Duggar Family Friend Reveals IBLP Sexual Abuse Education, Modesty Rules, More — Viewers Still Have Questions

April L. BrownAP Photo

Often, revelations about the Duggar family come through their friends. In this case, the friend offering information is doing so intentionally, though it’s not just about the Duggar family, but her own upbringing, and that of other friends. Krista Gay is close to the Duggar sisters, and has shared photos of herself with Joy, and at Jinger’s wedding, among others. However, her views have diverged from theirs — Inquisitr previously reported on her joining the Women’s March after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Krista has deleted (or made private) her personal social media due to new employment, but she still maintains a public blog, and on it, she called for people who wondered about how she, the Duggar kids, and others in similar belief systems were raised, promising answers from multiple anonymous female friends. It’s not clear whether any of those friends are the Duggar women, but at least one specifically refers to IBLP, the religious sect in which Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have raised their kids.

IBLP and the Duggar Family

A few notes about IBLP for those who may be unfamiliar: it stands for Institute for Basic Life Principles, was founded by Bill Gothard, and is an umbrella for other connected programs and organizations, including ATI, or Advanced Training Institute. “Big Sandy” is a resort in Texas where IBLP and ATI hold gatherings. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar often give speeches at these events. Gothard is currently not on the board of IBLP. He stepped down after allegations of sexual abuse of underage girls, but the educational and preaching materials he designed are still used. The teachings include much of the lifestyle the Duggar family is known for, such as courtship rather than dating, modesty rules, and of course, their homeschooling style. IBLP publishes a homeschool curriculum, which Michelle Duggar has said she uses. IBLP doesn’t exactly have its own church — adherents attend churches they are comfortable with (often Independent Fundamental Baptist, as the Duggar family identifies, per the Duggar Family Blog) while following the teachings Gothard devised.

Answers from Duggar family friend

Despite their reality TV series, there is much viewers may not know about the Duggar family’s religious background. On social media posts, Duggar fans argue whether the sisters can wear pants, work outside the home, or attend college. Now a Duggar family friend is, broadly, answering some of these questions.

Krista’s post gives answers from several friends, including at least one IBLP adherent, but they are not identified by name. Many questions don’t receive individual answers because she says the group was in agreement on the answer. The IBLP adherent is not identified as a Duggar, but would have been raised with the same standards imposed by Gothard’s system.

When inviting questions, the Duggar family friend noted her intent was to break down stereotypes of conservative Christian women (a broad category that includes fundamentalists) as oppressed and controlled. The answers in the first set of responses reflect that — Krista and her friends maintain that households like the Duggar family don’t forbid things like going to college or wearing pants, but that adherents choose these options. In some cases, the “choice” is described as being made to respect parents, even if the individual woman disagrees, or diverging from the rules is described as “discouraged” rather than forbidden.

Are Pants A Sin?

Duggar women wear skirts and dresses. In their book, Growing Up Duggar, the older Duggar sisters describe this as a personal conviction. When two of the Duggar sisters started wearing pants (Jinger Duggar Vuolo immediately after marriage and Jill Duggar Dillard later), viewers wondered if this was truly a personal conviction, or something required while under Jim Bob Duggar’s roof.

While Krista’s answers don’t address exactly what the Duggar household rules were, the answer gives insight into the rules of IBLP.

“First, we want to say that none of us, not one, were taught that wearing pants is a sin. Some of us were taught that it’s wiser for a woman to wear a skirt, but we were never taught it was a sin…Even in IBLP and ATI circles, women wear pants. Maybe not at big events because they know most women will be wearing skirts and they don’t want to stand out.”

Again, the implication is that wearing pants isn’t totally forbidden, but that peer pressure discourages it as much as doctrine.

What Is Modesty Anyway?

Some critics of the Duggar family have pointed out that, while they preach modesty standards, their clothing and actions don’t match some viewers’ definition of modesty. For example, Jessa Duggar Seewald has been criticized for wearing tight tops during pregnancy, and for taking lots of selfies.

Krista and her crew confirm what many of the Duggar family’s fans knew: people define modesty differently. Though they lay out a few levels of modesty standards (with head coverings being the most modest, and merely avoiding tight, flashy, or skimpy clothing being the least), they also address behavior.

