Is Josh Duggar Finally Being Held Accountable For Years Of Abuse?

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TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault and mention of child pornography

When I got the news notification on my phone that Josh Duggar had been taken into custody by Homeland Security on Thursday, I hate to say that I wasn’t surprised. This wasn’t the first scandal to break for former 19 Kids and Counting star, who has a known history of sexual abuse toward minors. The initial refusal to have Duggar’s charges made public sent myself and other former evangelical Christians (many of whom see the Duggars’ conservative community and lifestyle as an extreme yet semi-familiar example of what we grew up in) into a tailspin of wondering what could have gotten the family’s oldest son arrested by Homeland Security. When the charges were finally released to the public on Friday, I wanted to gouge my eyeballs out. Yet, still, I wasn’t surprised.


The Latest Charge

“Child porn. I guarantee it’s child porn” one tweet read before the charges were released. Sadly, that tweet proved to be correct, and Duggar now faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine — 20 years and $250,000 for each of the two counts he’s been charged with. He pleaded “not guilty” to both.

Take a gander at the #JoshDuggar hashtag on Twitter and your timeline will be peppered with news and opinions of the latest scandal, including information that his wife Anna is pregnant with their seventh child and that Duggar, if released on bond, must reside with a third party with no minors in the home. 

If you want a full, in-depth review of the events leading up to these latest charges, I highly recommend this Twitter thread. My own timeline of relevant events is below.

Timeline of Abuse

Information for this section was sourced from Daily Mail, Insider, and USA Today.

  • 2002 — Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar first become aware of their eldest son Josh’s instances of abuse. Josh, 14 years old at the time, admitted to his parents that he “fondled breasts and genitals” of several victims sleeping in the Duggar home. The victims were supposedly unaware.

  • Over the following YEAR (2002-2003), Jim Bob and Michelle become aware of more incidents of sexual abuse committed by Josh.

  • 2003 — Jim Bob Duggar consults with church elders, who together decide to send Josh to a Christian counseling program.

  • After Josh returns from the program, they admit the abuse to state trooper Joseph Truman Hutchens, who reportedly gave Josh a “stern talk” about what the consequences would be if his actions continued. (In an ironic twist of events, Hutchens is currently serving a 56 year sentence for child pornography charges.)

  • Over the next four years, the Duggar family grow in the TLC spotlight with the release of TV special 14 Children and Pregnant Again. This special would give way to the 17 Kids and Counting series, the titular number of which would rise to accommodate the family’s growth over the years. Abuse allegations were still surfacing but remained largely out of the view of the mainstream media.

  • 2015 — InTouch gets hold of a police report and news of Josh’s “old” scandal publicly breaks. Josh admits to what he did “years ago” as a “young teenager” and TLC cancels now-19 Kids and Counting. The public also learns that four of the victims were Josh Duggar’s younger sisters. 

  • Also in 2015 — Josh admits to cheating on his wife, Anna, via the popular Ashley Madison website, which facilitates cheating on your spouse. Following this, he entered a faith-based treatment facility called Reformers Unanimous for 6 months. Also around this time, Duggar was sued by a porn star for allegedly assaulting her during sex — these charges were later dropped.

  • Things were relatively quiet until November 2019, when Josh Duggar’s car dealership was raided by Homeland Security. However, no charges were brought at the time.

  • Finally, on April 29/30, Josh is taken into custody and pleads “not guilty” to two counts related to possession of child pornography, some of which depicted abuse of minors under the age of 12.

The Treatment Centers

This article was a wonderful resource for info found in this section.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”…a phrase which apparently also applies to failed addiction treatment attempts. As previously mentioned, Duggar was sent to a training center for treatment as a young teenager, after his parents and church elders became aware of the ongoing occasions of abuse. Said training center (which father Jim Bob Duggar claimed to not remember the name of — for good reason) was one of many founded under the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a Christian organization founded by pastor Bill Gothard. Years later, Gothard would resign from the ministry amidst sexual assault allegations from numerous young women who were involved in IBLP. 

The treatment facility Duggar was sent to in 2015 was strikingly similar. Reformers Unanimous is a program with a similar treatment method — namely, physical labor and Bible study — that notably has a history of ties to the IBLP community. And RU co-founder Paul Kingsbury is allegedly financially supporting missionary and accused sex offender Richard DuVall, while still serving as President of the Board of Directors at RU. So, yes — this is all very messy.

