Duggar sisters Jill Duggar Dillard, Jessa Duggar Seewald, Jinger Duggar Vuolo, and Joy Duggar have sued their hometown police as well as In Touch Weekly for revealing that their brother, Josh Duggar, had molested them when he was a teenager, according to USA Today. Do they have a case?
Before delving into the legalities of the sisters’ case, it bears looking into how the case came about.
Back in 2015, In Touch Weekly, responding to an insider tip that Josh Duggar had molested his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teen, started digging around Springdale, Washington County, and Arkansas State Police records. What they found were police and court records that didn’t name names, as both the perpetrator and victims were juveniles at the time. However, considering that the Duggar family is unique (to put it mildly), it was pretty clear to In Touch Weekly’s reporters that the perpetrator was Josh and the victims were his sisters.
In their 39-page complaint, portions of which are available via the New York Daily News, the sisters allege that the police had promised them that their complaints would be confidential, but that police retained enough information that their identities would be revealed to anyone who looked at the records.
“This case is solely about protecting children who are victims of abuse. Revealing juvenile identities under these circumstances is unacceptable, and it’s against the law. The media and custodians of public records who let these children down must be held accountable.”
— Celebrity News (@UpdatedCeleb) May 14, 2017
The Duggar sisters are correct in that the police should not (and generally don’t) reveal the names of child victims of crimes, in particular child victims of sex crimes. The problem is, as far as the Duggar sisters are concerned, is that any thorough police report on their complaints would, by necessity, contain enough information that an observer could identify them. How many 15-year-old boys were there in Springdale, Arkansas, at the time who had four younger sisters just months apart in age from each other and whose father was a real estate agent? The answer is exactly zero. Therefore, anyone seeing the police reports could easily connect the dots and conclude that Josh was the perpetrator and the victims were his sisters.
Further, those records, redacted though they may be, are and were public records, available to anyone under the Freedom of Information Act.
As for In Touch Weekly, are they civilly liable for revealing this information? That will be up to a jury to decide, of course, but in this regard, the Duggar sisters probably don’t have a case, either. Although the media generally adheres to a policy of not naming child victims of crimes — particularly sex crimes — there’s no law against it. And indeed, in many cases, the media does reveal the names of child victims of sex crimes. For example, the Inquisitr has extensively covered the cases of Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Thomas, both of whom were children when they were victims of sex crimes.
New post (Police finally track down Tennessee teacher and teen Elizabeth Thomas: Part 5) has been published on – https://t.co/vbRjfU9E7o pic.twitter.com/08l5hQRqBN
— hotnews trend (@hotnews_trendus) May 8, 2017
Of course, this is America, where literally anybody can sue literally anybody else for literally anything, whether they have a case or not. In Touch Weekly and the varying police departments named in the suit may agree to settle out of court just to avoid an embarrassing and protracted legal battle.
Do you believe the Duggar sisters have a case? Share your thoughts in the comments below.