Earlier today, the Duggars released a statement.
Duggar Family Statement
We are so thankful for the outpouring of love, care and prayers for our family during this most difficult situation with Josh. As parents we are so deeply grieved by our son’s decisions and actions. His wrong choices have deeply hurt his precious wife and children and have negatively affected so many others. He has also brought great insult to the values and faith we hold dear. Yesterday Josh checked himself into a long-term treatment center. For him it will be a long journey toward wholeness and recovery. We pray that in this he comes to complete repentance and sincere change. In the meantime, we will be offering our love, care and devoted support to Anna and our grandchildren as she also receives counsel and help for her own heart and future. During this time we continue to look to God—He is our rock and comfort. We ask for your continued prayers for our entire family.
I’ve underlined the relevant sentence.
After Josh sexually molested his sisters as a teen, his parents sent him to what they described as a treatment program run by a Christian ministry. In other words, they portrayed it as a legitimate treatment program for sexual abusers—but it wasn’t. It was a construction program run by the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Josh was not counseled by anyone with a degree or training. The Duggars declared that this program was successful and that Josh returned to them healed and restored.
And now Josh has been safely deposited at yet another treatment center.
What exactly is Josh being treated for, I have to wonder? Seeking treatment for Josh when he was a teenager sexually molesting younger girls, but this time? Do we check people into residential treatment centers for infidelity now? Josh cheated on his wife. It’s a thing people do. It’s generally a thing people get counseling for, sure, but not generally a thing they go to residential treatment for. The Duggars’ decision makes sense, though, when you realize that terms like “pornography addiction” and “sex addiction” are common to the evangelical vocabulary. It is very likely that, after everything they have done to prevent it, the Duggars cannot conceive of any scenario outside of addiction that would lead their son to cheat on his wife.
Where exactly does one receive treatment for “pornography addiction” or “sex addiction,” you may be wondering?
Gawker is reporting that late at night on August 24th (the day before yesterday), John David Duggar flew his plain to Rockdale, Illinois. Based on that, they are suggesting that Josh was sent to rehab at Reformers Unanimous, a Christian drug and alcohol addiction program the Duggars have promoted in the past—and one that does not have any licensed counselors on its staff but does have connections to Jack Hyle, a fundamentalist preacher whose church was mired in sex abuse allegations during the decade before his death.
Rockdale is also close to Oak Brook, Illinois, where the IBLP Headquarters are located, so it is possible Josh was sent there. It wouldn’t be the first time the Duggars have used IBLP as a treatment center, though it would certainly be the first time since IBLP’s founder, Bill Gothard, stepped down last year in the face of sex abuse charges. David Waller, IBLP’s Administrative Director, is Josh’s brother-in-law (Anna’s sister Priscilla’s’s husband). It could be that Anna’s family wants a hand in straightening out her wandering husband.
The reality, of course, is that we don’t know where Josh Duggar has been sent for treatment, and the Duggars clearly don’t want us to know. Wherever it is, I would bet good money that it is a Christian program—and one that is unlikely to have licensed counselors on staff. The Duggars are long-time participants in IBLP, which has always been skeptical of psychology in general.Josh’s infidelity is unlikely to motivate the Duggars to rethink their beliefs vis a vis sex and relationships. I’ve noted before that Josh was, in some sense, set up for what happened. He was married off through a parent-guided courtship that allowed for little, if any, privacy. He and Anna had no way of knowing whether they were sexually compatible, and because of their anti-birth control beliefs they began having children immediately. Four kids in five years is bound to take a tole on any coupe’s sex life. On top of all of this, Anna was taught that it was her duty to be sexually available to Josh.
All of this was supposed to ensure that Josh would not have an affair. Going without sex before marriage is supposed to make married sex more fulfilling and rewarding, having a sexually available partner was supposed to protect against straying, etc. I mean good gracious, Josh didn’t date because the Duggars believe that dating is practice for divorce. But for whatever reason, all of the Duggar’s careful planning and strict rules didn’t work. For whatever reason, Josh was not satisfied in his marriage and went looking for an affair.
Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists like the Duggars make an idol of sex. They tell young people that sex will be unspeakably amazing, if only they wait until marriage. They tell young people that sexual compatibility is irrelevant, and that if they have sex before marriage they will regret it forever. They tell young people, especially young men, that even thinking about sex is a sin. Avert your eyes, throw out the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, whatever you do DON’T THINK ABOUT SEX! All of that attention, all of that emphasis—can they not see that in obsessing over sex they are making sex into an obsession? Josh did not enter marriage with a healthy view of sex. How could he, after being raised in such a culture?
The Duggars are facing an obsession they themselves created, and inventing an addiction to cover for the mess they’ve made.* **
The Duggars are going to blame Josh’s affair on the sex-soaked secular culture we live in, but I’ve lived in that secular culture for years now and I don’t know anyone who is as obsessed with sex as the Duggars. They failed to give their son a realistic view of sex. In putting the burden on women to dress modestly, they failed to teach their son internal self-restraint. In putting the burden on wives to put out during marriage, they gave their son a sense of sexual entitlement. In teaching their children that marital sex is Always And Absolutely Amazing, they gave their son unrealistic expectations.
Josh’s affair ought to cause the Duggars to question whether their methods for securing sexual satisfaction and building strong relationships actually work. But it won’t. Instead they have shipped him off to another (almost certainly) Christian treatment center. Rather than facing up to the mess they’ve made of things, they are once again shipping their problems off for someone else to fix. And Josh? I very much doubt Josh has gotten straight-talk from anyone outside of the insular culture he has surrounded himself with.
* Many thanks to several commenters for helping me fix this sentence!
** I have not done enough research to know what the current professional consensus is on porn addiction and sex addiction. However, even if these are legitimate conditions, I doubt Josh has either. Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals tend to see any porn viewing as a porn addiction and any philandering as a sex addiction. As a result, I feel fairly confident saying that the Duggars are inventing an “addiction” to cover for the damage caused by their messed up beliefs about sex. And if Josh does have a porn or sex addiction, the treatment he will receive at a Christian treatment center in line with the Duggars’ values will almost certainly be inadequate.