I could go on a long tirade about Christian communities attempting to deal with situations of abuse internally. So often abuse is covered up with platitudes about the “grace of God,” which apparently can’t still be exercised while in a jail cell. Reformers Unanimous’ own free resources page features resources with titles such as “How to Be a Psalm One Overcomer,” “What Does the Bible Say About Addiction?” and “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation.” I even clicked on the dropdown titled “7 Daily Task (sic) For Recovery,” hopeful that this would be a helpful resource. Instead, I was met with the following “tasks”:

  1. Search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11)

  2. Pray (Psalm 86:3)

  3. Praise God (Psalm 119:164)

  4. Exhort (Hebrews 3:13)

  5. Take Up Your Cross (Luke 9:23)

  6. Die to Yourself (I Corinthians 15:31)

  7. Perform Your Vows (Psalm 61:8)

I grew up heavily immersed in Christian culture, and I barely know what half of those 7 “tasks” want me to do. Not to mention that it looks like all of RU’s resources are created internally, and I can find absolutely no evidence of any of it being influenced or endorsed by actual addiction specialists — the closest mention to any sort of medical expert I could find on their website references having a “Doctor of Internal Medicine of Millennium Physician Group” as a member of RU’s Board of Directors.

Look, I’m all for faith-based and spirituality-based approaches to addiction recovery. Many addiction treatment centers are heavily spiritual in nature. There’s a lot to be said for having something to anchor yourself to that’s outside of yourself — for some people that’s God, or Jesus, or the Universe, or any other external greater power that inspires one to overcome. 

But there’s an argument to be made that addiction treatment centers that are too religious in nature can actually perpetuate the abuse cycle. Combine teachings of unconditional grace and forgiveness with the overwhelming patriarchy present in too many religious conservative cultures, and you can end up with a toxic cocktail that emphasizes grace and minimizes accountability, essentially conditioning men to believe (consciously or subconsciously) that they can get away with abuse without suffering any here-and-now consequences. And I haven’t even mentioned the toxic teachings on sex, “purity culture,” and gender roles present in many conservative Christian traditions that teach men and women that sexual “sin” on the part of men is the woman’s fault. 

Josh Duggar has been sexually abusing for almost twenty years (that we know of), and Thursday was the first time any actual accountability entered the picture. The unconditional grace and love of God does not negate (Scriptural!!) calls for justice and accountability. I have been told countless personal accounts of women who have suffered sexual abuse within their religious communities, even from their pastors or religious leaders — men who have yet to face any real consequences. These men (abusers) have the grace of God bestowed upon them by their churches — meanwhile, offenders re-offend, and victims are re-victimized. 

Okay, So…What Now?

As a woman who professes to be a Christian and still does genuinely believe in God’s unending and unfathomable grace, I see Josh Duggar’s arrest (and, hopefully, imprisonment) as a necessary part of accountability. Aligning yourself with a certain faith shouldn’t make you immune to suffering the very real-world consequences of your actions, consequences which Duggar has managed to escape for too long. I’m sad that decades of church abuse have managed to fly under the radar of law enforcement, and I’m happy whenever victims of habitual abusive behaviors begin to see justice — hopefully in this, they can find at least a modicum of healing.

Meanwhile, as we fight for justice and accountability, it’s easy to feel powerless. Below are some resources to enable you to act on behalf of sex trafficking and child pornography victims.

Resources For Sex Trafficking Victims

If you are a victim of sex trafficking, these resources can help support you through the process of escaping and living post-trafficking:

Office for Victims of Crime


National Human Trafficking Hotline

Victim Connect

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Organizations Combatting Child Sex Trafficking

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There are many organizations helping to fight trafficking around the world. These are some that specifically target the child sex trafficking world.

Love 146

Save the Children

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Cast LA

Shared Hope

Destiny Rescue


If you become aware of sex trafficking, you can call 911 and report it. You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BEFREE (233733). You can also report trafficking or any type of abuse of a child anonymously at Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber TiplineThe National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is an AMAZING resource and will take up the reins of contacting the appropriate authorities and making sure the victim is safe.

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Resources for Child Pornography Victims/Reporting

Owning and/or distributing child pornography is a felony. The United States Department of Justice’s website outlines the following charges:

  • First time offenders face fines and a statutory minimum of 15 years to 30 years maximum in prison.

  • First time offender convicted of transporting child pornography in interstate or foreign faces fines and a statutory minimum of 5 years to 20 years maximum in prison.

  • Convicted offenders may face harsher penalties if the offender has prior convictions or if the child pornography offense occurred in aggravated situations defined as:

    • (i) the images are violent, sadistic, or masochistic in nature

    • (ii) the minor was sexually abused, or 

    • (iii) the offender has prior convictions for child sexual exploitation.  In these circumstances, a convicted offender may face up to life imprisonment.

If you are looking for resources and organizations to support, we recommend the following:


Stop It Now!

National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)

National Center For Missing & Exploited Children


We welcome your thoughts and opinions in the comments section. If you have any other recommended resources, we invite you to put them there as well.

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