “There are many reports of him playing footsie which is sexual grooming.”

    I witnessed the cult leader of the group to which I belonged play footsies with a lady young enough to be his daughter. I should have admonished the man right then and there in his study, but alas, I hadn’t yet been freed from cult indoctrination.


  13. The Duggars seem to want everyone smiling from sun up until sunset …

    Then why don’t they just start scarfing that Enzyte “Natural Male Enhancement” like Bob the Tetanus Boy?


  14. Duggargate came up on the bus from the Metrolink station this morning.

    Front of the bus was silent except for the beeps and boops of smartphones in the hands of staring statues. But in the back, four guys were talking about sports and TV and things turned to the Duggars. Went kind of like this:

    “Bla bla bla Duggars bla bla bla They’re CHRISTIANS bla bla bla Guess it’s all right to bang your sisters as long as you’re not GAY…”

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Re: Destruction of juvenile arrest records, it may come under 9-27-309 of the Arkansas code. I am not sure of this though.


  16. It looks like there is a 10 year period for retention of records of adjudication, but here I think we are only dealing with investigation.


  17. Darn it, Deb. You beat me to it! 🙂 Since you already posted the link, I’ll just add a quote.

    “This combination of zero sexual knowledge and deeply-ingrained submissiveness left many young girls in our church especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. As a teenager, I became aware that several of my friends were being molested by their older brothers or fathers. They would start stilted conversations with me about it, but none of us actually understood the concept of sex or rape or molestation enough to actually discuss it, so it stayed on the level of furtively whispered hints.”

    The whole article is worth a read.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. There is something deeply disturbing to me about the emerging pattern of incest. My former cult had daughters and sisters that were victims of incest as well. Though our theology was different, the children are raised much the way as the stories we read about ATI families. I’m still trying to understand all of this. My adrenaline has been pumping high for a week now. I can’t always think clearly. But I think the incest stories are more than a mere coincidence.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. “Will I go to hell if I do not sign a church covenant or a church contract of some sort?”-Katy

    Hi Katy,

    No sweetie, you won’t go to hell if you don’t sign a membership covenant. It’s a legalistic device used to control people. Think about all of the people that our Lord loved and died for who never signed a membership covenant, weren’t literate, and yet they were in the faith.

    I will also caution you to be very careful of ANY church that asks you to sign a membership covenant. In fact, run!

    I didn’t know the incredible dangers of membership covenants. At my former church I signed one. The pastors/elders used it to insinuate themselves in to my life and control me:

    *sent me emails, called me, demanded years worth of meetings from me. They thought they had the right to dictate whom I would be friends with (I was cordial to abusive people at church but declined to be friends with them and I chose nicer friends who were safer). The pastors/elders had a problem with that.

    *had a meeting about the bbq beef brisket I brought to a church potluck and that I chastised for being ‘too lavish’

    *insinuated themselves into my life and made me get rid of a piece of Italian art work (nothing crude) that was a birthday gift and that I’d had for years and loved because another church member ‘took offense to it’ in my living room

    *discussed the fact that I had ridden my bike to church in a dress in the summer and that was immodest of me (I had bike shorts on underneath my dress)

    *and on and on it went.

    *Finally excommunicated/shunned me when I wouldn’t go along with their putting their friend a Megan’s List sex offender in positions of trust and authority without telling all church members/parents and said he wasn’t a danger and was ‘coming off Megan’s List’. His supervising law enforcement agency called that ‘all lies’.

    Here’s Pastor Wade Burleson’s blog on the topic of why we shouldn’t sign membership covenants. (The Wartburg Watch also has his E-Church on their website if you want to catch a church service online.)


  20. I apologize to you Julie Anne with regards to my question taking the conversation off topic to covenants which would have been more appropriate to discuss with regards to Karen’s situation.

