NEW YORK – Two of reality TV’s Duggar sisters fondled by their brother Josh say they weren’t even aware it had happened until he confessed and their parents told them about it.
Jill and Jessa Duggar, part of the family featured in TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” were two of the four sisters whom Josh Duggar touched inappropriately a dozen years ago. They talked about it with Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly in an interview set to air Friday night, and the network made excerpts available early.
Jessa Duggar said that her brother was “a young boy in puberty” who was “a little too curious about girls.”
In the wake of the incidents, the sisters said the parents restricted the children from playing games like hide and seek and placed locks on bedrooms where the girls and boys slept.
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Jessa Duggar said that she wanted to defend her brother against people who are calling him a child molester, pedophile or rapist. She said people can get mad at her for saying that this is overboard, “but I can say this because I was one of the victims.”
“He made some bad choices,” she said. “But really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching, on fully clothed victims, most of it while girls were sleeping.”
The Duggars’ parents, in an interview with Kelly that aired on Wednesday, acknowledged that Josh had admitted to fondling a babysitter along with the four Duggar sisters. They said they took Josh for counseling. Police investigated the incidents three or four years later after being tipped by someone who knew the family, but filed no charges.
The incidents became public over the past few weeks through news reports about police records on the case, which have since been destroyed.
TLC has taken reruns of “19 Kids and Counting” off the air and said they’ve made no decision about the future of the show. Hulu also has removed the show from its offerings.
The sisters said it was their choice to speak about the incidents when it made headlines across the country.
“Nobody asked us to do this,” Jill Duggar said. “Jessa and I were talking and were like, ‘Oh my goodness, most of the stuff out there is lies.’ It’s not the truth. And for the truth’s sake, we wanted to come out and set the record straight.”
Jill Duggar said that Josh asked them to forgive him after they found out about the fondling.
“We had to make that choice that I think everyone has to make,” she said. “My dad explained to us, he said, ‘you know, there’s a difference between forgiveness and trust. That’s not the same thing.’ You know, you forgive someone and then you have boundaries. Forgiveness with boundaries. And so trust comes later. You know, Josh destroyed that trust at the beginning. And so he had to rebuild that.”
The incidents made the Duggars vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy because of their promotion of conservative Christian family values. Their mother, Michelle, recorded a robocall in opposition to a Fayetteville proposal to ban discrimination, raising the idea of transsexuals using bathrooms for women and girls. Until his recent resignation, Josh Duggar worked as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council.
“We are not a perfect family. We are just a family,” Jill Duggar said.
“It’s right to say, ‘here’s what I believe, here’s my values,' even if you’ve made stupid mistakes or failures,” her sister added. “If you’ve had failures in your past it doesn’t mean you can’t be changed … I think the real issue is people are making this sound like it happened yesterday.”