Duggar Women: "Trapped" In a Dangerous Cult, Source Claims

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When the Duggars first made their debut on TLC in 2008, the hook used to attract an audience was the massive size of the family.

But viewers quickly became fascinated by Michelle, Jim Bob and kids for reasons that had little to do with breeding.

The Duggar Women

Reality stardom put the Duggars' extremely conservative religious views on display, and their belief system and practices drew a mixed reaction from their rapidly-growing fan base.

Some applauded the family's "old-fashioned" values, while others decried what they viewed as a cult-like setting.

The Duggars are adherents of Reverend Bill Gothard's Institute for Basic Life Principles, and the debate amongst viewers only intensified when Gothard resigned in disgrace after being accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of young men and women.

Gothard has thus far avoided criminal prosecution, but the scandal has only grown with revelations that he's not the only member of his church who used his power to coerce the congregation's most vulnerable members into performing sex acts.

In May of 2015, the Josh Duggar sex scandals became public knowledge after nearly a decade of coordinated cover-up by his parents.

Josh Duggar, Anna Duggar, and Kids in 2017

The fact that Michelle and Jim Bob knew their son was molesting his sisters but failed to act led many to wonder about the extent to which this sort of behavior was sanctioned by the IBLP.

Now, a powerful new voice has entered the debate--one with firsthand knowledge of the predatory tactics employed by IBLP leaders.

Rebecca Ishum is a blogger and former IBLP adherent who says she was brainwashed during an intensive "training" session at the institute's secretive headquarters.

She opened up about her experiences in a recent interview with In Touch Weekly:

"I still grieve for all of the kids...mainly the girls....who are trapped or have spent their lives trying to rewire their brains once they make it out. Most of the girls who are still in that cult don't even realize how trapped they are," Ishum tells the magazine.

"I was conditioned to believe anything that anyone in authority told me without question."

Joy, Jinger and Jana Duggar

The Duggars often claim that their extremist views on abstinence and "modest attire" are meant to enforce in young women an appreciation for their bodies as gifts from God, but Rebecca says she was taught that she had no autonomy over her physical self:

"I remember learning things like...if I was ever raped, then it would be my fault," she says.

Duggar women are taught from a young age that procreation is their primary reason for being, and Rebecca says that she was indoctrinated to trust in the philosophical underpinnings of that belief during IBLP training:

"Higher education was frowned on because we were created to raise up a Quiverfull of children to be the salt of the earth. Our main objective was to be the helpmeet (translation: servant) of our husbands and have children," she reveals.

"People who are still trapped in the IBLP cult are missing out on a whole lot of freedom and life. That type of thinking is a prison. Sadly, most of them don't know it."

Duggar Family Photo: A Classic!

Ishum argues that while the men responsible for the intellectual imprisonment of the Duggar girls deserve our condemnation, the public should be careful not to blame the victims:

"[If I could talk to the Duggars,] I would start by just listening," Rebecca says.

"I would just sit down and listen to them talk until I could start to get an idea of who they are at their core. And then I would tell them to dream bigger than the box they've been given because they can remain a Jesus-follower, but do so in a way that enables their freedom."

Ishum concludes:

"These girls need help seeing their worth and value for who they are, not what they do."

Watch Counting On online for more on reality TV's most controversial family.

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Duggar Family Quotes

When you've missed [sex] for seven days, you look forward to it even more! - Michelle Duggar

Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls. - Michelle Duggar on saying yes (yes, and more yes) to sex