    I also want to say how moved I am in my spirit at this point for the heartbreaking testimonies that I have read via this blog. Brenda R., I am so, so very sorry for all of the hardship, pain, and despair that you have had to endure during your life. It is so hard to find the right words to express here to you because we are not conversing face to face, but I do know that Jesus has seen every circumstance and every tear in your life and in heaven you will be truly loved in a way that cannot even begin to compare to what we see here on earth. I am not a mystic in the religious sense, but I do believe that as believers, we still cannot fathom the depth of that love until we meet our Savior face to face. This is my belief.

    So I will say this to you Brenda R. In spite of all of your circumstances, you are an amazing, incredible woman in sharing your story and ministering to the hurting through the internet. Our LORD is using your suffering for the good in helping many, many people that you will never meet until that Great and Glorious day in the presence of Jesus. Thank-you Brenda, from my gracious heart, for your wisdom, knowledge, but mostly for your love in ministering to struggling people who are seeking answers. This is what the true Body of Jesus Christ is for in bearing one another’s burdens and we can be thankful for this internet ministry in bringing people together. Thank-you for ministering to me and I was in tears when you called me ‘sister’, for I have no earthly sister, and I felt loved when you called me this. So deeply, deeply moved and I love you.

    To all of the others who addressed my covenant question, I appreciate all of your answers and thank-you. We hear and experience so many different teachings from one denominational system to the next, sometimes one wonders what exactly is the truth? We hear from these great men of a god, that covenants are convenient in educating their members as to the requirements of their particular church doctrines, and yet we………….

    never hear great expounding sermons speaking of ‘men lording or lording it over others in seeking followers after themselves.’ The pulpits and pens are deafening silent concerning these topics within the realm of Christendom.

    Could it be that religious authorities truly, secretly desire followers after themselves rather than ministering Jesus and His teachings? After all, the teachings of Jesus are in direct opposition to pride, narcissism, lording it over, tyranny, and oppression.

    Thanks to Brenda R., BTDT, Kathi, Darlene and Michaela for the feedback on my ‘covenant crisis critique.’ Whew! I thought I was a goner there for a second for I haven’t signed any covenant charter of any sort, nor do I hold a 501c. 3 religious membership card, nor do I believe that God, the Holy Spirit lives inside of church buildings made with human hands, but instead inside of the New Covenant temples with are our bodies and souls, moving around and working for the fullness of the glory of our LORD Jesus, the Christ. It is profound how that one thief on the tree beside our suffering Savior can bear the fruit of glorious truth in being in Paradise with Jesus….with no membership or even a baptism to claim for eternal life. Simply Jesus, and Him alone.


  21. Katy, your comments have been absolutely fine. Many times abuse stories overlap and people want to share new links/updates they’ve heard, etc. That’s fine. Jumping in the conversation if you are being triggered and want to process something is fine, too, even if it is not topic-related. I want this place to always be a safe place where people can come to unload if they need to.

    This person is hijacking threads and pushing her own topics/agenda that have nothing to do with what we’re discussing, and frankly, they are weird. I can’t even make sense of them. She’s on the watch list of 2 other bloggers, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I regret to inform all you men out there (and women), whether you be church going folks or not, that you are all sexually deviant according to JD Hall.

    Given the fact that Hall chose to pursue a 15-year-old on Twitter who would later take his own life, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised to hear him flat out admit to being a sexual deviant. I thought back then that his behavior was more than a little creepy. But, if his implication that churches are chock full of sexually deviant men (and women) is true, then I will never darken the door of a church again. And you shouldn’t either. Because safety first, folks.

    Wow. Just wow. I can’t even finish processing the emotions that the Josh Duggar and Jordan Root stories have stirred up without being informed that our churches, in fact this whole WORLD, are full of sexual deviants. (I’m giving the side-eye look to Wade Burleson right now.)


