Anyone who’s regularly watched the family’s reality shows knows that the Duggars are a deeply religious lot.
But even the most diehard Duggar fans may not know the details of the belief system that Jim Bob and Michelle have imparted to their children.
The Duggars are Independent Baptists, but they’re also members of the Institute in Basic Life Principles and the Advanced Training Institute, both founded by controversial pastor and former personal guru of the Duggars, Bill Gothard.
Back in 2015, the Josh Duggar sex scandal shined some light on the institute’s teachings and more scandalous practices.
Not only did the organization assist Josh and his parents in evading prosecution, it also justified his misconduct with homeschooling curriculum that places the blame for sexual assault squarely on the victim.
Prior to Gothard resigning in disgrace after being accused of sexual misconduct by more than 50 former employees, he presided over the organization for decades, and – according to many former members – was directly or indirectly involved in countless acts of systemized sexual assault.
Recent revelations about the Duggars and the rise of the #MeToo movement have emboldened several alleged victims to come forward with shocking accounts of the abuse they suffered under Gothard’s watchful eye.
As reported by In Touch Weekly, an anonymous Reddit used was recently at the center of one of the sites “ask me anything” or AMA sessions.
And what she had to say about her time as a member of the IBLP-ATI is likely to shock even the most strident Duggar defenders.
“I was part of a fundamentalist Christian cult known as ATI/IBLP,” the user began.
“Recent scandals have hit the news about the cult leader Bill Gothard when over 50 women came forward with allegations that he sexually harassed them. But that’s only scratching the surface.”
“Let me tell you my scariest experience — and just keep in mind, I’m far from the only one,” she continued.
“First off, throughout my childhood, my father and sisters abused me sexually. Since the cult taught a strict familial hierarchy, with the father being top dog, then mother, then children in order of birth, as the youngest I was bottom of the totem pole.
“My father would twist Bible verses to justify rape, death threats, and more. Because ATI is a homeschool cult, it was really handy to cover up the abuse from any prying eyes.
“My home was a prison for 11 years until he died of a massive heart attack. And that’s not even the scariest experience.”
The user went on to explain how the abuse worsened as a result of her mother’s continued involvement with the IBLP.
“Fast forward two years. I’m 13, with a mother who’s frantically fixated on me being a ‘troubled child’ because 1. I dared resist my father’s advances and argue against the abuse I was suffering, gaining me the reputation of ‘rebellious,’ 2. I’m severely depressed because I’m a freaking rape victim and depression is considered sin, and 3. I asked too many questions as to WHY we believed the things we believed —you don’t ask questions, needless to say.”
She then describes being shipped off to Oklahoma without warning and enrolled in the IBLP’s “Log Cabin” program, which is designed to “retrain” resistant adolescents.
“All I know is I’m about to move to Oklahoma for a while to be fixed by ‘nice counselors’ because I’m a dirty sinner,” she writes.
“For the next two years, I am tortured, brainwashed, starved, sleep-deprived, threatened with a shotgun, punished, humiliated, interrogated, and terrorized.
“I lose 40 pounds in the first month or two. They take me off my medications (believing it is wrong to take them) cold turkey; I exhibit severe symptoms of withdrawal and they go ignored.
“I am worked grueling hours, sent on aimless hikes and marches, scrubbing floors on my hands and knees until my knuckles are cracked and bleeding from the bleach, punished with hard labor until I’m near fainting,” she adds.
“They had fun coming up with new and strange ‘punishments.’”
Through it all, the victim says, she was so brainwashed she didn’t fully realize that those who imprisoned her were engaging in the most egregious forms of abuse.
It wasn’t until years later that she began to become aware that something was deeply wrong with the religion she had been raised in.
“There really wasn’t one concrete ‘oh s–t’ moment,” she explains.
“But the first time I remember thinking ‘this is BS’ was how often people would be ‘sentenced’ to hell for the most trivial reasons. Everything from an impure thought to cursing to sleeping in late.”
Amazingly, despite the high-profile nature of their lives and the zeal with which they discuss their beliefs, the Duggars have managed to avoid commenting on their continued involvement with the IBLP-ATI.
That may prove increasingly difficult as time goes on.
Or the family’s legion of devoted fans may prove willing to continue turning a blind eye to the rampant abuse within the organization.
Watch Counting On online for a closer look at reality TV’s most controversial family.