(Reuters/Brian Frank)

What would the unlicensed Christian-based sexual counseling Josh Duggar underwent entail?

A lot of blame being shifted to everyone except the perpetrator, for one


Scott Eric Kaufman
June 4, 2015 9:34PM (UTC)

During their unwittingly revealing interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Wednesday, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said that after their son Josh confessed to having molested a young girl for the third time, they decided to stop punishing him "in house" and take him to an outsider for Christian-based sexual counseling.

According to Libby Anne at Patheos, that counseling most likely occurred through the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), an organization with which the family was closely associated until its founder, Bill Gothard, was accused in 2014 of sexually harassing 34 women in his charge. The family still maintains ties with ATI, promoting its home schooling curriculum, and promoting various seminars and retreats.

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If Duggar did, in fact, seek counseling from an unlicensed Christian minister at an ATI program, he would have been taught that his sexual desires -- and his willingness to act upon them -- were not his fault. His sisters dressed immodestly as children; his parents allowed him to change their diapers; his parents left him alone with his sisters; and, of course, his friends were "evil" and had a negative influence on him. Each explanation is an excuse predicated on the assumption that all young men possess sexual desire for underage girls, and that if the spiritual and environmental conditions will allow it, they will act upon it.

When his father told Megyn Kelly that his family had erected "safeguards" to prevent Josh from molesting his sisters and babysitter again, he suggested that his son was incapable of stopping himself from sexually assaulting others, and that he would do so as soon as the system failed -- which is precisely what happened in the third instance, when he molested a young girl asleep on the couch.

In fact, some of the sample moral problems provided by ATI read like thinly veiled references to the behavior to which Duggar confessed:

The parents were shocked and grieved as social workers visited their home and confirmed reports that an older brother was guilty of sexually abusing younger ones in his family. The damage to the younger children, the ridicule to the cause of Christ, the shame of detailed publicity, and the scars to the life and reputation of the boy were indescribably painful to the family and their friends. The boy did repent of what he had done; now that time has passed, he was asked the following questions.

Not surprisingly, the questions shifted blame away from the "older brother," discussing "the conditions or circumstances that contributed to the problem," and asking "What steps could your parents have taken before it happened?" and "What factors in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation?" In the sample answers, the "older brother" said that modesty "was not at the level that it should have been in my family" and that he believed "[c]hanging my younger sisters' diapers when they were really young may not have been a big thing," but it contributed to household's culture of immodesty.

Even if Duggar attended a different Christian life counselor to deal with his proclivities, it bears noting that sending people with actual mental illnesses to unlicensed, unaccountable counselors or "life coaches" can cause intense psychological damage -- both to the person undergoing the "treatment," as well as those they continue to victimize because of its inevitable failure.


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Counseling Josh Duggar Sexual Abuse The Duggar Family




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