'19 Kids' Sisters to Fox News: Calling Josh Duggar a "Child Molester" Is "a Lie"
"The system that was set up to protect kids, both those who make stupid mistakes or have problems like this in their life and the ones that are affected by those choices, it's greatly failed," sister Jessa Seewald says.
19 Kids and Counting sisters Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald sat down with Fox News' Megyn Kelly for an exclusive Kelly File interview at their Arkansas home to discuss being victims of sexual molestation by their brother Josh Duggar when they were children.
The Friday sit-down followed Wednesday's interview with 19 Kids parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who opened up about the sexual molestation allegations brought against Josh and the surfaced police report published by In Touch that revealed he allegedly fondled five girls, including his sisters and a family babysitter, as far back as 2002. Jim Bob told Kelly that the touching happened in the family home: the first time while the girls were sleeping (they had no memory of it) and the second and third time on the couch while the girls were awake.
Jill, 24, and Jessa, 22, shared with Kelly that the molestations occurred when Jill was 12 and Jessa was 9 or 10.
"You know, we didn't choose to come out and tell our story. This wouldn’t have been our first choice," Jill said about the news coming to light through the media. "As we've been seeing these headlines ... we feel like as victims, we have to come out and speak," she continued about the headlines the sisters believe are hyperbolized.
"For truth's sake, we want to come out and set the record straight," Jill said.
Jessa told Kelly that Josh touched them because he was "a little too curious about girls" and the touching was "mild." Both girls said that their parents told them what happened and that they were "shocked" to find out that Josh had inappropriately touched them.
The Duggar parents sat down with each girl individually to discuss the "subtle" and "sly" touching that took place, according to Jessa. Soon after the parents discussed that Josh's actions were wrong, Josh left the home and safeguards were set in place, including no hide and seek, girls not sitting on boys' laps, no boys babysitting and locks on the girls doors at night (boys and girls had separate bedrooms).
"As a mother now, I look back and think my parents did such an amazing job for me," Jill said about being a parent of her first son and similar safeguards she will set up.
The sisters both addressed that they had forgiven Josh individually and saw a life change in him after he returned from counseling and from Little Rock, Arkansas where he had been sent to live with another family.
Kelly asked the sisters how they reacted to the police report surfacing. "We're victims. They can't do this to us," Jill said while wiping away tears about the 2006 police report and the governmental system that "failed" them.
Jessa followed: "The system that was set up to protect kids, both those who make stupid mistakes or have problems like this in their life and the ones that are affected by those choices — it's greatly failed."
Jessa admitted that Josh's actions were "very wrong," but then went on to support him: "I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist, some people are saying. I’m like, that is so overboard and a lie, really. I mean, people get mad at me for saying that, but I can say this because I was one of the victims."
"They're used to making objects out of women and maybe we didn't seem any different," Jessa said about In Touch's report.
Jill added: "I see it as a re-victimization that's even 1,000 times worse. This is something that was already dealt with. We've already forgiven Josh. We're moved on."
The sisters said that each of the victims have moved on and forgiven Josh, but are angry that the report surfaced.
"These past two weeks have been 1,000 times worse for us," Jessa said.
Kelly asked the sisters if the show will continue on TLC, and if it doesn't, will they be disappointed.
Jessa responded: "Life goes on, really."
"This is another struggle that were going through right now, another hard time, but I think its bringing our family even closer together," Jill said.
The Springdale Police Department that released the report under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act defended their decision. In a statement on Thursday, City Attorney Ernest B. Cate wrote:
On 5/20/15, in full compliance with Arkansas law, the Springdale Police Department responded to a records request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The requested record was not sealed or expunged, and at the time the report was filed, the person listed in [the] report was an adult. Any names of minors included in the report, as well as pronouns, were redacted from the report by the Springdale Police Department in compliance with Arkansas law prior to release.
Kelly's interview was the first time the Duggar parents spoke publicly since releasing Facebook statements on May 21, together with Josh and his wife, Anna Duggar, about their son's molestation allegations.
"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret," Josh said in a statement immediately following the release of the report. "I hurt others, including my family and close friends. 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.
"My parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling," he continued. "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."
Shortly after news of Josh's crimes surfaced, the married 27-year-old father of three announced he was resigning his position as a lobbyist with the Family Research Council (FRC).
TLC was "deeply saddened" to learn about the incidents and pulled all scheduled episodes of 19 Kids from the air the day after the news broke. Despite 19 Kids losing more than half a dozen advertisers, including CVS Pharmacy, Ace Hardware, ConAgra Foods, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Behr Paint, Ricola and Party City, and being pulled from Hulu, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins left the door open for the family program to return to the streaming service.