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This is the true face of the Duggar family. And it is ugly.

They were America’s most wholesome Christian families.

But now we have finally glimpsed the real Duggar family: Hypocritical and blinded by greed while little girls were unsafe in their own home.

This week, it was revealed that Josh Duggar, 27 and the oldest of the children who appear on the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting had sexually molested five under-age girls when he was a teenager. Police reports indicate that at least some of Duggar’s victims were his sisters.

Josh Duggar with his siblings

Since 2008, the Duggars – parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children – have been pin-ups for a devout and wholesome Christian lifestyle. That all ended this morning, when TLC, the network that broadcasts the show in the US, pulled their reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, from its schedule (the Australian arm of TLC is yet to follow suit).

Over the past ten seasons, 19 Kids and Counting introduced the world to the 19 Duggar children who are, without fail, polite, modest and well-behaved. They are home-schooled and adhere to strict codes of dress (no shorts or singlets and the girls don’t wear skirts above the knee). The girls don’t cut their hair short or go to the beach, so as not to attract any unwanted attention. According to mother Michelle, the Duggars feel that exposure of the thighs amounts to “nakedness and shame,” and runs the risk of “defrauding” others by encouraging lustful thoughts. The Duggars don’t date – they practice chaperoned courtship that is facilitated by their parents. Kissing before marriage is off the table, as is anything but incidental touching. The girls have even written a relationship guide about the benefits of this arrangement.

This is the Duggar family that the world knows: Strict, but lovingly so. All-American but undamaged by the perversions of modern life. On every tv in America, but seemingly unaffected by fame. Quirky but harmless. To the world, they were the anti-Kardashians, a family built on little more than love and Christian values.

But this week has shown us the real Duggar family: image-obsessed parents who were unwilling to act to protect little girls in their own home.

When In Touch magazine broke the story this week, the Duggars begged their fans to read their response before making any judgement. You can read their statements here.

But it’s these responses that reveal who the Duggars really are.

In a public statement, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar say that “when Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.”

The fact that they couch these criminal offences as “mistakes” is revealing.

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Jim Bob found out about the first assaults in 2002 when Josh was 14. There were more offences in 2003, at which point Jim Bob decided to tell his church – not the police – and sent Josh to a religious program that “consisted of hard physical work and counselling.” It was later revealed by Michelle that Josh wasn’t really sent to a counselling program – his parents simply sent him to work with a “guy they know in Little Rock” who was “kind of” a mentor.

“This week has shown us the real Duggar family.”

Eventually, Jim Bob reported the incident to a State Trooper known to the family, who is now in prison serving a 56-year jail sentence on child pornography charges. The State Trooper decided not to pursue the case. The police were finally notified in 2006 – but the police did not pursue the case as the statute of limitations had apparently expired.

It is particularly telling that at the time of the initial offences, Jim Bob Duggar was a politician in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Shortly afterward, Michelle Duggar won the “Young Mother of the Year Award” in Arkansas. The family’s reputation was their greatest asset – and they used that wholesome reputation to secure a deal for a tv show that has made them worldwide celebrities.

And all the while they ignored the fact that little girls were not safe in their home.

Instead of employing the ‘harsh but fair’ parenting style for which they are known, the Duggar family’s actions in response to Josh’s “mistakes” were essentially a cover up – a cover up that involved moving the perpetrator on, rather than taking action to protect victims (something that will sound very familiar to people following the allegations arising from Australia’s Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse in Institutions).

Perhaps the most shocking element of the Duggar family’s reaction to Josh’s offences their apparently disregard for the well-being of the victims of these assaults. Nowhere in the family’s statement is there any reference to the steps taken to support the survivors of Josh Duggar’s assaults.

Josh may have been a child at the time he committed these offences. But it is the actions of the adults around him that tell the most shocking story of the Duggars – a story in which parents were willing to over-look criminal assaults in their own home to secure their own fame and success.

If you’ve been blissfully unaware of the Duggars, here’s what you need to know:

The Duggars are a fundamentalist Christian family from the US. They became famous through a reality show called ‘19 Kids and Counting‘ because they have, well, 19 kids and counting.

The Duggars look like the picture of purity at Christmas time (post continues after the video)

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They are Independent Baptists. They do not wear shorts, singlets, or anything above the knee. No beaches. No swimming in public. No short hair. No beards. The children are homeschooled, and the older ones help out the younger ones using a buddy system (the buddies are allocated at birth).

According to mother Michelle, the Duggars feel that exposure of the thighs amounts to “nakedness and shame,” and runs the risk of “defrauding” others by encouraging lustful thoughts.

Jim-Bob and Michelle are fundamentalist Christians. Image via Instagram.

Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar don’t believe in contraception, so Michelle has been having a child every 18 months since they married when she was 17 years old.

Now, there are some very complicated rules when it comes to finding a husband the Duggar way, and they all revolve around a process called courting. Duggar dad Jim-Bob explained it in a recent interview.

Jessa and Ben didn’t kiss until after they were married – and only ever side-hugged. Photo via Instagram.

Apparently, a good girl never dates a guy. She allows herself to be ‘courted’ by him. Basically, a boy calls a girl’s dad (never her mum, only a man can decide) and asks if he can court her. If her dad says yes, that boy then comes over to the girl’s home, and sits in the living room with her and her parents while the two of them talk and pray. Said boy and girl then sit awkwardly in the living room a certain number of times deemed appropriate before getting married.

All four of the eldest Duggar girls, Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger, wrote a book called Growing up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships, which reveals just how conservative their views on men really are. And while two of the authors have gone on to marry and have children, it’s not clear whether their relationship advice is all that it’s cracked up to be.

Jessa Duggar, the fifth child, 22, was married on 1 November last year to Ben Seewald. They held hands for the first time when they were engaged. They had a self-imposed ban on contact until their nuptials, and were only allowed to side-hug.

Jessa Duggar is currently pregnant. Photo via instagram.

After the ceremony there were reports that Jessa had sex with Ben after the church ceremony.

But Jessa says no – they didn’t even kiss at the ceremony. They decided it was even too special for the wedding day. So when the pastor said “You may now kiss the bride”… Jessa’s parents had a quick peck instead. But ten days later, the kiss finally happened and Jessa was able to capture it in a selfie and put in on Instagram…

It’s great living life with your best friend! @ben_seewald

A photo posted by Jessa Seewald (@jessaseewald) on

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But this hasn’t been the Duggars’ only kissing scandal.

Amy Duggar, who is technically Jim Bob’s niece, posted an image to her instagram of her and boyfriend Dillon King kissing (and they’re not married). The photo was later deleted.

The photo that Amy Duggar removed from instagram.

The Duggars have been no stranger to controversy. After the death of their 20th child in Michelle’s second trimester, the couple held a memorial service – and the order of service included some images of their dead child. While consistent with their tendency to live their life out in the open, the images were distressing to some.

With the eldest Duggar son Josh confessing to sexually abusing young girls as a teenager, and reports that Michelle and Jim-Bob were involved in the cover-up, it seems as though the Duggar household may have been showing a very different face to the world.

Josh spoke to People magazine about the abuse, saying that “twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends.

Josh (far left) with just some of his family. Image via Instagram.

“I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counselling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

So you want to see ALL the Duggars? Here is the wholesome face that the Duggars show to the world…

For more on the Duggars:

The Duggar family just got bigger.

There’s going to be yet another Duggar. Seriously.

Relationship advice from the Duggar women who have ‘never been kissed’.

“There aren’t enough kids in the world,” says mum of 19.

Jess Duggar saved her first kiss for her wedding. And then she Instagrammed it.

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