Jill & Jessa Duggar Open Up About Josh Duggar Controversy In First Sit-Down Interview With Fox News
On Friday, June 5, Fox News aired the second half of The Kelly File's Megyn Kelly's much-anticipated interview with the Duggar family. The exclusive sit-down came after controversy surrounding acts of sexual molestation allegedly committed by the eldest Duggar son, Josh Duggar, when he was 14 and 15 years old. During the sit-down, two of Josh's younger sisters, Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald — now 24 and 22 years old, respectively — named themselves as his victims. On Friday, Jill and Jessa took the opportunity to speak out for the first time about the allegations against their older brother, and, in their words, "set the record straight." Their interview follows the one their parents, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, gave to Fox News on Wednesday.
Jill and Jessa gave Kelly a candid account of how the accusations against Josh going public have affected their lives, with Dillard calling the reports a "re-victimization that's a thousand times worse" than the actual experience of being one of Josh's alleged victims. “This is something that’s already dealt with. We’ve already moved on. It’s not the truth. Everything is distorted," Dillard insisted. "We feel like our story is not being told. The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves. Now it’s already being warped into however they want to portray it.” And while neither Dillard nor Seewald downplayed the seriousness of Josh's actions, they made it clear that having to discuss such a private issue publicly is not what anyone in the Duggar family would have ever chosen to do.
During the sit-down, Dillard and Seewald revealed they were 12 and "nine or 10," respectively, at the time of the alleged abuse — but Dillard reiterated that she and Seewald weren't even aware that the alleged molestation had taken place until they were told by their parents during separate conversations. Both sisters continued to insist that they feel Jim Bob and Michelle handled the situation "very well" and that the safeguards put in place to prevent any further abuse were helpful in making them feel safe. Pressed on what those safeguards were, Dillard said that there were locks placed on the bedroom doors and that Josh was prevented from babysitting his younger siblings while he remained in the house.
During their previous sit-down, Jim Bob and Michelle stated in their sit-down with Kelly, we do know that Josh was sent away to a rehabilitation program of sorts following his alleged confession to his parents. Dillard and Seewald admitted they were "sad" to see Josh removed from the house because "it's your brother — you're still kids" but were quick to add that while Josh came back "a different person," their relationship with their older sibling took work to repair. According to the sisters, Josh asked them for their forgiveness — but, as Dillard pointed out, they "had to make that choice that everyone has to make." Jim Bob told them that "there's a difference between forgiveness and trust," and eventually they learned to grant "forgiveness with boundaries."
Dillard felt it was important to note that the alleged abuse she and Seewald suffered was "very mild compared to what happens to some" — a sentiment echoed by her younger sibling, who added, "I think in the case of what Josh did, it was very wrong. I'm not going to justify anything he did or say it was okay... but I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or pedophile or rapist, as some people are saying. That's so overboard and a lie, really."
Seewald continued, "People will get mad at me for saying, but I can say this. I was one of the victims, you know? So I can speak out and set the record straight here... In Josh's case, he as a boy — a young boy in puberty — and he was a little too curious about girls. And that got him in trouble. He made some bad choices, but the extent of it was mild inappropriate touching on clothed victims, most of which while girls were sleeping."
In the end, it seemed as though the message Dillard and Seewald truly wanted to convey is that they have found peace following the incident, and believe that Josh has truly changed for the better. When confronted with the irony that Josh speaks publicly against LGBT lifestyles while standing accused of sexual abuse, Seewald was quick to jump to her brother's defense.
"That's right. It's right to say, 'Here's what I believe, here's my values,' even if you've made stupid mistakes or had failures. Even if you've had failures in your past, it doesn't mean you can't be changed. The real issue is that people are making this sound like it was yesterday, but it happened 12 years ago when he was a child himself. So I think seeing the change in his life — we witnessed it, we know."
On May 21, Josh commented on the controversy in a statement to People magazine, which read:
Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.
There's been no word from TLC about the fate of the family's reality show, 19 Kids and Counting. Right now, however, the series remains off the air.
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