This Josh Dugger thing is worse than the media reports
With his highly fertile Evangelical family, Josh Dugger was a reality T.V. show star. Now he’s charged with having a child porn collection whose horror is being underplayed.
I’m studying the ugliest story in America. It’s a theological story — every detail formed from religious ideas.
Is it one for Christian history books?
From 2008 to 2015, Josh Duggar was on a hit TLC reality T.V. show, 19 Kids and Counting, featuring the vast Duggar family — which claimed a message of extreme fertility came from God.
The family seemed to be Evangelicalism itself—from Republican politics to ‘purity’ guidelines, men in authority, women in ‘submission’. And he was their eldest son, the prince.
The show was cancelled with news that Josh, as a teenager, had molested many underage girls, including four of his sisters, while they slept. Then employed as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, Josh was fired.
A whole story came out about how the abuse had been suppressed for years. In 2003, Josh’s parents sent him to a fake Evangelical ‘camp’ for treatment. They made a report to a police officer who suppressed it. The cop later went to jail for child porn. This is God’s country?
Josh was never legally jeopardized. He married, as he and his wife Anna had six children, with a seventh now on the way. He’s been running a used car dealership in Fayetteville, Arkansas—where federal agents came, last November, with a search warrant.
The Dugger family denied any wrongdoing
As the new statement read: “Living a life in the public’s eye has taught us that it is best not to reply to every rumor and piece of ‘fake news’ that is circulated online.” But they wanted everyone to know that, “to the best of our knowledge,” no member of the family was being investigated.
On April 29th, Josh was arrested. Again denying wrongdoing, the family issued a statement: “We appreciate the outpouring of love and support received from our friends and fans.”
Then Josh was charged—one for receipt of child pornography, one charge for possession of it. At a detention hearing, an FBI agent involved in the case said that in his eleven years of going through child pornography collections, Josh’s collection “ranks in the top five of the worst of the worst that I’ve ever had to examine.”
His exact tastes aren’t being described very well in the media
But Rachael Denhollander, the Evangelical lawyer and advocate for sex abuse victims, posted a long thread on Twitter about it.
“The images and videos Josh downloaded for his own sexual pleasure were of toddlers and babies being sexually assaulted. 18 months to 3 years old. He literally found sexual gratification in watching the sexual torture of babies and toddlers. He was sexually aroused by toddlers and babies being painfully and violently abused.”
He pleaded ‘not guilty’.
Officials were against Josh being released, but a (female) judge allowed it, telling Josh, “don’t make me regret this decision.”
The Duggar family released a new statement: “We appreciate your continued prayers for our family at this time.”
Josh’s family knew he had a porn problem
In 2015, he was also exposed as a member of the Ashley Madison dating site. In the fallout from that, he confessed to porn use, his ‘secret addiction’.
His computer was loaded with Covenant Eyes—software marketed to Evangelicals to prevent access to porn sites. But Josh had partitioned his hard drive to create an independently running machine, and was using it to search the dark web. He was found with an archive of some 200 images.
The software, easy to bypass, and sending false reports to Josh’s wife that his porn habit was under control, seems a perfect representation of the religious system at work. Supplying false information, and enabling nightmares.
Even so, Denhollander isn’t sure Anna wouldn’t have known something was wrong, since wives of porn addicts seem often to sense something about it. Anna was in a difficult situation. “Busy and exhausted, and also expected to babysit her husband’s porn problem…”
If in inner conflict, Anna would likely be encouraged—by typical Evangelical teachings—to protect her husband. As Denhollander writes:
“She certainly couldn’t tell anyone, because that would not be respectful. That’s how we counsel wives in these marriages.”
Had Anna reported anything to her family or the church, the course forward, Denhollander thinks, would be clear: “have sex more to fix it.”
In being released, Josh was allowed unlimited time with his children, so long as his wife was present. Trained since childhood to ‘submit’ to her husband, Anna is now to supervise him?
After Josh was arrested, his dad went shopping around their church to find a custodian for his son to be released on bail
He called a friend, LaCount Reber, who’s an MRI technician and part time pastor to prison populations, and said: “Josh is in a situation”—without providing a lot of details.
Reber considered taking Josh into his home an act of friendship. “We help friends when they need help,” he says.
Reber’s wife Maria was asked on the witness stand if she agreed to have Josh live with her. She replied: “My husband has made the decision and I’m here to support that decision.”
Denhollander supplies the information that Maria had deep reservations. She uses their home to teach piano lessons, so children would be visiting.
The lessons were re-located. And her students will know, if Josh is convicted, that their piano teacher had shoved them aside to make room in her life for child torture porn.
Even if Josh is convicted, Anna is religiously prohibited from divorcing, since “God hates divorce”—as they are often told.
If she does, she’s been told the deity who created the universe will hate her. With Josh around the family, Denhollander thinks it unlikely they’ll report additional wrongdoing.
It creates a situation, as she notes, where “men make the decisions and decide the theology, they just don’t bear the cost.” And it leaves the impression Evangelical men succeeded in creating a system that facilitates any kind of abuse they’d have in mind.
And they can think of a lot.
Josh is free for the next two months. He faces up to twenty years in prison. Maybe by that time—America will find a religion that works? 🔶