  23. Ok. I take back my side-eye look to Wade Burleson. Out of sick fascination, I decided to look at the P&P twitter feed. JD went after Wade over the covenant issue. In one tweet Wade asked JD, “And, JD, have you kept your vow to abstain from “excessive anger”? Honest question. If not, you should be under discipline. :)”

    And I loved the side-eye pic that Christian Janeway sent to P&P.

    I always dismiss the thought of joining twitter, since I know I might never get anything else done if I did.


  24. Katy

    May 30, 2015 @ 5:20 AM Your response has brought me to so many tears. I believe the Lord allows trials in refining the finished product and bringing us through to that blessed day when we meet Him face to face. You were having one of those trials and needed the troops to gather around you. The enemy was attacking as it will all of us from time to time, if not on an ongoing basis. The closer we get to the Lord Jesus, the more the enemy will attack. You are my sister and I will be there for you in anyway I can.

    I have a sister that I shared a room with for years and barely know. I feel more at home with many of my sisters in Christ than I do with my earthly family. That may change a little, as I am told that my sister has given up many worldly addictions along with members of her family and received Christ. Now they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, also. We are 2 little girls who traveled very different, yet similar, roads after a terrorizing childhood.

    Blessings to all of my brothers and sisters in Christ on this Lord’s Day. Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Julie Anne,

    I heard a defense of Josh Duggar on Sunday, that he was not a Christian when he committed this abuse, but was converted afterwards. I have no idea if that is provable. But I was wondering why that would make a difference in the way it was handled by his parents.

    I believe Jesus can forgive Josh, and we should be forgiving, too. But I still think Josh should have been reported in a timely manner and should have faced the consequences that would have been meted out by the civil authorities.

    I agree with the removal of statutes of limitations.

    Any thoughts, anyone, on the relevance of the timing of Josh’s conversion?


  26. I am just guessing, but based on what I know from being in the Homeschool Movement, I don’t think there would be any difference in how they handled him – even if he was not a Christian. These folks are against governmental intrusion of any kind. Following Gothard’s teaching materials, they would also be against any kind of secular or professional counseling. You can see how they responded by sending Josh to what they were familiar with, a Gothard facility. In addition, Jim Bob prevented police from interrogating.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I went to a funeral on Saturday. A dear friend’s husband of over 60 years had passed away, so 2 of us who see her as a kind of surrogate “mom” went together….
    A number of folks, both friends & family told wonderful stories of his kindness & generosity over many years. There were a lot of things I didn’t know, but when I heard them, I knew at once that this quiet man had depths I had never suspected.

    I was reminded of something that the author Faye Kellerman once said, in an interview, about what she was teaching her children about God. She said, “I don’t try to teach them so much as I try to show them that there is joy & contentment in
    a life well lived”. My mom was still living then, & she turned to me & said, “That is what more of us Christians should try to do, instead of judging people, & thinking that everyone a little different from us is evil, or sinful, or depraved”. [Oh, how she hated that word “depraved”!! It was worse than most swear words to her ear]. It was interesting, especially because Faye Kellerman & her family are Jewish, & she was speaking persons of other faiths, & of no faith at all….

    And you see, our friend’s husband had little or no faith at all. But you know what! That gentleman who passed away? He died from the aftereffects of a bad fall he suffered whilst delivering hot meals-on-wheels to elderly people. He was 85 years old…..and he had been doing so since long before the “Christian” Duggars went on TV with all their self-righteousness to cover the wicked going on in their midst, for the fame & for the $$$$$.

    I think that, at the Judgment that Don will have an easier time facing Our Lord, than all that bizarre crew who are so busy keeping down the stench of their whited supulchres…..But hey!! That’s just me.


  28. In response to the comment -Dash on May 25, 2015 at 5:24 PM-. You’re indeed correct!
    And guess who happened to be traveling with Gothard and his “assistants” during that time…Tim Levendusky .

    I’m NOT accusing Levendusky of anything.
    However, my family that is still deep into the ATI/IBLP life has tried to tell me that Levendusky is a “fresh face”.


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