As news broke yesterday that members of the Duggar family church are unhappy with Jill, Jinger, and possibly Jessa wearing pants because their husbands say they can, a former member of their church is stepping forward to voice her concerns for their futures.
Rebecca Ishum, who was affiliated with Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) as a teenager, told her story on her blog in 2014. And now, she’s spoken out to In Touch Weekly to talk about her experiences and how they relate to the Duggar women.
According to Rebecca, children are taught to obey authority without question, which makes the “cult” (as she refers to it) a hotbed for abuse. She says women were often blamed for their physical abuse, and she says she wore a skirt because she reasoned it would be immodest otherwise and it might cause her to be raped.
The Duggar family revealed in 2015 that their eldest son, Josh, molested five young girls as a teenager. Four of his victims were his own sisters, and it is thought that the Duggar women who have come forward are expected to forgive him for his indiscretions and perhaps even blame themselves for it.
Rebecca was also sent to an IBLP training camp, similar to one that Jana Duggar was sent to for being a “troubled” teen. She says that she was explicitly told if she was sexually assaulted, it would be her fault.
According to Rebecca, the women of the church are encouraged to marry and serve their husband and have children. Higher education, for either sex, is not encouraged. This is a belief that is often used to control those who follow it and is not unique to IBLP; however, it does trap those who are a part of the religion as they have no means of “escape” through professional goals. There are similar issues within the Amish community and the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Rebecca says if she could speak to the Duggar women, she would tell them they have been put into a box and are not encouraged to dream outside of it.
“[The Duggar women] have goals, desires, passions, interests, and abilities that haven’t had a chance to surface underneath all of the rules and regulations that have been heaped on them. 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.”
Those who have followed the Duggar family for a while are well aware that at one point, Jinger Duggar Vuolo, who has a keen interest in photography, stated she would love to live in New York City. Her mother and older sister, Jill Duggar Dillard, shut her down, saying Jinger only meant she liked visiting New York and would simply like to live closer to Walmart.
Thus far, all of the older Duggar girls have married and either have had children or are expecting. The only exception is Jana Duggar, who is still “waiting” for her “prince charming,” though her family has stated they are praying for her.
Rebecca left the article with a final word for the Duggar women.
“These girls need help seeing their worth and value for who they are, not what they do.”