“[A woman] could also dress very modesty, but be overly flirtatious….there’s a lot of ‘fundie girls’ who are very flirtatious. I know too many and they drive me crazy! And every time I’m like: you preach modesty and saving your heart and then I see you flirt with every guy who walks by you. Even at Big Sandy. It’s gross. Please stop.”

Since the Big Sandy resort is owned by IBLP, and its name is also used as shorthand for IBLP events taking place there, it seems likely this comment is made by an IBLP adherent and refers to IBLP adherents. These are the girls and young women who the Duggar sisters would have joined groups with at these events, so within IBLP, the Duggar family would have been taught this behavior is taught as immodest, but Duggar girls still would likely have witnessed it in their community.

Divorce and Abuse

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Viewers of the Duggar family’s reality show worried about Anna Duggar after revelations of Josh’s online dating accounts. Many urged Anna to leave him, and when she stuck by him through a counseling session and his return to the family fold, the question was raised: could she, or any Duggar, leave, under any circumstances? What would be the consequences if Anna and Josh Duggar divorced? Many Christians may point to Biblical passages and believe that a divorce is acceptable in the case of adultery, while others don’t believe in divorce in any circumstances. But what about the Duggar family? With their emphasis on courtship as a way to ensure marriage that doesn’t end in divorce, would Anna have the option to leave Josh, under their belief?

Here again, Krista and her friends aren’t talking about the Duggar household specifically, but they say that none of them, including the IBLP adherent, were told they had to stay with an abusive spouse. However, the emphasis is more on counseling and keeping the marriage intact.

“For example, if there was abuse, a spouse should absolutely be removed from that situation to be safe, although the church should encourage the abusing spouse to get professional help, and the marriage should be restored if possible.”

The group also says they were taught that in the case of a divorce, they wouldn’t be allowed to remarry unless and until the previous spouse died.

Sexual Harassment

The Duggar friend and her answering collective agree that their modesty standards and conservative beliefs protect them.

“We’ve never been catcalled at a conservative event, nor have we had disgusting sexual things said about us. Since women are seen as treasures, we feel, at least through mannerisms, that women are treated better.”

This doesn’t quite venture into the territory of “defrauding” — a term the Duggar family has used in their books, on their show, and in public talks, and that IBLP uses to mean stirring up sexual feelings in another person — such as when a woman wears immodest clothing. In 2015, Gawker published a sheet from Gothard’s homeschool program, which the Duggar family has spoken of using, that indicated a victim of sexual abuse might have caused her own abuse by “defrauding” the abuser through wearing the wrong clothing.

Sex Education

Speaking of home education, what exactly are the Duggar children taught about sex? Again, the answers are for the anonymous collective answering, not any specific family or all conservative or fundamentalist families, but they do give an interesting hint.

One answerer says that she was 16 or 17 before her parents offered her any sex education, though she had information from friends who were less conservative. Another says some kids aren’t taught anything more specific than “boys and girls are different” until they are teenagers.

This hints it is accepted in fundamentalist communities such as IBLP to give such minimal information, though some families may teach more. While it doesn’t answer what the Duggar sisters knew, it reiterates the possibility that they didn’t have real context for what was happening during the periods of abuse. The Duggar family has emphasized that the sisters forgave Josh Duggar, but viewers wonder if they understood what they were forgiving. Similarly, People reported in 2015 that Anna was told what Josh Duggar had done, but her sex education was insufficient to understand it.

“She was very sheltered with anything that came to physical relations or anything like that. She knew the words ‘rape’ or ‘abuse,’ but I don’t think she really understood what that even meant.”

Krista’s friends seem to confirm it’s possible Duggar family members and other IBLP adherents had minimal enough sexual education to not really understand the implications of what Josh Duggar was admitting.

More questions

Though the Duggar family friend initially published her post of answers in mid-January, she indicates that some answers (such as one friend’s statement that her parents didn’t forbid her to go to college, but didn’t do anything to encourage it, and another’s assertion that the choice not to have a career was because women are taught that they will have to choose between work and family) have been updated since. There’s also every indication she intended to release more information, since she titled the blog post “Growing Up Conservative: Part 1.” Krista says she’s still receiving questions, though, and the Duggar family friend has issued an invitation here for your questions.