It’s sad, but undeniably true:
The more we hear about the rules and regulations that governed life in the Duggar household, the less we’re surprised by the abuse that was allowed to take place under Michelle and Jim Bob’s watch.
When deployed properly, rules can be an invaluable tool for teaching children discipline and, more importantly, keeping them safe.
In the Duggar home, however?
Rules were used primarily to maintain a corrupt power structure, with church leaders at the top and parents close behind, followed by a strict sibling hierarchy with the oldest kids in charge.
As we’ve discussed in the past, the Duggars used a "buddy system" to make life in a house with 19 children more manageable.
(Eventually, this gave way to Jana Duggar raising her younger siblings on her own, but that’s a story for another time.)
But in the early days, each older child was assigned a younger brother or sister to look after.
At the top of his hopelessly flawed power structure, tragically, was Michelle and Jim Bob’s oldest child, Josh Duggar.
We’re sure you’ve heard about Josh’s sex scandals and the appalling details about Josh’s routine abuse of his sisters.
At times, you may have wondered how such horrors could be permitted to take place in a house with so many people.
Well, a new article written by Jill Duggar for her personal website may have shed some new light on that mystery:
"When I was a kid, I remember my mom constantly encouraging us kids to work out disagreements between ourselves," Jill wrote.
"Of course there were plenty of times when we just couldn’t see eye-to-eye with a sibling, or we were so emotional that a friend couldn’t reason with us and we needed an adult to help."
"But many other times, the little petty disagreements or someone picking on us could be resolved without involving an adult," she added.
From there, Jill described how this principle was put into practice when disagreements arose in the Duggar household:
"My mom had 2 rules: Rule number 1: ‘Talk sweet.’ Rule number 2: ‘Go and tell’…an adult (and to be used only if rule number one didn’t work)," she wrote.
"If we came running to her with our little problem without having applied these two rules in the correct order, then we would be reminded of them and might be asked if we would like to ‘try again’," Jill recalled.
Perhaps anticipating the way that anecdote would be received by critics, Jill added that there were rare cases in which exceptions were made.
"If there was an emergency and someone was going to get hurt, or if a mess was being made, then we didn’t have to follow these steps and could step in and help or run for an adult immediately," she wrote.
Jill didn’t come right out and say that an exception would be made in the case of sexual abuse, but it’s hard not to see these comments through that lens, given all that we now know.
She seems to be getting in front of the argument that the culture of silence created by her parents led to an environment in which Josh was free to traumatize his sisters for life.
Perhaps the most worrisome thing about this situation is that Jill is taking a similar approach with her own children – and she’s encouraging other parents to do the same.
Do we think such abuse will take place in every household where children are discouraged from telling on one another?
Of course not.
In fact, there’s nothing inherently wrong with teaching children to resolve conflicts without intervention from adults.
But when you take a home filled with 19 children, ban all tattling, and teach said children that all sexual urges are evil impulses that are to be repressed and never discussed?
You’re creating an environment in which molestation is certainly more likely, if not almost certain to take place.
Unfortunately, it can take generations for families to break free from such destructive policies.
And sadly, it seems Jill Duggar isn’t there yet.
Hopefully, one of her siblings will eventually take steps to distance themselves from their parents’ more damaging teachings, and thus, create a safer environment for their children.
But a childhood like the one Jill endured leaves deep scars, and the process of unlearning can take a lifetime.